The summer offseason is in full swing, and Lettermen Row is trying to survive it with our annual Position Week breakdowns. By the time all nine units at Ohio State have been covered, training camp and media days will nearly have arrived â€” and the return of football in the Horseshoe will be just around the corner. Letâ€™s turn the attention to the linebackers for the Buckeyes, and how Craig Young can make an impact in a hybrid role.
COLUMBUS â€” Whatever the Bullet position is in the Ohio State defense, Craig Young fits the mold.
The buzz for the hybrid linebacker role that shares traits with the safeties on the roster has been talked about for three years — essentially since Ryan Day took over as the coach of the Buckeyes.
But it hasn’t really been used until this spring, when safety Ronnie Hickman and Young, a linebacker, were both listed on the Spring Game roster as a Bullet. Both players can thrive in the hybrid role. But Young may be the perfect fit for this fall’s edition of the roster.
The Buckeyes have plenty of capable safeties and are in an interesting spot at linebacker.Â Young could be a difference maker as a hybrid player for the Silver Bullets defense.
â€œCraig has had a really good spring so far,â€ Ohio State coach Ryan DayÂ said during the spring practice session. â€œI think heâ€™s finding a role he feels more comfortable with. His ability to come into the box, but then also line up at safety, he can do multiple things there. Thatâ€™s exciting for us. He can cover, he can play in the box, he can be physical, he can blitz. So he, Ronnie Hickman, Ryan Batsch, Kourt Williams, those are all guys in that position we think have a chance to do that this year.â€
Ohio State will need to replace four linebackers who left the program for the NFL. While the spring was slated to be a time to sort through the revamping of the room, only a few linebackers were available due to various injuries. Young and the other potential Bullet players gained reps and comfort in the hybrid role during that time.
If Young can emerge from the competition as the starter in that role, he’ll provide athleticism, range and plenty more to the defense.
â€œWe have the ability to do both: We can line up in nickel or we can line up in base,â€ Day said. â€œThatâ€™s something that weâ€™ve always been able to do. Weâ€™re going to continue to look at that and figure out what gives us the best chance based on what the offense is giving us. â€¦ And weâ€™ll just try to put the best guys on the field. Who can do the most?
â€œWe want to have flexibility there and be able to adjust based on what weâ€™re seeing.â€
If Ohio State chooses to only use the Bullet sparingly, Young can adjust and solely play linebacker. He has shown he can play inside the box and make an impact. But he is too versatile to pin down at one position on the field.
Maybe that’s why the Buckeyes are finally, after three years, ramping up the plans with the Bullet position. And they’re using a linebacker rather than a safety to do so.
â€œWeâ€™re sort of working through it,â€ Ohio State secondary coach Matt Barnes said. â€œThe emphasis right now is: Is it bullet or is it SAM? Itâ€™s hard to say. It is what it is right now, itâ€™s this guy or that guy depending.â€
Craig Young has the ability to be both at once.