Ohio State's Linebackers Are No Longer Urban Meyer's Favorite Punching Bag

By Patrick Maks on August 1, 2014 at 8:15a
60 Comments

CHICAGO – For the better part of his tenure, Urban Meyer’s treated Ohio State’s linebackers like a punching bag.

“The last two years,” he said Monday at Big Ten Media Days, “they weren't what we expect.”

And Meyer, who can be ruthless when addressing his team's on-field performance with the media, likes to let them know about it. He holds few, if any, punches. The first swipe came a year ago.

“The area we still trying to solidify is linebacker … the linebacker is the one area that's the most concerning,” he said Aug. 26.

Another jab came Sept. 16: 

“Unfortunately there's some units that there's no competition. I wish our linebacker unit had a little more depth right now and they don't. There's not people competing trying to go take a spot.”

Another came Oct. 28: 

“We're not Ohio State expectation level linebacker position. After this past week I think most other positions played at a very high level. And so linebacker position's one we're keeping our finger on hard because we need to improve the level of play and the number of backers we have in the program.”

And another Nov. 11:

“We're nowhere where we need to be as far as the expectation level of the linebacker play here ... as good as a linebacker as ever in the country played at Ohio State, and we need to get back to that."

Ouch. But Meyer hurled his harshest critique toward the group on National Signing Day in February while on his weekly in-season radio show. 

"Without question the position that’s not up to standard is linebacker at Ohio State,” he said.

“A lot of mistakes have been made. There are players that have not been developed. I could go on and on and on.”  

So naturally, it makes sense Meyer blasted the linebackers once again earlier this week in Chicago, right?

“(It’s) one of our stronger groups,” he said Monday.

Huh?

“It's the best the group's been right now. And that's just as far as chemistry, as far as trust, as far as operating as a unit."

What?  

"So I'm anxious to see them play." 

Since when? 

It's a striking contrast in the span of less than six months. So, what happened? 

“We took three freshmen there. Dante Booker, Raekwon McMillan and Kyle Berger … Josh Perry's done a great job at leadership and so has Curtis Grant,” Meyer said.

Without former All-American and current Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier, Ohio State will rely on a cast of characters to fix a unit Meyer publicly blasted at every turn last season.

Perry and Grant are the remaining veterans of the group and more will be asked of them than ever before. It'll need Darron Lee, an emerging sophomore who's built like a safety, to build upon a mountain of momentum forged in the spring.

It needs McMillan, one of the nation's top recruits, to make an impact. It needs the likes of Booker, Berger, Chris Worley, Camren Williams, Devan Bogard, Trey Johnson, Joe Burger and Craig Fada to provide depth for a group that didn't have such a luxury a year ago. 

Something happened over the summer and it caught Meyer's eye. Moreover, it was enough for the hard-to-please coach to get up on a national platform and give the unit a pat on the back instead of a slap in the face. 

“It's about time we played linebacker ball, linebacker play the way Ohio State is used to," he said. "I think you're going to see it this year.” 

That's a big leap. But then again, Meyer probably knows something we don't. 

60 Comments

Comments

JohnnyKozmo's picture

Maybe he saw Josh Perry's before and after pictures and figured he better change his tune.

+37 HS
mr.green's picture

At the end of this month we will know. Go Bucks. Beat Navy. 

+6 HS
jpbuckeye's picture

TGIA

(Thank God It's August)!

GO BUCKS!

+5 HS
BullCityBuckeye's picture

Coupled with Johnson's outstanding defensive line/scheme and the more aggressive secondary, the arrival of the improved linebacker corps is going to make watching this defense an extremely enjoyable experience.  I'll bring the popcorn, guys and gals.

+9 HS
alust2013's picture

 As exciting as this offense has been the last couple years, I think I still prefer to watch a stifling defense. Not that I will complain about a few 40-7 or 50-10 games either, but it's a lot more stressful to watch when a 21-point quarter by the opponent isn't out of the question.

...and Michigan still sucks.

+13 HS
southernstatesbuckeye's picture

BullCity, if you're bringing the popcorn, guys, and gals, I'll just take the popcorn and gals.

Yowza!

+1 HS
BullCityBuckeye's picture

Hahaha.  Corny as hell, SouthernStates...but I laughed.  +1 to you.

denner's picture

Perry, Grant, and Lee - all generals.

