Darron Lee is Comfortable in Role at Outside Linebacker

By Tim Shoemaker on September 2, 2014 at 8:35a

Columbus-area high school football fans grew accustomed to seeing Darron Lee make highlight-reel plays like Saturday's 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Navy on a regular basis during his playing days at nearby New Albany High School.

But a lot of those came on the offensive side of the ball for Lee, who was a standout quarterback for the Eagles as he helped guide them to an appearance in the Division II state semifinals as a senior.

When Lee came to Ohio State, however, he wasn't recruited as a quarterback. In fact, he didn't really have a true position.

But after redshirting as a true freshman last season, Lee has found a home at outside linebacker and he announced his presence to the college football world when he picked the ball up off the turf after Joey Bosa forced a fumble and took it 61 yards to the house to give fifth-ranked Ohio State a brief 13-7 advantage over the Midshipmen.

“I saw Joey shed a block and then attack the quarterback and then it’s just job assignment, really," Lee said of his touchdown. "Just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.”

Starting his first ever game for the Buckeyes, Lee recorded eight tackles against Navy's triple-option offense and was one of three Ohio State defensive players to earn a "champion" grade from head coach Urban Meyer.

But even Meyer admits he didn't see Lee's performance coming just a few months ago.

"He's a guy that is a product of offseason program met drills," Meyer said. "One of our tougher guys on defense that throws it around. He's been practicing like that since spring ball. Kind of came out of nowhere. Didn't expect that in spring practice."

Toughness and hard work seem to be trademark traits of Lee, who was rated as a three-star prospect in high school by most major recruiting sites.

Lee had the hit of the day Saturday.

“I just like to compete. It doesn’t matter who has how many stars, I don’t care about that. I was just gonna come here and compete," Lee said. "Coach Meyer recruited me because I’m a competitor and that’s really it. Honestly, I just go out and work my tail off.”

His teammates have taken notice, as well.

“Darron’s a really hard-working and aggressive guy. He’s not just gonna sit around and let people just come in and play if he thinks that he can do something," fellow linebacker Joshua Perry said. "He worked extremely hard in the offseason to put on the weight that the coaches wanted him to. He took a lot of time in the film room, also. I think it was a humbling experience for him to sit back and watch for a year when he was a guy who was a star player at his high school so I think that also helped with his maturity and his development."

Lee was a two-way player in high school, who played mostly safety on defense. Most of his plays, however, were made as a quarterback.

Now listed as 6-foot-2, 228 pounds and on the other side of the ball for the foreseeable future, Lee said it's nice getting to dish out the hits — like the one he delivered on Keenan Reynolds on Saturday — as opposed to getting hit.

“It feels good to really get a nice shot on somebody when you’re out there on defense," he said.


Comments Show All Comments

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Very impressed with his play.  I love the fact that he always seems to be in attack mode.  

Actually, watching the .gif it's no wonder why we kept getting beat on the edge.  We have two guys that fail to move and get wide enough in the play.  If Lee doesn't blow it up, the pitch man is open on the edge for another 5 yards at least.

Read my entire screen name....

+1 HS
Buckeye419er's picture

They were looking for the "big play". Not sure if that was before or after the fumble recovery or not but either way they were looking for a similar result, possibly a pick six. Bosa was in position to steal the pitch. But I agree after that they weren't in a great position. However you can't look 3 (what if's) down the road. In order to be aggressive on defense you have to take some chances. Hopefully this shows against VT.

There can be only one

+1 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I'm not worried at all about our defense against VT.  I think our defense will be great against traditional offenses.  The only thing that bothers me about the Navy game is that it showed that we weren't completely disciplined on the field.  In this respect, there's a lot of room for improvement.  Talent-wise, its going to be a fun group to watch.

Read my entire screen name....

+2 HS
awlinBrutus's picture

big plays are great but i'd rather have more consistent tackling. the secondary again had a lot of missed tackles and that includes Lee. I watched the 2nd half again last night and saw a lot of bad angles at the point of attack. don't get me wrong I was encouraged by the aggressive hard hitting of the defense. at what point in D1 should we expect a player to show good fundamentals in tackling in the open field? idk. i'd rather give up a big play here and there than let a teams like PSU, Rutgers or a Maryland dink and dunk us in between the 20's all day.


+2 HS
ibuck's picture

 OB: defense...[wasn't] completely disciplined on the field. 

AB: i'd rather have more consistent tackling.

Lee's QB plant was good, solid tackling. I 'd like to see consistently solid, wrap tackles, not highlight big hits. IMO, big hits that aren't offset by other wrap tackles deserve lap-running. 

