What Raekwon McMillan's Commitment Means

By Kyle Rowland on December 18, 2013 at 9:15a
Raekwon McMillan as a Buckeye [Ohio State University graphic]

In two seasons under Urban Meyer, Ohio State has regained its status among college football’s elite. Twenty-four wins, one loss, a productive backfield and stout offensive line. It’s the defensive side where question marks have sprouted, with most gathering at the linebacker position.

Penn State claims the moniker Linebacker U., but the Buckeyes could also own rights to the title. Meyer believes the play of A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and James Laurinaitis was the best at linebacker during the 2000s. That production level has tapered off considerably in recent seasons, though. If All-American Ryan Shazier is removed from the equation, Ohio State is ordinary at best.

“The linebacker position is still my biggest concern on our team,” Meyer said in November. “The depth is a major concern. When you think of the great linebackers here; arguably the last decade as good a linebackers as anywhere in the country played at Ohio State.”

Now, a surge is coming. Four highly touted linebackers, including the nation’s top man-in-the-middle, Raekwon McMillan, have pledged their allegiance to the Buckeyes, on top of underclassmen Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell. Suddenly, depth at linebacker is plentiful. And depth can outplay talent.

McMillan’s commitment wasn’t just important in terms of setting the roster, but also because he was plucked from Alabama, Clemson and Auburn in the Deep South. To win a national championship, Meyer must defeat southern schools on the football field and in the living room.

McMillan is perhaps the biggest commitment secured by Meyer during his tenure at Ohio State. Coaches and staff members can’t comment on prospects until they sign a National Letter of Intent, but Mark Pantoni’s “BOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM” tweet said all that was needed. McMillan, a five-star recruit, was a must-get at a position of dire need. He’s exactly the type of impact player Meyer covets.

At Florida, Meyer built a national powerhouse through an athletic, dominant defense. The speed and strength of the front seven overwhelmed opponents and allowed an equally impressive offense to power past the competition. With the Buckeyes’ pass defense in shambles, an energetic front half of the defense could take pressure off the secondary.

“I’ve been blessed to coach a couple championship teams, and the common denominator is not rushing yardage, passing yardage, blocked punts, whatever – it’s great defense.” -Urban Meyer

As much as the SEC is disparaged in Columbus, their style of football remains the surest way to national titles. It just so happens to be the desired formula for Meyer as well. Since the day he was hired – now more than two years ago – Meyer has stockpiled elite athletes for the defense, the place where any championship caliber program is formed.

“I’ve been blessed to coach a couple championship teams, and the common denominator is not rushing yardage, passing yardage, blocked punts, whatever – it’s great defense,” Meyer said.

There’s a reason the Oregons, Baylors and Oklahoma States of the sport don’t appear regularly – if ever – in the national championship game. Shoddy defenses undercut each team.

“You look at the SEC and the teams that are playing for national championships, obviously Alabama has been leading that charge, and they have been built on defense,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.

If Shazier leaves early for the NFL, which is expected, the projected starters at linebacker are Curtis Grant, Joshua Perry and Johnson. Mitchell and McMillan would factor into the rotation, while the status of Dante Booker, Kyle Berger and Sam Hubbard is unknown. Meyer isn’t a fan of handing out redshirts, but all three true freshman playing defense could be unrealistic. Special teams is a more plausible landing spot.

Cam Williams, Devan Bogard, Chris Worley and Darron Lee also remain in the mix at linebacker.

“They don’t look Ohio State-ish. We’re nowhere near where we need to be as far as the expectation level of the linebacker play here,” Meyer said. “We need to get back to that.”

Raising the specter of playing as true freshmen is the early enrollee aspect. McMillan will officially become a Buckeye the first week of January, allowing him to get a head start on the complexities of college. It also permits him to participate in spring drills and become acclimated with the rigors of college football.

A dominant theme evolved this season, and it was Meyer’s unimpressed nature with the linebackers. The message wound through the corridors of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and into the linebackers meeting room.

“I think it’s definitely motivation,” Perry said. “I know what we do in our meetings and how we react to that. We take that as a challenge.

“Early in the year, I think we were a team of talented guys, but not necessarily technicians. We weren’t great at fundamentals, didn’t necessarily have as good of a grasp on the scheme as we do right now. Then when you turn on the film, you see guys running to the ball with better effort. I think that comes with confidence from knowing what we’re doing.”

