I recently got to thinking about the current linebacker situation for the Bucks and its got me wondering how it went from being one of the strongest position groups for OSU to one of the weakest in the last six or seven years.
The linebacker position has a long and very proud tradition at Ohio State; along with running backs, its the most storied and cherished position group in our history. So many greats have worn the Scarlet and Grey like Spielman, Katzenmoyer, Hawk, Carpenter and Laurinitis just to name a few recent studs. The linebacker greats go so much deeper into history, its ridiculous. That's not to mention the memorable greats that get less mention but were very solid on great teams like Wilhelm, Diggs, Freeman, and Cie Grant.
The last several years has painted a very different story however. Since Tressell left, the position has been awful. The last great LB outfits at Ohio State were the Carpenter/Hawk/Schlegel and Laurinitis/Freeman plus Rolle,Homan, Spitler, or Moeller. That type of solid linebacker play seems long gone. I'm not a Fickell hater but it seems like as his responsibilities have increased (co-defensive coordinator, assistant H.C., interim H.C.) his ability to recruit the best linebackers in Ohio and across the country have decreased. Further, it seems he's not properly coaching up his position group. He was a D-lineman in college so I never quite understood him being LBs coach. I don't want to put the defensive woes all on fickell but it MUST be fixed this year.
Turning to recruiting I would say the woes began in 2007 with only one LB commit in Brian Rolle. Although Rolle became a solid if undersized player, that lack of numbers foreshadowed what was to come.
2008: brought in Sabino and Sweat the top two inside linebackers in the country. The 4* and a 5* looked great on paper but neither turned in to the studs we once envisioned. They did turn out pretty solid though.
2009: We had a great (looking) LB haul amidst an overall class that (looked) absolutely amazing, perhaps even better than 2008. 5* Dorian Bell was the centerpiece that also included Storm Klein, Jordan Whiting, and J. Newsome. None of it worked out but the Tressel did recruit a 3* FB named Zach Boren;)
2010: Back to landing only one LB, Scott McVey from St. Ignatious who ended up a medical hardship. The real story of this class was missing out on 5* Jordan Hicks of West Chester Ohio, who committed to Texas.
2011: was a really nice recruiting class for us (and Tressel's last) and the LB commits were the top recruited position that year. Signing day commit 5* Curtis Grant was the class of the group that included future All American Ryan Shazier, Ejuan Price, and Conner Crowell. Unfortunately the Bucks let 5* Tre DePreist slip away to Alabama. Oh, and Shazier was the only one that panned out.
That brings us into the Urban Meyer era in which the head coach has really addressed the lack of depth and top talent at LB. From 2012 we only have Perry and Cam Williams left ; 2013 only Tre Johnson now that Mitchell's gone; '14 looks stacked though with McMillan, Booker, Berger and Hubbard.
Hopefully the linebacker curse finally ends and we land 5* Justin Hilliard from St. X among others for the 2015 class. We will definitely need to continue to build up quality depth. Urban Meyer has stated that our linebackers as a whole don't play like Ohio State linebackers, and he's right. Hopefully he's got us back on the right track, after all we have Linebacker-U reputation to live up to.