Replacing Shazier: Is Darron Lee the Guy?

By Michael Citro on March 9, 2014 at 8:15a

The first week of spring practice has come and gone, as we continue to inch closer to the Spring Game and the eventual start of the 2014 season, which is approximately 538 years away.*

(*in time-without-football terms.)

I don’t know what everyone else thought but, to me, the biggest surprise of the first week was hearing that Darron Lee was running with the starting linebackers and that his name was being floated as the possible successor to Ryan Damn Shazier.

That isn’t meant to be an indictment of Lee as a player. He’s quite honestly an unknown to most of us who don’t spend a great deal of our time at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

It just struck me as surprising. It’s not necessarily unusual for a less heralded member of a recruiting class to surpass guys with more stars and more fanfare in the pecking order. What is unusual about Lee’s case is that he seemed much more likely to compete for a safety or star position than linebacker when he arrived last year. And it kind of came out of nowhere.

But Lee is listed as a linebacker now. A 6-foot-1, 225-pound New Albany product, Lee was a jack-of-all-trades for the Eagles as a senior. He played quarterback, wide receiver, safety, punt returner and kickoff returner in high school. This past week, he joined Curtis Grant and Josh Perry on the starting linebacker unit at Ohio State.

Lee has big (and fast) shoes to fill if he is going to be the heir to Shazier’s spot in the lineup. He doesn’t possess Shazier’s raw speed, but then again who does? Still, he’s fast enough, running the 40 in about 4.5 — as opposed to the unofficial (and ridiculous) 4.36 that Shazier ran at Ohio State Pro Day.

As a former defensive back, Lee might be a more natural cover linebacker than Shazier. He intercepted five passes his senior season at New Albany, helping lead his team to an appearance in Ohio’s Division II state semifinals.

Shazier's heir?
Is Darron Lee the next Ryan Shazier?

Mike Mitchell’s decision to transfer to be close to home — and his ailing father — shook up a young but talented depth chart at linebacker for position coach Luke Fickell. Lee’s emergence might make up for that key loss, and it could pay big dividends at a spot that has suffered through a combination of attrition, lack of player development, and plain old recruiting misses.

Can Lee make the leap?

It’s way too early to tell if Lee even remains with the first team, but why not him? His name may not have made the same splash as a Vonn Bell or a Mike Mitchell, but he didn’t enter as chopped liver, either.

Lee carried a four-star Scout rating as a safety and was rated No. 29 at his position by that particular recruiting service. Rivals gave him three stars, named him the No. 33 prospect in the state of Ohio and No. 44 at his position (which they had as “athlete”). He was also rated a three-star recruit by 247 as an athlete (dual-threat quarterback/safety).

Many players with lesser credentials have achieved great things wearing the Scarlet & Gray. There’s no reason why Lee can’t follow in Shazier’s footsteps.


Comments Show All Comments

JYBUCKEYE's picture

Why not?  I remember when Shazier came into a game as a freshmen. He looked like a skinny kid with a neck roll. I remember thinking who the hell is this kid. And now we call him Ryan Damn Shazier. 

+10 HS
Phoenix824's picture

Agree,   Curtis Grant came in a the big name that you who you thought would run with the first team guys right away but RDS ended up being "The Guy"

+2 HS
swainpm's picture

Gotta ask is their a story behind the RDS reference? I have seen it all year and was just assuming it was a reference to his awe inspiring play. Was their one incident that lead to the 'D'? Thanks for any explanation and pardon my ignorance.

ab1993's picture

I think because his middle name starts with D (dean)

Maestro's picture

Well yes technically his middle name does start with 'D', however, the 'D' in the case of RDS stands for "DAMN", just like Urban's middle name starts with 'F', but in UFM the 'F' doesn't stand for Frank if you catch my drift.

vacuuming sucks

+1 HS
bull1214's picture

it'll be interesting to watch and see if lee has an a.j. hawk type of rise up the depth chart or if maybe this is one of those times when a coach puts a guy in the starting spot early to give him some confidence. while at the same time, motivating another player to step up his game (trey Johnson?).

