Ohio State's linebacker unit will be in flux at the end of the 2020 season with the departures of seniors Pete Werner and Tuf Borland.
Eleven Warriors' own Andrew Ellis wrote about a trio of players from the 2018 recruiting class who've waited their turn for playing time. Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant and K'Vaughan Pope are all jockeying for position on this year's depth chart, but 2021 looks like their year.
But there are three linebackers from Ryan Day's first full class who could push Mitchell, Gant and Pope for a role on next year's defense.
Here's a look forward at the next generation of Ohio State linebackers.
Zack Carpenter wrote last month about the reserved nature of Cody Simon, but there's nothing quiet about his play on the field.
Simon, the highest-rated defender in Ohio State's 2020 class, was ranked the top prospect out of New Jersey, the No. 4 outside linebacker and No. 74 prospect nationally. He chose the Buckeyes over offers from Nebraska, Notre Dame, Miami, Penn State and Stanford, among others.
At 6'1" and 218 pounds, Mickey Marotti will make quick work of adding bulk to his frame, but Simon has elite speed for a linebacker after registering a 4.53 second 40-yard dash at The Opening in 2019. That kind of quickness in the middle of the defense will be missed with the departure of Malik Harrison, and it's something Simon can bring to the table when he gains the needed weight.
Day and Ohio State went across the country for Kourt Williams. A Bellflower, California native, Williams had offers from a bevy of teams closer to home like USC, Washington, Oregon and Texas — in addition to big-time schools like Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Michigan — but he couldn't pass on the opportunity to play for the Buckeyes.
Williams is similarly framed with Simon at 6'1" and 216 pounds, but the staff pitched him on the concept of playing the viper hybrid position that floats between linebacker and safety. The Buckeyes had abandoned that position in favor of starting Werner in a tradition three-linebacker set in 2019, but with his departure coming, the viper role could return.
Williams is perfectly suited for that position.
"During my recruitment, that was one of the biggest things they talked to me about just in terms of the playing style and what the position is," Williams said of the hybrid role, according to Cleveland.com. "It's kind of what I did in high school. It's basically the perfect fit in terms of the playing style."
Mitchell Melton is a linebacker who brings impressive size to Columbus at 6'3" and 235 pounds. The 4-star prospect brings a lot of versatility to linebackers coach Al Washington's room.
He has the potential to play any of Ohio State's three linebacker spots, but it seems like he'd fit best in the kind of role Baron Browning emerged into in 2019 — where he had the ability to get after the quarterback as a blitzer.
All three true freshmen have the skillset and potential to push Mitchell, Gant and Pope for playing time in 2021.