+33 HS
Gametime's picture

Damn straight Denner - and McMillian was also a general too!

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

+18 HS
Young_Turk's picture

So naturally, Patton Oswald would make a great linebacker?  

+5 HS
TheBadOwl's picture

People tend to underestimate him at his own peril.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+5 HS
CC's picture

Winning really is his middle name...

+2 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good catch.

In contrast, Michigan's LBs - e.g., Ryan and Morgan - share the last names of famous ballerinas.

+7 HS
apack614's picture

That's epic

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
Barnsey69's picture

Bringing shock-and-awe to opposing offenses...The Generals.

GO BUCKS!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes!

+3 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Awesome catch!!!

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken

+4 HS
Gametime's picture

I'm excited about our linebackers this year too. We've got every physically measurable need at LB now, and within Chris Ash's scheme I think we'll see our hats flying to the ball & making plays.

One can only hope with recruiting & coaching that we can get back to the glory days of the Hawk-Carpenter-Schlegel trio with these young bucks Meyer & Co. are bringing in. Hopefully coach Fickell can keep working his magic.

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

+4 HS
Furious George 27's picture

The LBs finally have something that it didn't 2 years ago, depth. Add in two years in the weight room and they are passing the eye test.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

BroJim's picture

Im excited to hear about his unit in camp. How much time, if any, will McMillan get? Are we sleeping on someone?

I season my simple food with hunger

Catfish Biff's picture

How hard was it for Shazier to hear that criticism after having a great year and being a sensational player? Wonder what he would say about it

..Til' we wobble in our shoes!

+3 HS
CC's picture

All we had to do is get rid of RDS, I knew that would make us better...

+3 HS
OSUStu's picture

When you think of the great linebackers that have arguably the last decade as good as a linebacker as ever in the country played at Ohio State

Are there some missing words in this quote?  I am having some trouble deciphering it.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

+5 HS
shortbus20's picture

Shazier would say he brought the young pups along and now he will watch them grow and develop even more.

  • shortbus20
+3 HS
Myc24's picture

Finally, the LB corps has some depth - but they're also very young as a unit. Could be an exciting year (as long as they've learned how to wrap up).
So thankful it's finally August! 

"Because I couldn't go for three!"  - Wayne Woodrow Hayes

buckguyfan1's picture

I'm  so excited. - Pointer Sisters playing in my head. 

+3 HS
OSUBias's picture

UNFIRE FICKELL!!!!!!

Shitter's full

+29 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Now THAT's funny! Start the UNFIRE FICKELL thread!!!!!

 

 

+1 HS
Barnsey69's picture

LB is my favorite position, so the last couple of years have been hard to watch at times. Especially after how much we were spoiled by the Little Animal-Hawk-Carpenter-etc era, but I agree with the author in that UFB knows something we do not. However, I think we can deduce that what he knows is that the recruiting is paying dividends and we have some legitimate studs now...can't wait to hear/read the fall camp reports, and of course witness the proof come August 30th. 

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes!

+1 HS
BuckeyeKing02's picture

I still remember hauling in Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson at the Army All-American game a few years back and thinking that doing so would have a big impact on our team.  Surprised that neither of them are a part of this conversation in a meaningful way, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.  You can't fault UFM for trying to recruit to the position.  It just goes to show that you need to land studs at each position every year to keep the train moving forward because life happens and not everything works out the way we hope.  That said, it also shows that the best coaches not only recruit, but develop talent.  Some of the lesser-heralded recruits have turned out to be stalwarts for us.  Glad to see we've made a lot of progress in returning LB to a position of prominence within our D.

+5 HS
bakerjon's picture

He must know something we don't, because this is not a drastic improvement to the personnel we had last year when he criticized the group. They are all Freshmen for cryin out loud! My guess is that the scheme has their heads spinning less and they can go harder and faster than before. Thank you Coach Ash!

I will never figure out how the linebackers are the punching bag of the defense that is the weakest link, and the guy coaching the linebackers and the defense as a whole doesn't lose his job. Maybe you can call the Withers departure a "firing" of sorts and Ash's entry as a demotion of sorts.  Still it boggles the mind...