+2 HS
seafus26's picture

Maybe we'll use less of the Star with a LB with his potential cover skills in the game?

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+1 HS
rufio's picture

It would be nice to have that option, but I still think the Star would play a lot. You have to ask first why the other team is going with a "spread" formation. For example, we do it to remove players from the box for the running game. Oregon traditionally has done it for the same reason, as has Rich Rod. Texas A&M, however, does it for the sake of the passing game, as have teams like Mike Leach's Texas Tech teams.

If a team is trying to spread us out to run the ball, one response might be to leave the traditional LBs on the field (if you believe your LBs can run sideline to sideline vs a spread look), and move a hybrid LB/S guy (like Lee) out to the Star, which would theoretically give you the best run personnel out on the field.

In passing situations or against a Texas A&M type team who is spreading you to throw, you might leave a guy like Lee as a LB and bring in more of a true DB type to play the Star, theoretically giving you the best coverage unit. So I still think we'd see that 5th DB quite a bit, even if Lee continues to improve. In fact, it might even depend more on how well the other two LB spots perform. We want our best 11 out there on the field to do the task at hand.

+5 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

One of advantages of the H-WR position is that defenses, traditionally, would put their nickel in there—usually their fifth best DB.  When Percy Harvin was split out wide, he was up against the fifth best DB.  When Harvin was in the backfield, you had a DB who might have no experience in the box.


The Star position needs to be just as talented as the other teams “H”, but it is hard to recruit guys to play the Star position.  The best solution is to get 3 starting LBs that can cover and a super-fast WILL.  Ohio State may be able to stay in a 4-3, if Perry and Grant can improve their pass coverage skills tremendously.  Against the more pass-happy spreads, just go to a regular nickel or dime

Also, find another name for the Star position.  I feel like I am talking about celebrity gossip or something.

Knarcisi's picture

Athletic, versatile, intelligent, leader. 


+1 HS
weimerad's picture

I thought Trey Johnson was going to have the first opportunity to replace RDS???

+1 HS
oregonianbuckeye's picture

FWIW- There were some rumors out there that Trey didn't exactly impress the coaches with his work ethic in winter workouts. Hopefully seeing Lee step up motivates him to push himself.

+2 HS
wyatt's picture

Just get the best out there. I expect to see names like Trey Johnson, Camren Williams, Raekwon McMillan, Joe Berger and even Sam Hubbard.  If Grant and Perry are our best, it will be a long season.

-7 HS
Danify's picture

We have to understand the coaches see these players day in and out throughout the winter workouts and practices compared to us fans.That's why the whole star system for recruits is al ot of times is an crap shoot for how an player and class is going to do in their 3-5 years at college.

+7 HS
saltybuck61's picture

I don't think it is reasonable to assume that Grant and Perry aren't the best the team has. They were sufficient last year. Perry steadily improved and became reliable by the end of the season. Grant was solid with his run defense. Neither were good with pass defense, but neither were the defensive backs. Both improved substantially from 2012, particularly Grant. The defense was significantly worse when he was injured and Cam Williams took over. 

+1 HS
sivaDavis's picture

Wyatt, I'm just going to assume you don't pay that much attention to Ohio State football... you lost my interest when you suggested Camren Williams and Joe Burger should be playing ahead of Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry.

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
seafus26's picture

Throw Camren Williams on your other list pertaining to long season. I was actually encouraged with Perry's late season improvement, though. 

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

buckeyeradar's picture

I hope the kid works hard to become the best he can be.  I personally don't like to group players as first team, second team or what ever it's too early.  Throw all the backers into a pool of sharks and see who survives.  The number of stars the player has will not help him on the field. 

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+3 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Confucius say:

The number of stars the player has will not help him on the field.

Just kidding about Confucius, but you sagely captured the problem with star ratings. It's not that they don't matter - they do, because they help us to predict, before players get on the field, which classes are more likely to perform when they get on the field. Once they get on the field, though, star ratings no longer matter. 

