Ohio State wants balance, versatility from linebackers on recruiting trail

Jeremy Birminghamover 2 years
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham



Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. This afternoon’s column looks at the Buckeyes linebacker position and how the new bullet position changes Ohio State’s recruiting priorities.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

The days of Ohio State trotting out the three traditional linebacker positions are over, at least temporarily.

Ryan Day’s first defense appears to be heading toward a more modern look that deploys the new Bullet position, a hybrid between a safety and a linebacker. Ohio State will combine that position with the familiar middle linebacker spot that Tuf Borland and Teradja Mitchell play, and the weak-side linebacker will be manned most of the time by Malik Harrison this fall.

(For reference: The Bullet was known as the Viper at Michigan and made famous by Jabrill Peppers. Ohio State has used this hybrid position before, calling it the Star and turning guys like Jermale Hines, Tyler Moeller and others loose during the Jim Tressel era.)

Looking at the Buckeyes current roster, there are two players who played extensively in 2018 at safety who will play the Bullet: Brendon White and Jahsen Wint.

White was recruited as a safety by the Buckeyes, but has played wide receiver and linebacker at times. And though it wasn’t intentionally done, that flexibility combined with his ability makes him a primary example of what the next-generation Bullet should look like. Talented play-makers who can do a lot of things — that’s what Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington is looking for in that role.

Al Washington-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington is searching for guys to play the Bullet for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“The origination of that position was, you take a safety who maybe is not as fast and you plug him into that position,” Washington said. “A playmaker. Put him in position to make plays. See what they can do well. We’re trying to figure out what a guy does well and then try to put them in a position to do it.”

As Washington and the Buckeyes hit the recruiting trail, they’re looking for athletes who make plays from anywhere on the defense. Looking at players like William Mohan and Kourt Williams, it’s easy to notice the difference in size and style between them and the more traditional linebacker prospects like Mekhail Sherman and Mitchell Melton. There’s a need for both in the future of the Ohio State defense, but in this cycle and maybe the 2021 group, I don’t think it’ll be surprising to see more of the hybrid-types as the coaching staff tries to fill the new positional needs.

The good news is that high school coaches around the country have been ahead of this curve. A lot of programs are already using their best defender in that kind of position-less role. Buckeyes 2019 signee Cade Stover played safety at Lexington High School, and he’ll be a linebacker or maybe a defensive end down the road at Ohio State. Baron Browning was a 5-star linebacker prospect who played safety in high school at Kennedale (Texas), and so did Sam Hubbard at Cincinnati Moeller.

What happens in the future almost certainly depends on how successful these changes are this year. But as for now, balance and versatility is the key on the recruiting trail — and the roster.

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