"It's all ball bearings these days guys"

-7 HS
Jack Burton's picture

It's all in the reflexes - Me

+3 HS
cinserious's picture

'Boggle': Another weird-ass old people game I wouldn't fuck with as a kid. B-O-G-G-L-E, 'Boggle'.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

zenshade's picture

Well, just spit-ballin' here, but I'd bet Urban Meyer overcame his laziness and actually showed up for a few days of spring practice and watched how that "same personnel" was progressing. He probably had his mind blown by some of them having gotten better through experience and strenuous workouts.

-1 HS
saltybuck61's picture

The linebackers were not the weakest unit on the team. The secondary was and it wasn't even close. You don't give up record setting games to every quarterback in the state of Michigan without having a terrible secondary.

+2 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Here we go....

 

 

bleedscarlet's picture

I wonder how much the year Coach Fick was Head Coach set the unit back....

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken

+3 HS
zenshade's picture

Some might take that as a dig at Luke, but it actually makes sense that could be the case if you think Fickell is a top notch LB coach (I do). Because being the head coach, he was no longer coaching the LBs.

+4 HS
vtbuckeye's picture

I have been thinking that for a long time.  Vrabel played LB in the pros but how well did he actually coach the LB position.  After all  it his first season as a coach.  How much did that year hurt Curtis Grant's development? How much did it set back the LB position as a whole? That in addition to the LB attrition/recruiting misses adds up to what we had the past few seasons.  Hopefully the new scheme as well as the new blood will result in a significantly improved unit.

+1 HS
toad1204's picture

Its got to be a matter of everyone being on the same page with a top D line and a schematically improved secondary.  I'm sure finally having depth at the position isn't hurting either.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

+2 HS
swainpm's picture

Toad I agree. Its alot easier to play your position well when you can sit back and worry only about the role you are supposed to play. With an improved secondary the LBs should be much better. And now that Urbs is saying it, and not just preseason prognosticators, I am much much happier.

+2 HS
Jabba1977's picture

I hope the linebackers are awesome!! I have missed great linebacker play,for some time now!!!

SECHATER77

CGroverL's picture

I'm not sticking up for the LB's over the last couple of years but I don't think the problems with the LB corps had anything to do with strength or speed at all. It all came down to simply not meshing with what the DL and secondary did. It seemed as if there was a gap left by the defense, that is where the RB ran and the LB missed the gap (usually by overrunning the gap), and 2 steps after that, the RB is at top speed and running while getting chased by our secondary. Shazier had great junior and senior years while underrated Etienne Sabino played well during his 8 game senior year (right around 6 when you count the reality and how injuries kept him off of the field). Even Sabino is still fighting to make NFL rosters and the last I heard had been let go by the Giants (who claimed they had "no doubt" that Sabino would make an NFL squad) and now is in St. Louis (with fellow Buckeye LB James Laurinaitis).

In my opinion, the problem with the Buckeyes LB corps has been with players not knowing where to be, ESPECIALLY and most importantly has been the problem with the MLB not being in the right place...and the entire LB corps has had to take the blame. Sabino was better than anyone will give him credit for, Shazier was a beast....Curtis Grant absolutely did not know where to be on game day. I'm sure that he knew where to be on practice days, but when game days came around, Grant was lost. Think about how much better the slower, shorter Boren played. The truth is that the OLB's have been good , but the MLB (who normally is the team captain that takes signals and arranges the defenders when offenses make adjustments) play has been horrible ever since the 5-star MLB Curtis Grant showed up in Columbus.

Everyone here that knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of Luke Fickell and I will always defend him. The #1 reason is because everyone in Buckeye Nation THINKS that Luke Fickell is our defensive coordinator...HE'S NOT and never has been. He has had co-DC in his job title but even again this season, Larry Johnson's job title is (and this is 100% true) DL coach/asst. head coach. Sounds to me that Larry Johnson is Luke Fickell's boss, right? It was the same way over the last 2 seasons when Everett Withers actually had this long ass job title: secondary coach, asst-DC, asst. head coach. Sounds like Withers was in over his head, right? He had a secondary ranked near the bottom of the 120+ teams in the FBS and also was Fick's boss as he was the co-DC AND the assistant head coach. Here we are in 2014 and Fick is still the LB coach/co-DC and he shares his co-DC job with newcomer Chris Ash. Luke Fickell is a great attribute to this team...When Curtis Grant couldn't get it done and Meyer decided that the offense didn't need a blocking FB, Fickell turned Boren into a tackling machine in 6 days. FINALLY, it looks like Grant is going to REALLY play MLB in 2014, so instead of Fickell having to waste an hour on getting the ONLY MLB on the roster ready for Saturday, he can finally teach these guys where to be while the play is going on. God knows that Fick hasn't had much to work with as back-ups to people like Sabino, Grant, and Shazier are names most of Buckeye Nation hasn't heard of...especially in 2012 when Boren became a two way player as studly as Chris Gamble (hahaha).

