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Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan knows that stats don’t tell the whole story

The junior’s tackles are down this year, but McMillan is focused on being a leader on defense.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“Raekwon, he’s one of the most mature people I’ve ever seen come walking into a program as a young person. Obviously he’s a captain in his third year, a guy that has incredible toughness and gives us everything that he’s got.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via Bill Landis,

Sometimes expectations can be a little too high. Last year McMillan had 119 tackles over 13 games. This year McMillan has just 51 tackles through eight games. While last week McMillan was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, for some Ohio State fans the play of McMillan has been disappointing this year. The criticism from Buckeye fans is a little unjust, considering the amount of talent that surrounded McMillan on the defense last year. This year McMillan is the leader and offenses are accounting for him more, so it’s natural that some of his stats are going to dip.

With being captain, McMillan has plenty of more responsibility on the field this year. Now McMillan has to get the defensive call from Luke Fickell, relay it to his teammates, align the defensive line and defensive backs, and then analyze the opponents before the snap. Even though his tackle numbers might be down this year, it doesn’t mean that McMillan isn’t making plays on the field. In some instances where many thought McMillan shouldn’t have been in a certain area to make a play, it wasn’t in his assignment to be there. The junior is still one of the best linebackers in the country and with all the responsibilities he has on the field, he’s playing just fine, even though there are some that think otherwise.

“I never knew I was fast. But everybody said I was fast. That was really exciting to hear that.”

Ohio State h-back Curtis Samuel via Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press

From a young age there wasn’t a question that Curtis Samuel was talented enough to play major college football. The question was if any of the major programs would find him in New York City. Samuel started walking when he was seven months old and from then he has been a bundle of energy. Football was suggested as a good outlet for Samuel to try and put his energy to good use. So far things have worked out well since now he is the most dynamic player on one of college football’s top team.

When he was growing up, Samuel wanted to be a running back but his high school coach knew that Samuel could be even more than a running back because of his skill set. Samuel’s size makes it so that you don’t want to use him as a feature back because of the pounding he might take. The junior has fit well into being utilized more like a Percy Harvin or Reggie Bush. With talent like that, major college football programs will find you, even if you are in New York City, which isn’t a traditional recruiting hotbed. The 2017 Rivals top 250 only has one player from New York City on the list. With the success had with Samuel, Urban Meyer has paid a little more attention to New York City, bringing in freshman safety Jahsen Wint in this year’s recruiting class. At this rate Meyer might be spending even more time in New York City.

“As a player, I’ve got to do what play is called and execute that to the best of my ability. On a team like this, it could be anybody any game. You saw against Oklahoma, it happened to be me with four touchdowns. We have so much explosive power it could be somebody different every game. Part of that is staying patient and doing everything you can to make an impact.”

Ohio State wide receiver Noah Brown via David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News

After breaking his leg in preseason practice last year, Noah Brown burst back onto the scene with four touchdown catches in the win over Oklahoma this year. Ohio State’s passing game has been inconsistent this year, but there’s no question that when it is working, Brown is the Buckeyes best wide receiver. What Brown has done so far this season is even more impressive considering that he didn’t come into the season at 100 percent as he recovered from last year’s injury, but he has says he is now at full strength.

While Brown’s performance against the Sooners got all the headlines, especially with his ridiculous touchdown catch before halftime, the most important catch Brown has made all season might have come in overtime against Wisconsin, with his touchdown catch ended up being the game-winner. Even with the struggles Ohio State has had with their passing game at times this year, Brown knows that all he can do is stay patient and execute when called upon. Now that he’s healthy, and with the amount of talent Ohio State has on offense, it’s likely Buckeye fans will see Brown making a big impact sooner rather than later.

“The reason we’re not hitting the big plays is we don’t force balls here. We just don’t do that. We have to get better separation (from receivers) and the few times we have, it’s been either protection (breakdowns) or we’ve misfired.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

On Saturday night inside Ohio Stadium there are a few similarities between the two starting quarterbacks. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong Jr. both are from Texas, around the same size, and both can hurt you with their arm and legs. That is where the similarities end. Barrett usually looks to run first and then pass, while Armstrong Jr. is the opposite, using his arms to trying and break defenses. With that, the Nebraska quarterback is prone to more mistakes. After throwing 16 interceptions last year, Armstrong Jr. has seven interceptions this year, while Barrett has only thrown four picks.

After having the luxury of Ezekiel Elliott at running back last year, the Ohio State offense has tightened up a bit this year because a lot of their skill position players are so young. With defenses having to key on Elliott last year, along with Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, and Jalin Marshall at wide receivers, the Buckeyes were able to try and explore the deeper passing game some more. With defenses playing softer coverage this year against Ohio State, the Buckeyes haven’t taken as many deep shots. More of the same might be on display for Barrett and Ohio State this week, especially against a Nebraska team that is leading the country in interceptions.