“Spring is the time of plans and projects” ~ Leo Tolstoy
If that is true, Tolstoy — and I believe it is — consider Ohio State spring football to be among the most important of plans and projects, especially for the coaches, players, and fans of the program. Every spring day means one day closer to the beginning of the college football season.
As it gets closer and closer to the official start of Ohio State spring football, I have decided to write a series of articles on a weekly basis to identify and rank the position groups, from least to most concerning, as they pertain to the upcoming 2023 season. Each week, I will point out questions I have about these position groups, and it is my hope that several, if not all, of these questions will be answered by the Ohio State Spring Game on April 15.
The Linebackers | Concern Ranking: 7th
- Scholarship Players Lost From The 2022 Squad: Palaie Gaoteote IV, Teradja Mitchell
- Scholarship Players Returning From The 2022 Squad: Reid Carrico, Steele Chambers, Tommy Eichenberg, C.J. Hicks, Mitchell Melton, Gabe Powers, Cody Simon
- Freshmen Players Participating In 2023 Spring Football: No scholarship players
Reason For My Ranking: As listed above, there are several players returning from the 2022 team that will be on the 2023 squad. Even with players such as Tommy Eichenberg and Mitchell Melton not participating in spring drills, this position group has considerable depth. Melton is still recovering from an ACL injury sustained in the 2022 Ohio State spring game that sidelined him for the entire 2022 season, and Eichenberg is being withheld after offseason surgery.
If anything, Eichenberg’s absence, and Steele Chambers’ probable limited reps that I am guessing will take place, will allow for players to make a move on the depth chart for the upcoming season.
- What is C.J. Hicks’ role defensively for 2023?
Arguably the top-rated player of the 2022 Ohio State recruiting class, Hicks played on special teams, while Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers started at the two linebacker positions. Hicks sustained an injury early in the Michigan game, but was fortunately not hurt badly, and will be fully participating in spring practice.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Hicks seems like the type of player who could thrive at the “Jack” position in the Ohio State defense. The “Jack” is a hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker spot, and Hicks would seem to have the physical skills that would allow him to thrive in that role. Ohio State defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jim Knowles said of Hicks, “He’s gonna have to play in all different positions on the field...His athletic skill is going to come in handy...”.
Will Hicks get an opportunity to play the “Jack”?
2. Who will play middle linebacker this spring?
Tommy Eichenberg had a tremendous 2022 season, elected to return for another year, and Ohio State fans were ecstatic over the decision. As written up above, Eichenberg is not going to be participating in spring football.
With Eichenberg out, who will step up and take the middle linebacker spot? Cody Simon is the logical candidate, as Simon battled Eichenberg for the starting position previously. Simon was often on the field when Ohio State would go to a three-man linebacker scheme in 2022. Simon was credited with 32 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks in 2022.
Could Reid Carrico factor in as a middle linebacker? Listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Carrico could also use this spring as an opportunity to establish himself as a middle linebacker for the future. Carrico was involved on special teams units in 2022.
3. What impact will James Laurinaitis have on the linebackers?
This may be an unfair expectation on the former three-time Ohio State All-American, but Ohio State fans are eager to see what kind of intensity and focus he can possibly teach to the linebacker group that he is now tasked with coaching as a graduate assistant.
With Jim Knowles overseeing the entire defensive scheme implementation, Laurinaitis will have ample opportunities to get to know all of the players in the room, and it may bear watching to see which player(s), if any, begin to thrive during the spring practices under his tutelage.