Linebacker Overview: Thoughts from Al Washington, Entering Second Year with Buckeyes
Ohio State’s linebacker room currently features players that have been around 5-6 years, others who have been around 5-6 weeks, and a little of everything else in between.
The Buckeyes are fast at work looking to not only get back into game form, as the pads came back on yesterday, but also blending a position group with various levels of experience during such an unusual time.
“This particular group of guys has already been special to be around,” linebackers coach Al Washington said Thursday afternoon. “This is one of the more adverse times a college athlete can ever have. Through all of that, in my opinion, they have found a way to make themselves better. The character in the room being shown has me holding them in high regard, and I see a determination to improve.”
Atop the depth chart is arguably the most experience quartet in recent history; graduates Tuf Borland, Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning along with true senior Pete Werner.
Borland, a 3x team captain, has 181 career tackles while Werner (131) and Browning (80) also have a multitude of experience. Hilliard, entering his sixth year with the program, have admirably fought through injuries and recently joined Borland as one of seven team captains for 2020.
“This period has been funny, because I almost feel closer to those guys with the amount of time spent on zoom or the phone,” explained Washington, entering his second year with the program after coming down from Michigan. “It has allowed us to grow closer. I feel more aware now and our bond is stronger, which becomes important in pressure moments during games. We have a better understanding of who each person is.”
Washington mentioned that juniors Terajda Mitchell and Dallas Gant have been having a strong camp along with others like K’Vaughan Pope, Craig Young and Tommy Eichenberg. He is also excited about the addition of true freshmen Cody Simon (Jersey City, N.J.) and Mitchell Melton (Olney, Md.).
The unit is expected to be the anchor of a defense that’s replacing key performers both up front and in the back secondary. Guys could be moved around depending on what’s needed from a week-to-week basis across the eight games. For example, Werner is expected to move inside and assume the “Will” responsibilities while Browning is likely to move outside.
“We will give guys reps in all areas and figure out what works best, at the time, against the team we are playing,” Washington added. “It’s hard not to think about matchups, because that’s football. We are a deep group and, in particular, will likely need more throughout the year given the situation we are in.”