Comparing Ohio State's 2018 Linebacker Roster To Urban Meyer's Previous Buckeyes Teams

By Dan Hope on June 27, 2018 at 8:35 am
Tuf Borland (32) and Malik Harrison (39)
Tuf Borland (32) and Malik Harrison (39)

Ohio State’s 2018 roster is loaded with talent, per usual, but how does it compare to the Buckeyes’ previous teams since Urban Meyer has arrived in Columbus?

Here at Eleven Warriors, we’ve been taking a look over the course of this month at how each position on the Buckeyes’ roster stacks up with Ohio State’s rosters from Meyer’s first six seasons as head coach, a look that now continues at the linebacker position.

Ohio State’s linebackers are coming off one of the Buckeyes’ worst seasons at the position – Bill Davis’ first season coaching the position for the Buckeyes – in a long time, as the group was regularly panned for its inconsistent play last season, especially in pass coverage.

Going into the 2018 season, the linebackers remain a major question mark for the Buckeyes, not only because of their struggles last year but also because they are replacing a pair of two-year starters at the position, leaving Ohio State inexperienced in that group.

Even before we take a closer look at the roster, that much is already well-established: Ohio State’s returning linebackers haven’t started very many collegiate games. Is that a distinct difference from Meyer’s previous seasons coaching the Buckeyes, though, and how does the overall depth and talent of this year’s linebacker roster stack up with Ohio State’s 2012 through 2017 teams?

By looking back at the groups of linebackers who were on those teams, we can answer the above questions.

Ohio State’s linebacker rosters for every season from 2012 through 2018 are listed below with each player’s year of eligibility, number of recruiting stars (based on 247Sports’ composite rankings) and how many games they had appeared in and started going into each respective season, with analysis to follow on how this year’s group stacks up with the rest.

Note: Players who made position switches are only listed for the seasons that they were linebackers for the Buckeyes. Players who made midseason position switches are listed if they began the season at linebacker.


Storm Klein, Senior (★★★★) – 38 games, 10 starts
Etienne Sabino, Redshirt Senior (★★★★★) – 39 games, 5 starts
Ryan Shazier, Sophomore (★★★★) – 13 games, 3 starts
Curtis Grant, Sophomore (★★★★★) – 10 games
Conner Crowell, Redshirt Freshman (★★★)
David Perkins, Freshman (★★★★)
Joshua Perry, Freshman (★★★★)
Camren Williams, Freshman (★★★★)
Luke Roberts, Freshman (★★★)
Stewart Smith, Redshirt Senior (Walk-on*) – 5 games
Ross Oltorik, Redshirt Senior (Walk-on)
Joe Burger, Freshman (Walk-on)
Craig Fada, Freshman (Walk-on)


Ryan Shazier, Junior (★★★★) – 25 games, 15 starts
Curtis Grant, Junior (★★★★★) – 18 games, 3 starts
Joshua Perry, Sophomore (★★★★) – 10 games
Camren Williams, Sophomore (★★★★) – 10 games
Mike Mitchell, Freshman (★★★★)
Trey Johnson, Freshman (★★★★)
Darron Lee, Freshman (★★★)
Craig Cataline, Redshirt Junior (Walk-on) – 1 game
Joe Burger, Redshirt Freshman (Walk-on)
Craig Fada, Redshirt Freshman (Walk-on)
Nick Snyder, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Aaron Mawhirter, Freshman (Walk-on)


Curtis Grant, Senior (★★★★★) – 31 games, 15 starts
Joshua Perry, Junior (★★★★) – 23 games, 10 starts
Camren Williams, Junior (★★★★) – 24 games, 1 start
Devan Bogard, Junior (★★★★) – 16 games (as S)
Trey Johnson, Sophomore (★★★★) – 7 games
Darron Lee, Redshirt Freshman (★★★) – 2 games
Chris Worley, Redshirt Freshman (★★★)
Raekwon McMillan, Freshman (★★★★★)
Dante Booker, Freshman (★★★★)
Kyle Berger, Freshman (★★★★)
Craig Fada, Redshirt Sophomore (Walk-on) – 11 games
Joe Burger, Redshirt Sophomore (Walk-on) – 5 games
Nick Snyder, Junior (Walk-on) – 1 game
Zach Turnure, Freshman (Walk-on)

Raekwon McMillan (5) and Joshua Perry (37)


Joshua Perry, Senior (★★★★) – 38 games, 24 starts
Camren Williams, Senior (★★★★) – 39 games, 1 start
Darron Lee, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★) – 17 games, 15 starts
Raekwon McMillan, Sophomore (★★★★★) – 15 games
Chris Worley, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★) – 14 games, 1 start
Dante Booker, Sophomore (★★★★) – 11 games
Kyle Berger, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Justin Hilliard, Freshman (★★★★★)
Jerome Baker, Freshman (★★★★)
Nick Conner, Freshman (★★★★)
Craig Fada, Redshirt Junior (Walk-on) – 26 games
Joe Burger, Redshirt Junior (Walk-on) – 20 games
Zach Turnure, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Jared Drake, Freshman (Walk-on)


