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Bold Predictions: Ohio State has an All-American linebacker duo

It’s Bold Predictions week, and we’re here to settle the debate on who has the best linebacking duo in the country.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Semifinal Game Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about making predictions that may or may not be reasonable, in fact, some might say they are bold. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our “Bold Predictions” articles here.

If you’ve read any of my articles this offseason, you know my respect and fandom of Tommy Eichenberg. I am the creator, marketer, and driver of the Tommy Train.

I’m already on record that I think Tommy will post a similar season to last year where he had 120 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and an interception which he returned for a touchdown. I’ve already predicted that he will win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and the Linebacker of the Year award. I’m also on record saying that he will win the Butkus Award given to the best linebacker in the country.

All of these are bold predictions but that’s not what this article is about.

Going into the season, Tommy is a household name. He is on all of the preseason watch lists for major defensive awards and is a preseason All-American. While all of that is great, the media is forgetting about Tommy’s running mate Steele Chambers.

Chambers, a converted running back turned linebacker is entering his third season as a full-time linebacker. In just his second season he improved significantly, ending the year second on the team in total tackles with 77. He also posted 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Entering his third season, Steele should be more comfortable at linebacker, and this offseason will have been spent improving his game — specifically inside the tackle box.

Steele would have been expected to be better this season no matter what, but he received a major boost with the hiring of Ohio State legend and eight-year NFL vet James Laurinaitis as the assistant linebackers coach. There are not a ton of former players to learn the intricacies of linebacker from better than Laurinaitis, and Steele has spent all offseason perfecting his craft. Tommy is also a beneficiary of Laurinaitis’s coaching, which is all but guaranteed to make both players take an extra step in their development this season.

While everyone seemingly respects Tommy, Steele is overlooked. According to ON3, Steele and Tommy are the seventh-best linebacking duo in the country and third in the Big Ten behind Clemson, Georgia, Penn State, Michigan, LSU, and North Carolina. In a second On3 article, Tommy was listed as the third-best linebacker in the country behind Harold Perkins and Abdul Carter of LSU and Penn State, respectively.

Perkins and Carter are both very exciting players. They’re very fun to watch and are objectively better athletes, but they are not better at playing linebacker than Tommy. Carter is a glorified pass rusher; This is no shade, he’s just much better at the line of scrimmage. Perkins spent most of his season either spying the quarterback or rushing the passer. While both of those are necessary skills, they are only a small part of the equation and neither player is a complete linebacker. Chambers did not make the list.

You may think this is bold, and honestly, I do not expect the media to be able to accurately identify good linebacking, but if they pay attention to another other than who runs a 4.3 and looks good chasing the quarterback, then Eichenberg and Chambers should both end the season with All-American honors.