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SavannahBuck's picture

I would argue that Bosa was in perfect position. The angle that Reynolds was taking, he would have either had to toss it over Bosa, or pitch is so far behind him that there would have been 3 or 4 defenders there ready to make a play by the time the back had the ball.

+1 HS
Barnsey69's picture

Agreed, he is stutter stepping in the back's direction when Lee lowers the boom. Perry is staying home on the opposite side. Looked good to me, hope to see more of the same this week (like that play).

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BKshepherd's picture

I wonder if Lee was on a stunt that play and it just played into our hands.  I agree that we let way to many pitches make the corner.  It seemed like we were letting the secondary take the pitch guy most of the time and that equated to major gains on their part.  It seems with our speed, we should have been blowing the pitch up on the perimeter with consistency.

JSTANBUX25's picture

That was a MAN's hit right there.  Welcome to the big time, Darron Lee!

How Firm Thy Friendship...O-HI-O

+4 HS
jascott14's picture

I get really excited thinking of this kids future at Ohio State!

Jason A Scott

+1 HS
apack614's picture

I'm not kidding I heard that hit from across the stadium! Solid freaking hit!

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

+3 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

I did too.  Funny thing is, no one else around me even saw it live, they didn't see it until they replayed it on the big screen, so no one knew what I was making such a big deal about.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+1 HS
apack614's picture

Haha! The beer man must've been walking by! Man I loved where I sat, somehow I ended up with all of the families? C. Grant's family was literally right behind me. I met his mom, aunt, son everyone haha!

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

I got a great view of the hit.  I was directly behind Lee, so I saw the hole open up, and him shoot through.  I jumped up, and I think everyone was like, "what's this idiots problem?"

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+1 HS
Sightlygrain6's picture

I've watched that hit probably 100 times with no intention of stopping.

+3 HS
11UrbzAndSpices's picture

I was talking about the game yesterday, my buddy said "the linebackers didn't even do anything."

Uh, hello? Darron Lee?

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

+1 HS
GreatLakesBeer's picture

Yeah I had a guy tell me the only reason Darron Lee was playing was because Spence was suspended. I calmly explained he is a LB.

If you will it dude, it is no dream

One Bad Buckeye's picture

      Beast Mode

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+16 HS
Buckeye419er's picture

I had flashbacks of that Clowney hit against ttun. Could Lee end up being a diamond in the rough? I think it's possible.

There can be only one

+1 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

man. This is what I like. Finding diamonds in the rough, if you will. Kid did not even have a position, then you come to find out he is a pretty solid LB. Give him the start, puts a nice hit on the QB, gets experience, nice tackles, and returns a fumble for a TD. Awesome story so far. Only the first chapter, but this one seems like it will be awesome.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Just from his first game, I am thinking Darron will be one of our best defensive players this year.  He simply looked awesome, flew to the ball, and got there with BAD INTENTIONS.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

HYDEYOKIDS's picture

Still has a lot to learn he had an up and down day but when he was up he was a game changer. Looking forward to seeing him grow.

whobdis's picture

Great hit..but they did have some misses. I rewatched the game last night and our olb's got caught up in blocks quite often. Granted it's guys diving at their feet at times so trying to save their ankles. I'll say at this point we have great athletes at the linebacker positions but they don't have the 'nose' for the ball Shazier had..at least not yet.

+1 HS
saluki2007's picture

This is a guy who understands 3 - 6 sec, point A to point B.  Hopefully this will rub off on the others and the bullets will be back!

BUCKSOMIES's picture

Gotta give Lee's mom two thumbs up also

+1 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

An on air personality for a Columbus TV station.

dot it 41's picture

Nice to see someone blow up a player in the backfield. Way to let yourself be known, assertive!

Come here and take your medicine little skunk bear

TURD_BUCKET's picture

Darron Lee was a 3* recruit that now is playing blike a 5* recruit.  Congrats to his hard work and a thumbs up to the coaches.

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

+2 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

Urban might describe his efforts as "Hawkish".

BoFuquel's picture

Bosa made the play. GO BUCKS!

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

+1 HS
txbucknut's picture

After Saturday's game vs Navy, Darron Lee has quickly vaulted up to be one of my favorite players on defense. They guy has great instinct and plays with this hair on fire. I can't wait to see him get better as the season goes on. 

+1 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

He made some big plays - and that's what that defense needs. He's obviously a great athlete for a LB and the sky is the limit.

 He's a young player and will make mistakes. Can't criticize him without knowing who had pitch responsibilities on the option - it varied depending on the particular defense and personell.  But I saw a half dozen plays where he took the QB while there was inside support coming to handle the keep - meaning he should have taken the pitch.

