With all of the offensive commitments scouted and analyzed, we are now moving on to the defense — the side of the ball subject to lots of criticism the past few years. However, that is changing fast as the Buckeyes seem to have found an adequate play caller in Matt Barnes. That and the youth movement the Buckeyes have committed to has led to an improved unit, finally playing young stars J.T Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer among Denzel Burke who was already getting significant snaps.
An infusion of defensive talent is needed once again for the 2022 recruiting class, and so far this group is shaping up to have a ton of potential future All-Americans.
Current Defensive Commitments
Gabe Powers - Linebacker - Marysville High School, Marysville (Ohio) - 6-foot-4, 230 lbs.
This week in our series, we are talking about Ohio’s own Gabe Powers, a linebacker out of Marysville. Powers is ranked as the No. 49 player in the nation, the No. 6 linebacker, and the No. 2 prospect in the state of Ohio in the 247Sports Composite rankings. 247Sports’ Charles Powers has his NFL player comparison as Christian Miller, formerly of the Crimson Tide and currently a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers.
Powers had 61 solo tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, four forced fumbles, and an interception in eight games in 2020. It is tough to nail down his 2021 stats, but rest assured they are probably just as good if not better than his junior campaign. He comes from a long line of linebackers in his family, following in his father Mike Powers’ footsteps, in earning a college scholarship to play the position. His father played for Division II University of Findlay and had a try out with a few NFL teams. Football is once again, as it seems this is a trend, in the blood for the Ohio State commitment.
There are questions as to whether or not Powers will start at linebacker or eventually grow into a defensive end in the Buckeyes’ scheme, but whatever position he ends up in there's a high likelihood he will excel at it. Watching the film, the first thing I notice about him is the effort. He makes those high-effort plays every defense needs, pushing through blockers — sometimes multiple at once — and playing every down until the whistle blows. He takes on blocks well at their point of contact, and uses his arms to keep the blockers just far enough at a distance that he can rip their arms off or detach himself from the block to flow to the ball-carrier.
Powers shows an excellent ability to read an offense and plays very smart football. He does not seem to be easily faked out or fooled when play-action occurs, and does not get stuck with his eyes in the backfield on these plays, allowing himself to be drawn into the play action and beat over the top on a pass play. Being able to cover is now one of the most crucial things a linebacker can do. With all the run-pass option plays and the days of the ultra-athletic tight end like Kyle Pitts and Ohio States own Jeremy Ruckert, linebackers have more responsibilities than ever in a defensive scheme.
We all have seen what happens when Ohio State has linebackers on the field that get lost in coverage — the biggest example being the national title game last season. Powers may not be elite in pass coverage yet, but he has the athleticism to get there with the right coaching. He will need to work on adding to his speed and quickness with the Buckeyes if he wants to truly become an above average to great coverage linebacker. He plays running back in Marysville’s Wing-T offense, exhibiting his athletic ability on the gridiron by also showing some great catches out of the backfield on tape, proving he does in fact have some good hands for a linebacker.
His tape from a Rivals camp below shows some of his coverage abilities.
His run-stopping ability is really where I saw flashes of greatness on tape. His sideline to sideline ability of tracking down the ball-carrier is elite. He has the speed to chase down runners from behind the play, and the strength to meet them head-on in the hole with bad intentions. He has a great form tackle, and he wraps up while not leading with his head toward offensive players.
It is clear he has gotten some great coaching on how to tackle properly in the day and age of targeting being called and changing the course of football games, as Ohio State fans know all too well. Everybody loves a linebacker who can lay the lumber and establish dominance at the line of scrimmage, but they also want a linebacker who can do that while also staying in the ball game and not being ejected for targeting.
As I have stated previously, like in hockey, it is good to have a tone-setter on defense. Somebody who can pop the other team in the mouth and have the confidence and swagger to let the offense know about it. Powers has a nose for the football and always seems to be right there in the thick of every play on the defensive side of the football. Instincts can try and be taught, but they really just come with the player, and some have it and others don’t. This linebacker out of Marysville Ohio definitely has it.
If his body does continue to grow and grows out of the linebacker size range, he also could have a bright future as a down lineman with his hand in the dirt for the Buckeyes. He already shows great power in his pass rushing, also showing he can be an above-average to elite anchor in the run game. He does not give up much ground to offensive linemen, and can shed blocks well to bring down ball carriers in the hole. He has great quickness and burst off the snap, which will only improve in Columbus when he gets with Mick Marotti and either Larry Johnson or Al Washington. It is rare that Powers even comes off the field for Marysville, and the flexibility from position to position is something that will only aid his pursuit of getting snaps on the Silver Bullets’ defense.
With the defensive talent the Buckeyes have coming in the class of 2021 and in this class of 2022, I fully expect the Silver Bullets’ defense to be back and in the forefront of the conversations in a positive light when talking about Ohio State. The depth and talent Ohio State has brought in — and is continuing to bring in with the class of 2022 — will only elevate the level of play from that side of the football.
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