+2 HS
BoFuquel's picture

I think right now Coach Mick has the most say on the depth chart. He is after all one of UM's most trusted assistants, I didn't say that UM said that. In an interview a couple of weeks ago Coach Mick said " none of the front seven had been work-out warriors this winter." So it could be just another of UM's head games that he so loves to play, or Darron may be legit, I hope the latter is true, but we will see. GO BUCKS!

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

ab1993's picture

All this talk of Sam Hubbard in the linebacker conversation, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see him moved to safety. Either way he's a freak athlete, but I see him changing position.

Brandon26841's picture

I think there's zero chance Hubbard plays safety. There's a reason that there's probably only been 6 or 7 safeties over 6' 4" in college football over the last 5-8 years, and close to none in the pros (only ones I can think of are Pat Watkins, Robert Sands, (both out of the league) and George Illoka). The guy's athletic but he's not some uber-freak that could cover slot receivers or be a centerfield type free safety deep. He's a LB all the way and an intriguing one with that speed and length.


And speaking of Lee, if he's the best man for the job I'm all for it. I love when these unheralded 3-star recruits come in here and just surprise everyone by grabbing starting spots out of nowhere (Roby, Powell) early in their careers. Lee was mostly an afterthought. I'm excited to see him play.

+3 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

There's a reason that there's probably only been 6 or 7 safeties over 6' 4" in college football over the last 5-8 years . . .

I think you're implying that 6'4 and taller players aren't physically well-suited to play safety, presumably because their lankiness makes it harder for them to stay with receivers who make quick "breaks" on them, etc.? If that's what you're thinking, that's probably right to an extent, but the other obvious explanation is that if a 6'5 or 6'6 kid had the physical talents to cover the fastest, quickest, best route-running receivers,he'd very likely be a WR, himself.

Don't we think that Calvin Johnson would be an awesome safety? 

+3 HS
PittBuckeye's picture

I agree that Calvin seems to have all the tools you can see, but there are other factors aside from being tall and fast. Nothing says he can make the right decisions out there. 

I'd like to see the kid get a shot at safety though, assuming he's fast enough I think that could be huge. Who knows though.

Phoenix824's picture

Unless the guy has stone hands I agree.    Take advantage of the mis-match in height and put him in at WR.    CJ would be awesome at Safety but who in their right mind would give up the long receiving TD or the red zone TD's his height create.

Mean Mr Mustard's picture

Thank you Brandon.  I brought these things up in another forum and people acted like I was crazy.  I am just going to assume that Hubbard has stone hands, so he will not be playing TE.  The easiest thing the S&C program can do is to put some pounds on the guy and have him retain his quickness.  Put 20 pounds on Hubbard and he is a freak LB

BenArazi4's picture

You're not necessarily asked to cover slot receivers as a safety, perhaps once in a while but if you're going man that's the nickel and dimeback's man.  However, he is asked to lay the boom on anyone coming across the middle and Hubbard would be THE MAN, he has the hips as he's shown to play free safety especially when there is a lone deep man and can move over to SS and cover an athletic TE when we play MAN coverage.  You can do a number of things with him.  Covering a slot receiver is tough for even the best of corners but there are different things you can do with Hubbard and he can be a huge presence in the middle.  He is going to be a special player especially if he plays safety, go check out his highlight reel.  He has the instincts, hips and comes up and nails backs with great run support, I think Sam Hubbard has the potential to be an All-American safety at tOSU.




The Rill Dill's picture

He is the son of NBC-4's Candace Lee.  Just an FYI, in case anyone didn't know (or, who cares).  It's always nice to see a local kid shine.  I hope he has a great career.  ***BUT, we all know how the hype meter pegs out during Spring.*** 

+4 HS
Brutal Brutus's picture

Here's my 5 cents (2 cents adjusted for inflation):

I live in New Albany and saw Darron play.  This kid was special - he was one of those players that was always in position to make a big play. He played QB (and has some wheels - he seemed faster than 4.5), but was all over the field for New Albany.  That tells me that he has great instinct and more importantly, is willing to play anywhere to help his team win. I remember him being recruited and making the comment that he knew he would have to have to work his butt off to earn playing time.  I don't know much about his family upbringing, but what I do know is that besides being an affluent community, New Albany has high expectations for their schools and students (90+% go on to college and graduate - not too shabby).

