Darron Lee was a name Ohio State fans grew accustomed to hearing last season as the Buckeyes went on their unprecedented run to a national championship. Lee became a star at outside linebacker, seemingly always coming up with a big play when Ohio State’s defense needed one most.
But over recent weeks, Lee hasn’t had his name called much. It’s not because he’s been playing poorly, though. He simply hasn’t had many opportunities. Opposing offenses are finding ways to try and take Lee out of the play, often running things away from him.
“I wouldn’t say slow down; I’d say go the other way,” Lee said following the Buckeyes’ practice Wednesday. “It is what it is. As long as we’re coming out on top, I can’t really complain.
“I’m not greedy for stats or anything.”
Lee isn’t the only player on Ohio State’s defense who has been getting schemed against either. Opposing offenses have tried to avoid All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, as well.
Bosa said recently he was not frustrated by his lack of numbers — though they have picked up in the Buckeyes’ last couple games — saying all his drawn attention has allowed teammates to make the plays.
Lee echoed those thoughts Wednesday.
“Well I know if they’re doing those type of things with me and Joey, there’s nine other guys that are going to be at the ball,” Lee said. “It’s no big deal, there’s nine other people who have to do their job and me and Joey have to do our job also.”
Through eight games, Lee recorded 33 tackles (seven for loss) and 2.5 sacks for third-ranked Ohio State. Statistically, it may not be what many projected from Lee, who was on myriad preseason All-American lists.
He’s still playing at a high level, though, according to his head coach.
“I think he’s playing excellent,” Urban Meyer said. “When you play hard, good things happen.”
Fellow linebacker Joshua Perry said if Lee is frustrated at all, he’s not showing it. He’s still taking advantage of his opportunities whenever they may come.
“When [Lee] gets those opportunities, he’s making a lot of those plays,” Perry said. “Teams are finding ways to kind of neutralize some of the guys on our defense so you definitely see that. We count on him every day to just go out there — he’s a guy who gives us a lot of spark and you know that he’s got those plays in him.”
Lee made one of Ohio State’s biggest defensive plays of the season when he returned an interception for a touchdown way back in Week 3 against Northern Illinois. Lee hasn't had a breakout moment since then.
Another play like that is sure to come soon for Lee, who is one of the top defensive playmakers in the country. For now, the redshirt sophomore is perfectly fine with how things are going.
“We’ve been winning, right?” Lee said, flashing a smile. “That’s all you can ask for.”