The challenge will continue, but instead of Meyer’s words being the source, it will be competition on the practice field.


Comments Show All Comments

ODEEZ330's picture

Oh yea. Im making a movie. Return of the silverbullets. Starring raekwon the chef

stark county football

Enzo's picture

"If All-American Ryan Shazier is removed from the equation, Ohio State is ordinary at best."
They were ordinary with Shazier. Remove him and they would be bad at best.

M5gatronBuckeye's picture

Just me personally, but I will be a little surprised if McMillan is not starting as a freshman. If he is everything the coaches think he is right now, by the time Coach Mick gets him working out and he gets practice in, I honestly hope he starts right from the beginning. I, as well as all of you, am extremely excited to watch him play.

"I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win"
Michael Jordan

Oyster's picture

If he is as good as billed you might as well play him now, because he will be gone in 3 years either way.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

osu07asu10's picture

If Shazier comes back he really doesn't have a spot to start in. Shazier, Grant, Perry would be the starting 3.
Even with Shazier leaving, it is still a tall task for him to start from day 1. He does have the advantage of enrolling early and that will pay off immensely. 
Last year at this time, we were all clamoring over another outside linebacker, Mike Mitchell. The guy who shattered the SPARQ score, runs a 4.4, athletic freak...his freshman year didn't pan out as people thought.
I sure hope Raekwon makes an impact from day 1, but if he doesn't, I'm ok with that too

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

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Kindell's picture

I was very excited about Mitchell but more for the future.  Him and Kwan are different type of recruits.  Mitchell has great upside but still needs to grow into a college LB.  Kwan has the body type to start right away.  It's going to depend on how he picks up his reads and the speed of the game this spring.

BAR43's picture

If Shazier comes back I would still have an expectation that Raek will be in rotation if not starting going off of the hype so far. Grant has still not shown much of anything, Perry is more consistent but haven't seen the ability we expect at the LB position out of either.
As for Mitchell, everyone was crazy about his skills performance, but it was always stated that his actually LB ability and sense was in question and still very raw. At this level you cannot rely on athletic ability, you have to have football IQ and sense, something that will most likely take time for Mitchell. So I by no means consider him a bust or not panning out as he was a work in progress player coming in.
Raek, from the sounds of it is the full package with great LB sense and ability. So let's hope he is the next Katz as we will have a very good Dline to allow our LBs to make plays next year.

zoetaite's picture

Gentlemen this is a new era. It's called competition. Kwon has already called Curtis out that he is coming for his job. This kid is a winner and competitor. With the play of our LB's and Secondary I believe every job is up for grabs and the best men will win out. If the coaching staff does stay intact stop all the soft zone BS and let's start playing football. Be aggressive and the beat the hell outta everyone.
I personally believe both Braxton and Shazier will be back to finish business. I thought this could be the year and if we made the BIG show then they both would be gone. Braxton especially has a lot to show to all his haters. 

saltybuck61's picture

Although Curtis Grant hasn't been spectacular, he has been very solid against the run. It is also evident when he is out of the game. When he was injured, there was a glaring weakness in the linebacking corps. Cam Williams may someday get there, but he isn't where Grant is now. I am not sure If McMillan will be up to Grant's level yet, but if he is better, he should start. 

Seattle Linga's picture

It is going to be a lot of fun to see what happens over the the next 9 months. So much raw talent available.

ToledoBuckeye's picture

Call me crazy but I am not going to expect Raekwon to start as a Freshman.  I seem to recall a 5 star LB recruit coming in with a lot of buzz but not being able to put it all together at the college level.  I am talking about Curtis Grant.  He was the #2 recruit in the country and we needed him to be a stud.  However we got Shazier in the same class which worked out.  Kinda reminds me of 2002 when Mike D'Andrea was the high profile recruit but AJ Hawk ended up being the star.

"Anything easy ain't worth a damn." - Woody Hayes

dan_isaacs's picture

I dunno.  I thought that about Curtis Grant.  Until these guys are in practice and performing, I just don't think it's worth making any proclamations.  

Dan Isaacs

RufusVonDufus's picture

Geez, coming from a Tiger's fan you make a lot of sense!   jkm!


