Gabe Powers Prepared to Provide Depth at Linebacker for Ohio State After “Huge Jump” in 2023

By Andy Anders on July 1, 2024 at 11:54 am
Gabe Powers

Gabe Powers has made a habit of flying under the radar thus far in his Ohio State career. That trend is continuing into 2024.

With Will linebacker being the lone spot left to compete for on the Buckeyes’ defense, Powers is slated to back up Cody Simon at the Mike position while five-star prospects C.J. Hicks and Sonny Styles battle to start in the role vacated by Steele Chambers.

That doesn’t mean Powers isn’t powering up his skill set behind the scenes.

“You didn't see it because he didn't play a lot in his games, but in our opinion, Gabe, the second half of the season, what we see in practices, is probably one of the most complete guys,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “He really was.”

Entering his third season at Ohio State, Powers is accelerating his growth track as he prepares to be one of the Buckeyes’ top options off the bench at its most central of defensive positions.

“I've definitely developed mentally, that part of the game,” Powers said. “I think I still need to work on, formations-wise, plays on offense. It's a huge part of linebacker. A lot of people think linebackers just set the defense and play, but you also have to know a lot about what the offense is gonna do and be the quarterback of the defense.”

Now, just because Powers’ role already seems defined as depth for 2024 doesn’t mean he isn’t working to carve out a bigger job on the team. He is “still fighting” to start at Will even if Mike is his projected position going forward. 

“If you don't come in here to try to start, what are you doing? So that's what you gotta go in every practice (thinking), and that's how you gotta play,” Powers said.

Powers came out of high school in Marysville, Ohio with plenty of pedigree in his own right, rated the No. 101 prospect and No. 8 linebacker in the class of 2022. He played in the Under Armor All-American Game as a senior.

It’s taken two years for Powers to get to a place where he feels comfortable in Knowles’ system. He came in during the transition from former defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and former linebackers coach Al Washington to the former Oklahoma State DC. Midway through his 2023 campaign, however, the scheme started speaking to him in practice.

“There’s a point where it all clicked, where all the plays started to make sense because it is a difficult defense,” Powers said. “So I was learning, and then once it clicked, it clicked. So that was the biggest step for me. And I definitely felt it, even before practices now. It's a lot less stress on you. As a young guy, you're kind of stressed out about what you're gonna do on every play. Now you're comfortable, you know what you're doing, so it's all good.”

Powers admitted he underestimated just how long it would take to flip that switch at the end of his prep career. 

“It's a huge transition,” Powers said. “To be honest with you coming in, I didn't know it was that big of a transition. From high school to college, it's night and day mentally. Everything's a lot mentally harder. So it didn't go where I expected it, but trust God wherever I end up.”

As a graduate assistant and now especially as full-time linebackers coach, James Laurinaitis has been a huge help in getting Powers up to speed. He played his first career snaps on defense in 2023, 21 in total, with many more on special teams. He proved productive in the opportunities he received, with seven tackles and one tackle for loss.

“He obviously knows the game. He played at the highest level and was one of the greatest here,” Powers said. “Him coming in and teaching the game because he knows it, not just as a coach, he knows as a player, so all the drills can translate to the field very well.”

With his improvements in practice, Powers should provide quality depth to Ohio State in 2024 while aiming to take over for Simon full-time in 2025.

“He made a huge jump the second half of the season in terms of what he was doing in practice and when he got into the game,” Knowles said. “A huge jump. I feel like he is a guy that is going to compete. He's a guy that's going to be ready. I feel like he's made tremendous improvements, and we can start to count on him.”

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