But hey, I think we can live with a few mistakes if he blasts the QB once a game and has a scoop and score.

LouBuck35's picture

I'm excited for what the defense can do this year.  The group overall just looked a little faster.  I know it's hard to judge because of the opponent and we will get a better feel for it on Saturday, but the group appeared to be more aggressive and decisive, even against the triple option.  Having guys like Darron on D who are just quick and aggressive will rub off on the rest of the group.  With Bennett and #DOLPH disrupting up front, hopefully Darron and the other LBs can play fast and make some plays.

I want a fall Saturday in Ohio Stadium..

Toilrt Paper's picture

Just amazing. The last time Darron played in a football game he was a 6-2 195 HS QB. Now a 6-2 230 LB with 4.5 speed. He was rated as only the 33rd best player in Ohio coming out of HS. The diamonds in the rough that makes a great recruiting glass, regardless of Star average. Kudos to Darron Lee, his parents and Ohio State coaches.

A big question to start the season was, who will replace Shazier, The question might have been answered,

OldColumbusTown's picture

I am really, really excited about the performance of Darron Lee.  An underrated guy, who shows off the work ethic necessary to come in to OSU as an afterthought, change his body in order to change positions, and then put on a performance like that in his first ever real college game experience... that says something.

It's been referenced many, many times before, but John Cooper famously said, "If they're going to bite, they're going to bite as pups," and Darron Lee showed off some massive jaws right from the get-go.  Look at other Buckeye players who produced the way Darron Lee did as true/RS freshman, and you tend to find OSU greats.  Laurinaitis, A.J. Hawk, Chris Spielman, etc.  I'm not trying to compare Darron to the those guys, because that isn't fair.  All I'm saying is history shows a guy who performs on the big stage in his first ever chance, normally tends to turn out to be a great Buckeye!

TUNBUCK89's picture

You can add Shazier to that list. He bit as a pup & kept on biting all the way to the NFL.

On the other hand, regardless of star ranking, a camp offer by Urban is a legit offer.

+1 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

He blew more than a few assignments on Saturday, but he definitely played fast.

There were times when Darron would incorrectly jump the FB give. Bosa and Miller/Frazier had crash responsibility and Lee had the QB. Occasionally they switched assignments to confuse Reynolds - where Bosa would stay on the QB. But when both the end and the OLB committed to the inside run it would give the outside option a numbers advantage. That's where we got hurt, because by the time the MLB or S to that side would get there Reynolds had pitched for an 8 yard gain.

When he made the right decision he was a monster run-stopper. His speed and pad level is impressive, he may not have the shot-out-of-a-cannon look that RDS had but I think he breaks down at the ball a little better. 

It's tough to tell against a triple-option team how a LB will fair against the pro-style, but the only time he really made a mistake was when he guessed where the ball would be instead of playing his assignment. He is extremely aggressive in stopping the run, and I think that will show against VT

I got a gray kitty, white kitty, tabby too, and a little orange guy who puts snakes in my shoes. Got mad MC skills, that leave ya struck, and I roll with my kitties and I'm hard as f*ck.

warriard1002's picture

I often wonder are some of you guys just blinded by fandom or just drinking the coffee of what other people and coaches have stated. Yes I agree Lee was in position for several plays and made a few big ones but what I saw most of the day was him missing plays and getting ran over or drug by the Navy running back especially the fullback between the tackles. When that was not happening I have no clue whos responsibility it was to get the far pitch guy. I did not see a change until Cam Williams was inserted into what I think was Lee's position and he simply destroyed the fullback or any lead blocker only after this move at the end of the third quarter, i think, was Ohio States Defense able to stop that option and get off the field regularly. Just my honest input

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Lee is so ripped it's scary - He will be making a huge impact week in and week out 

Homey1970's picture

For those scrolling through the comments, just wanted to give you some more "IMPACT" 

+1 HS
steveoz49's picture

How's his first name pronounced again? lol

For a kid who came here as a QB, he's making the adjustment rather nicely thus far. 

RunEddieRun1983's picture

Good read, good reaction.  Way to stick to your assignment.  Impressed with Derron Lee thus far.

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

buckeye phi's picture

The future is bright at linebacker. 

Lee had a nice first start - his back-up, Chris Worley isn't far behind.  Perry's going to be scary-good this year and McMillan's still waiting for his turn.  Hearing good things about Booker, too.

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. - Will Rogers

KLF Buckeye's picture

Not trying to be a wet blanket, but I cringed when Lee got up and stared down at Reynolds. Frazier grabbing him might have been half celebration, half helping avoid a taunting penalty. Notice how he pulled Lee's head up? Subtle Sr. leadership.

-1 HS