OSUnathen's picture

Just a reminder to all that Curtis Grant was a 5 star guy, #1 rated LB and as high as 2nd overall in some sites. As we have seen Curtis has progressed very slowly and it is very safe to say he has been somewhat of a bust so far. Don't want to rain on the parade but let's just wait and see what Kwon can do with the big boys before we start banking on him. 

Doc's picture

Is Urban also focusing on the secondary?  We need CBs and Safeties.  Roby is gone, we need someone to step up.

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osu07asu10's picture

see: D. Webb, M. Lattimore, E. Smith

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

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Doc's picture

Thanks, I'm not up on recruiting and my grasp of the depth chart is sketchy at best.  It just seemed when Roby went down there wasn't much help.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

With Bryant's injury, Roby's absence left us with a very young secondary outside of CJ Barnett. I look for us to be much improved next year as I expect Vonn Bell, Cam Burrows, and Eli Apple all to see more time, along with Doran Grant. Not sure about Reeves.

zoetaite's picture

Reeves looks more like a walk-on rather than a top recruit when Urban arrived back in the day. You can see the opposing QB's licking their chops when they see him out there.

Spider1944's picture

the defensive coaches kept putting Armani Reeves in the game. The one time Cam Burrows played I thought he was all over his guy, and I might add without mugging the receiver. Then I find out he played because Reeves was hurt. Sometimes the art of coaching is putting the right players on the field. If this was high school ball I would suspect his dad was a booster. 
IMO Roby and Shazier were the only sure tacklers in the back seven. Which surprises me for Ohio State. 

"There are 3 things that can happen and 2 of them are bad" - the Curse of Woody Hayes

BAR43's picture

I think people with be surprised by Grant next year. I think he had a quiet but good year. Given the right defensive scheme I think Grant will be a very solid/great CB for us next year.

dan_isaacs's picture

Yep.  And Eli Apple and/or Cam Burrows will be in the mix, too.

Dan Isaacs

Nutinpa's picture

Let's hope  you are correct.  And not to sound like a smart azz...but people have been posting this about Grant for two full years.  Pretty soon the "any day now" starts to wear thin.  One thing is for sure, Raek better pan out or opposing coaches in the near future will have a field day with recruits, badmouthing OSU. 

BAR43's picture

Was actually referring to Doran Grant. I am still not sold on Curtis Grant, think he is carbon copy of Mike D'Andre and the ship has sailed. Hope I am wrong and he continues to improve next year though.

fear_the_nut70's picture

Grant became a good to great LB against the run and blitzing the QB.  However, is pass converage skills are nonexistent and just off the top of my head I can recall about six times he was completely sucked in by the play action pass and out of position.  I don't believe he has learned to make the necessary reads that a LB needs to in order to dominate.  Not making the right read plus bad coverage skills is a lethal combination. 

saltybuck61's picture

That would have to my assessment as well. Great against the run, a good blitzer, but he is not good at pass coverage. However, Zach Boren wasn't particularly great in that area either. Boren learned how to cover the pass as the season went on, and eventually became alright at it. He was definitely more of a run stopper though. I would love to see Grant improve dramatically in the pass coverage aspect of the game by next year. If he could, he would be an excellent linebacker.

avail31678's picture

Cam Burrows, Vonn Bell, Damon Webb, and Erick Smith (to name four) say that Urban IS also focusing on the secondary.

Scarlatina's picture

Urban has been focusing on the secondary for the past few seasons.
2012: Armani Reeves (4*); De'van Bogard (4*); Tyvis Powell (3*)
2013: Vonn Bell (5*); Cam Burrows (4*); Eli Apple (4*); Jayme Thompson (4*); Gareon Conley (3*); Darron Lee (3*)
2014: Damon Webb (4*); Malik Hooker (3*)
We should have solid depth in the secondary for a couple years. Armani will have first crack at replacing Roby next year, and Grant will be back too. The safety spots will probably be a toss up between: Tyvis Powell, Ron Tanner, Vonn Bell, Cam Burrows, and Gareon Conley

alust2013's picture

I suspect that the starting back four will be D. Grant and Burrows at corner (unless Reeves really improves) and Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell at safety.