Raekwon McMillan, Junior (★★★★★) – 28 games, 13 starts
Chris Worley, Redshirt Junior (★★★) – 26 games, 1 start
Dante Booker, Junior (★★★★) – 24 games
Jerome Baker, Sophomore (★★★★) – 7 games
Justin Hilliard, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★★)
Nick Conner, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Tuf Borland, Freshman (★★★★)
Keandre Jones, Freshman (★★★★)
Malik Harrison, Freshman (★★★)
Craig Fada, Redshirt Senior (Walk-on*) – 38 games
Joe Burger, Redshirt Senior (Walk-on*) – 33 games
Zach Turnure, Junior (Walk-on)
Jared Drake, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Hayden Jester, Freshman (Walk-on)


Chris Worley, Redshirt Senior (★★★) – 39 games, 14 starts
Jerome Baker, Junior (★★★★) – 20 games, 12 starts
Dante Booker, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 25 games, 1 start
Malik Harrison, Sophomore (★★★) – 12 games
Keandre Jones, Sophomore (★★★★) – 5 games
Justin Hilliard, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★★) – 3 games
Nick Conner, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 1 game
Tuf Borland, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Baron Browning, Freshman (★★★★★)
Pete Werner, Freshman (★★★★)
Zach Turnure, Senior (Walk-on*) – 12 games
Jared Drake, Junior (Walk-on) – 4 games
Alex Backenstoe, Redshirt Junior (Walk-on)
Hayden Jester, Sophomore (Walk-on)


Dante Booker, Redshirt Senior (★★★★) – 34 games, 7 starts
Tuf Borland, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 14 games, 9 starts
Malik Harrison, Junior (★★★) – 26 games, 1 start
Keandre Jones, Junior (★★★★) – 19 games
Justin Hilliard, Redshirt Junior (★★★★★) – 17 games
Baron Browning, Sophomore (★★★★★) – 13 games
Pete Werner, Sophomore (★★★★) – 11 games
Teradja Mitchell, Freshman (★★★★)
Dallas Gant, Freshman (★★★★)
K’Vaughan Pope, Freshman (★★★★)
Hayden Jester, Junior (Walk-on) – 2 games
Logan Hittle, Junior (Walk-on)
Jared Hoy, Junior (Walk-on)
Alex Beck, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Jack Cappabianca, Freshman (Walk-on)
Cade Kacherski, Freshman (Walk-on)
Abe Myers, Freshman (Walk-on)
Ben Schmiesing, Freshman (Walk-on)

*Placed on scholarship for senior season

Overview: Ohio State’s lack of starting experience at linebacker, as aforementioned, does stand out when looking at the Buckeyes’ 2018 roster at the position against their previous six teams.

This will be the first year that Meyer enters a season without a linebacker who has started double-digit games. Making matters worse, the two linebackers on the roster who have started multiple games are both coming off injuries that sidelined them this spring; Dante Booker underwent a pair of shoulder surgeries, while Tuf Borland injured his Achilles this spring, leaving each of their availability in question for the beginning of this upcoming season.

On the other side of the equation, Ohio State does have seven scholarship linebackers who have each appeared in at least 10 games for the Buckeyes, the most they have had going into any of Meyer’s seven seasons. In total, the Buckeyes have 10 scholarship linebackers – tied for the most any of Meyer’s Ohio State teams have had going into a season – plus a deep group of walk-ons competing for spots on the roster.

From the perspective of recruiting stars, Ohio State’s linebacker roster also looks to be as talented as it’s ever been. The Buckeyes have two five-star linebackers in Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard (though Hilliard enters his fourth season with the team having never started a game due to injuries), as well as seven four-star linebackers, and the lone three-star linebacker – Malik Harrison – appears to be the most sure-fire starter, at least until Borland is healthy, of the entire group.

The question surrounding this year’s roster of Buckeye linebackers isn’t whether they have the talent to be great, but how many of them will actually be ready to take on significant roles on Ohio State’s defense this season, and whether they can execute at a higher level than the also-talented group of linebackers that took the field in 2017.

Ohio State has a longstanding tradition of producing great linebackers, and that has continued into the Meyer era. Ryan Shazier was Meyer’s first star linebacker in Columbus. Meyer’s best groups of linebackers to date were those that took the field in 2014 and 2015, when Darron Lee, Joshua Perry, Raekwon McMillan and Curtis Grant (2014 only) were among the playmakers at the second level of the defense, with Camren Williams and Chris Worley among a strong group of backups providing depth behind them.

The Buckeyes’ linebackers didn’t quite play up to that same standard last season, but with a talented group of young players at the position including Browning, Pete Werner and a trio of four-star freshmen in Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope, the upside for the group over the next two to three years is very high.

Going into 2018, however, Ohio State’s linebacker roster is unproven, and the players who ultimately end up seeing the field from it this season will need to prove they can overcome that inexperience to perform up to their ability.

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