I hope Darron turns out the be the next big star for the Buckeyes... 

Fear the Nut...

+11 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

The way you describe Lee, he reminds of the under-the-radar kid in high school who always seems to make the right plays, has great instincts, and repeatedly outperforms players who are more highly rated than he is. Then we say, "if only he could run a 4.5 and had high-level athleticism, this kid could be a star in college!"

Well, in this case, Lee actually runs a 4.5 and has high-level athleticism.

+1 HS
bucknut94's picture

I'm all for it. Whatever works. From what I've read, Darron would be a great fit defensively as a linebacker or defensive back.

steveoz49's picture

I don't care how many stars he was rated, I don't care what position he played in HS... he's a Buckeye and if he's the best man for the job, then he's the next man up.



+5 HS
BuckeyeRealist13's picture

Non football related, but has anybody heard anything about Mike Mitchell's brother, Micky Mitchell, regarding his committment to the OSU's mens basketball program. I think if Micky Mitchell still has not announced that he has opened up his recruitment it is a huge plus for tOSU. 

"You're damn right thats daddy" - Urban Meyer 

Phoenix824's picture

Last I heard still committed but there is a long road ahead on this one.    My guess is the Fathers health will end up playing a role when all is said and done.

allinosu's picture

Do a little digging and read mike's father's interview the week before this years NSD. His health is not worse and he said Mitchells don't like to sit and watch. He was willing to talk about every child except Mike's transfer.

Phoenix824's picture

Do you have a link to that interview or know which web site you saw it on?    I would like to read it.    The "mike situation" does not follow the don't sit mold since if he transfers to another D1 school he will have to sit again unless he gets a family hardship exemption ( not sure if that is the correct name).   He could drop down a division but I would think that would make for a hard road to the NFL if that is what he is looking for.    But not much about this move makes logical sense from what has been posted here unless you take it at face value and that Mike may take time away from football to be with family and the fathers health is worse than they state publically. 

ChazBuckeye's picture

I remember going down to New Albany's last game of the regular season and Lee was a heavy hitter at safety.  He was even making hard hits on offense too while at QB on runs, tosses and pitches.  He's a tough kid!  It's tough shoes to fill but I have a feeling he'll do ok.

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.

2002osubuck's picture

I really like Lee the kids a great athlete. He dominated the state tournament carrying his team to the finals. He was my pick for dark horse from last yr class because of his versatility and smarts. He did an interview right after he got offered and committed, and it just blew me away how mature he was. He's only gonna get better.

+1 HS
DC-town's picture

The star rating gives us a glimpse at upside and/or thing it has zero insight into is work ethic, zero.  To a lesser extent it doesn't take intelligence or ability to pick up scheme into account.

lee comes in and busts his tail, learns were he needs to be and plays fast, he'll never look back.

Perry is another kid with two years left that I think will surprise some people.  He's not the fastest, but is solid.

'Piss excellence' -RB

TUNBUCK89's picture

He earned his offer by doing everything the staff asked him to do & committed on the spot. Now he is earning his playing time. That's the sign of a hard worker & a true Buckeye. 

+2 HS
nburns18's picture

Mike D'Andrea was a 5 star linebacker out of high school and never produced. A.J. Hawk was a 3 star and I believe our last commit in his class to sign. Darron Lee doesnt have the flash but I think he'll start and be a good one

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

+1 HS
WezBuck28's picture

It doesn't matter who you put in there as long ad they can get the job done..

Earle's picture

Not to discount Lee's ability or anything he has done to earn the spot at this point, but it occurs to me that Urban may be trying to light a fire under Johnson, given the rumblings about him.  Wasn't Joe Burger running with the first team some last spring?

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

O'boy's picture

well hopefully Darron wraps up and tackles instead of hitting and standing over top of his hits, like most of defensive  players do and can only hope Mr. ash lays into there ass if they just hit and don't wrap up but hey maybe Darron will be a big hit! lets hope