...and Michigan still sucks.

lippertini's picture

Maybe picking nits, but Conley was on the two-deep all season at Doran Grant's corner spot, not safety.  Anyone hear about him moving?  I remember hearing great things about him, and making the two-deep as a true-freshman is impressive indeed.  
One thing, though, is that he's apparently not played a down and likely to redshirt.  Did Doran Grant play every single defensive snap, or did someone else sub instead of Conley?  Quite notable either way, no?

allinosu's picture

At this point I'm more concerned about the position coaching in the secondary than the talent. I hope they step up.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Some teams may have "the Coin", but only the Buckeyes have "the Kwon".... 

Towel?......No, I air dry.

UFest57's picture

I really expected more out of Cam Williams once we landed him...anyone else?

unknownmusketeer's picture

Patience. Maybe 20 defensive players will write the letter to BuckeyeNation that Tyvis Powell did last year, re-dedicating themselves to the team.

allinosu's picture

It appears to me he was a little slow to react and poor fundamentals in tackling. He was also easy to side step him one on one. I hope he works hard on that and not give up.

steveoz49's picture

Very well written article. 
Since Coach Meyer has been here, he's really stressed the defensive side of the ball when it comes to recruiting.  I'm trying to not get excited for next season because there's still unfinished business this season....but it's hard to not be a little excited for next season.

angelique's picture

If you want a good defensive team then pull up Allen High School from Texas & watch them play defense.      Everybody just stays in their assigned area and does his job.    No one leaves there assigned area just to be a star.    They play as a team and for the team.  Not for themselves.   


BoFuquel's picture

Coach'em up UM! GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

73buckeye's picture

Talent is not an issue. The Bucks have the talent. I believe the coaching needs to step up and be as good as the talent. With this level of talent, and if the linebackers to play their position with the same blend of "hair on fire", "dogged determination" and intelligence as Aaron Craft plays defense on the basketball court, we'll have the best linebacker play we've ever seen.


BAR43's picture

I agree that we have talent, but think a lot of our defensive break downs stemmed from intelligence or understanding responsibility... esp for Brown. Coaching scheme didnt help things much, but secondary players were constantly out of position and just making bad decisions.

Scarlatina's picture

I really thought that the  defense from the combined minds of Luke Fickell (LB coach for all those dominant corps in the mid-to-late 2000s) and Everett Withers (Who's secondary was always top 5-10 in the nation for interceptions) would be outrageously good. How wrong I've been...

Patriot4098's picture

I know, right? I don't quite get it either. I'd like to see Heacock return to the D side. Let Fick or Withers return to positional coaching. Just need more consistency with the fundamentals.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

Buckeye06's picture

I cannot sit here and expect McMillan to start from day 1.  Curtis Grant was McMillan in 2011.  #1 ILB in the country and a 5* guy destined to be a great.  It took Grant 3 full years for the light to click, which I think it has for the most part.  He played well this year when healthy, and am happy for him.  He will have the MLB spot manned next year if healthy.  Perry has another spot locked down.  Just my 2 cents

BAR43's picture

I am hoping he is more Katz than Grant, so there is hope he can crack the line up.

Hovenaut's picture

The defense has had me stressed more than a few times over the past couple of years - in which we were fortunate enough to see Urban and company set a new all-time win streak mark.
I cannot wait to see Ohio State the next few years, with Urban and his recruits fully engrained in the program....and the defense.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.....defense still wins championships.

FROMTHE18's picture

LB support in pass coverage is a massive need. Would help shut down the little short passes teams use against us. LB is a big concern for me but Im still more worried about the secondary. Until I see improvement there, every play could lead to a long TD.

ChazBuckeye's picture

The defense needs coached better in general.  At this point, if you're (not fromthe18) still sticking up for the staff, then you need to watch the Cal game, 2nd half of the Wiscy game, whole NW game, and the last two games again.  Not to mention let downs in other games late.  It's not rocket science.  No offense to From the 18 and your comment above btw.  You and I agree on many things, and this is just another point we agree on.   

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Maestro's picture

I am cautiously optimistic.  I love the momentum it will create.  Go Bucks!!!  

vacuuming sucks

Seattle Linga's picture

During the time off we will develop an outstanding corps of natural talent to a freakin machine. UFM is able to do so much with his recruits.

andretolstoy's picture

I have me a little feeling that our Defense is going to be lights out in a trice ....