In the end though, Ash, Fickell, and Johnson need to work in ways to drop Spence (like Cam Heyward used to do as a Leo) and use LB's to stop passing lanes...Ohio State defenses used to have many INT's by playing defense this way. This defense has been gone since we lost Jim Heacock. I'd do anything to see Spence as a TRUE Leo and possibly a healthy Bell or other hard hitting safety to add run help if dropping the D-Lineman happens during a run. That used to be the bread and butter of our top 5 defenses. Now we stuff the run but can't stop an average high school QB from putting up 350 yards. Bring back the Leo and Star...then we will bring back the sacks and keep the RB's bell ringing on the opposition.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

-3 HS
buckeyes7222's picture

Can anyone even be expected to read a word of this?

+13 HS
Homey1970's picture

"Four score and seven years ago..."

+5 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

The part about CO-D coordinators........................the recent interview with Urban by ESPPPN first take shows Urban talking about the defense and he mentioned that their is one voice for the back 7 in reference to the pass defense. Makes me think that ASH is responsible for how the defense responds in pass coverage and maybe Fickell is responsible for how the defense responds in rush coverage.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

cinserious's picture

ASH is responsible for how the defense responds in pass coverage and maybe Fickell is responsible for how the defense responds in rush coverage.

Makes sense, I like it, let's go with that. After all, Fickell.... nevermind 

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

CGroverL's picture

I'm sorry...I always forget to give credit to the writers. Nice write-up, Mr. Writer. It honestly was cool to show Meyer's words especially with the dates....he acts as if our LB corps is made up of zombies that just started popping up out of the ground a couple of months ago...and are hungry. I hope he's right on this one as it may get coach Fick some props...but we know that only works in the other direction. Most of these "Fire Fickell" fools probably would have gotten their wish except for the fact the Urban Meyer knows that if you have to bring in your FB as a MLB, you don't have much to work with at LB. Anyway...cool write-up. Is there a way to give you a +1? I'm still lost on the way this place works...I've been lost on the way a lot of things work since the home page used to say "The phone is ringing...Woody's on the line."

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

-2 HS
zebiraross's picture

Wow, that was a long post.

Zeb

+2 HS
Homey1970's picture

Damn it, Fickell!!! 

(this is kinda like the "O-H" "I-O" chants!)

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Are you sure it wasn't John Cooper's fault?

 

 

BIGHEC39's picture

When Do They Check In For Camp?

BigHec39

Marcus Hall's Middle Fingers's picture

I always felt like Urban's linebacker commentary was meant to motivate Coach Fickell along the way. There's no way a champion like Fickell isn't fueled by those comments. It would be really tough not to take things personally. I think we'll see big things from our linebackers this year, and the credit will belong to Luke Fickell.

+2 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

Good point. Didn't think of it that way

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

bedheadjc's picture

Already contemplating the shock of the Buckeyes fanbase when we see effective LB play again. Aggressive, dominant play at all 3 or 4 positions. We'll be stunned, pleasantly surprised, happy and boastful. All in the span of maybe two defensive possessions against a ranked team. I hope.

whiskeyjuice's picture

Urban has been pretty spot on in his evaluations so with him saying that The OSU fan base will see better LB play really says something!

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

Buckloving's picture

I'm excited about our D too..................And I'm really excited about our new Def coaches...............Coach Ash want's to bust em in the mouth........I think I got a man crush on him already

bobbyd

whiskeyjuice's picture

I know some people here have been critical of Ash's past defensive stats with other teams but Urban trusts his philosophies. Plus with Ash now at one, if not the most visible programs in the country, I bet he is motivated like nobody's business to achieve a top rate pass defense.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

BuckeyeDevil's picture

I still like Fred Pagac

Drew2006's picture

Perspective. Perspective. Perspective... Let's shift our focus off this season, but let's look at the future of our LB unit. Raekwon McMillan, Justin Hilliard.....Do I need to say more? Our LB unit will be fine. 

What's honored in the country will be cultivated there. -Plato