OSUFlash's picture

If Mitchell and McMillian are not starting by week 1 may stroke out.


zebiraross's picture

Assuming Shazier is gone. We need to throw Kwon Mitchell and Trey into the fire. With Kwon enrolling early and Trey and Mitchell with a year of practice and knowledge under their belt you have to give these guys their snaps. Grant is who he is. Perry is who he is. Clearly not Ohio Stateish...As Urban says.

I have no worries about Mitchell. His body just needed to develope, he'll be more than ready next year. Kwon already has the body and clearly the talent, and combined with enrolling early I have full confidence he'll figure out scheme by the time the season starts.

We're going to have 3 years in a row with top 3 classes. Talent is oozing out on both sides of the ball. It's time to give these young men the snaps they need and deserve to develope into the players we all know they can be. Could their be growing pains? Sure. Maybe even a loss or two. I'm willing to deal worth those growing pains to develope these guys to where they need/could be.


chirobuck's picture

I agree with almost everything you said here, the only disagreement is that I don't think Perry has hit his ceiling yet hes a true sophmore....
other than that next year is going to be a rebuilding year or reloading year, there will be a lot of young guys getting playing time and developing their game and I think 2 years form now we make another title run after some kids get their feet wet this season which is why I also wouldn't mind if Braxton leaves let Barrett get a year in now, and its all over the field, obviously at LBer the guys you mentioned all should get some time, in the secondary I wanna see bell, conley, burrows and apple, at WR marshall, and clark should start seeing the field as well the top couple from this years class, the Oline will be developing cohesion and Ball and Elliot should carry the work load I think
all about developing the future next year


^ best post ever ^

Jbucks's picture

Im excited about this young LB talent, then again I was excited for Josh Perry this year as well, tho given the track record of our DC's & how theyre playing seniority over talent (i.e Brown over Bell) I dont see even Kwon breaking out, Booker I see redshirting with Tre Johnson & Mitchell getting more PT next year along with Grant, Perry, (possibly) Shazier. also I think the LBs cant help the DB's wheather its Kwon, Hawk or Laurinitus (sorry if mis-spelled) mostly because our Defense is built on the D-line getting to QB & stopping the run. In order for our whole Defense to work the DB's have to play 5 yards up, Safties over top to allow the D-Line more time to get to QB & time for the LBs to get into position mid-zone, that IMO is the only way our Defense gets fixed

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

ChazBuckeye's picture

Yep...I'm going to be that guy who re-quotes a quote from UFM.  Even though 11W's author Kyle, already did.

“I’ve been blessed to coach a couple championship teams, and the common denominator is not rushing yardage, passing yardage, blocked punts, whatever – it’s great defense,” Meyer said.

I wasn't off for saying the defense needs coached better after Raekwon's commitment (whether you want to call it bad timing or call it whatever the Eff you want to).  I'd say this is what the head coach of The Ohio State University thinks too.  It's not hard to read between the lines on this quote.  However I thought more who frequent 11W need to see it just one more time...why not, can't hurt:-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

buckskin's picture

That quote from Meyer sounds familiar with a coach we had in the past.  Does Urban = Tressel in terms of his overall approach to winning games? 

buckskin's picture

Just a thought.  Fickell coached up great backers during the 2000s.  Raekwon said Fickell was instrumental in his recruitment.  So he can get the players.  The difference now?  He's in charge of the whole D, calling plays etc.  Possibly the LB coaching is suffering with the new added responsibility (calling plays).  I love Luke, but not every great position coach is meant to be a DC or head coach.  Some guys really excel in a smaller role; doesn't make them any less important to the team.  I hope Luke finds the support he deserves.

Jbucks's picture

2. Questions 1 off topic a bit. 1)was a redshirt list ever released, if so was Bryant on there for medical? 2.If Luke would be upset to where it would hurt the team for being demoted to just LB's coach, would it be possible for us to bring in a guy for the LBs like an assistant, or make up a name for a higher "title" like Director of Quality Development? just so luke gets somthing off of his plate so yhat he may focus on 1 thing at a time

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

Sleepy's picture

Bobby Carpenter?!?!?  Even Andy Katzenmoyer thinks that dude was a colossal bust...