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Steele Chambers has excelled since moving to linebacker at Ohio State

After being buried at running back on the depth chart, Chambers now is in the conversation as one of the best linebackers in the country.

Ohio State v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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It has been quite a whirlwind ride for Steele Chambers since he arrived in Columbus. Chambers played both running back and linebacker in high school, rushing for at least 1,300 yards in each of his final three seasons at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Georgia, while also registering 70 tackles. When he signed with Ohio State, Chambers was a four-star recruit and he was targeted as a key addition to the running back position for the Buckeyes.

To start his Ohio State career, Chambers was used as a running back, where he spent the first two-and-half years of his college career. Chambers carried the football 28 times in mop-up duty in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, rushing for 221 yards and a touchdown. Even though he averaged nearly eight yards per carry, it became obvious to Chambers and the coaching staff that running back might not be the position where Chambers could make the biggest impact because of the outstanding depth the Buckeyes had at running back.

Heading into the 2021 season Ohio State was in a bad spot at linebacker. Gone were Pete Werner and Tuf Borland. Tommy Eichenberg wasn’t quite yet the Tommy Eichenberg that is now in the conversation as one of the best linebackers in the country. Dallas Gant quit on the team during the Akron game. Teradja Mitchell never quite lived up to recruiting expectations, and Cody Simon was still pretty green in his first season seeing regular action at the college level.

The desperation for somebody that could make some plays at linebacker was so real that Chambers moved to the defensive side of the football prior to the 2021 season.

Toledo v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

As the season progressed, we started to see growth from Chambers at the position. After gaining some confidence with five tackles against Akron, a few weeks later he recorded his first tackle for loss in college as part of what was then a career-high seven-tackle performance against Maryland. The following game he would register a forced fumble against Indiana, and two weeks later he intercepted his first pass against Nebraska. By the end of the season, Chambers was credited with 47 tackles, with five of those stops being behind the line of scrimmage. The tackle total from Chambers ranked fifth on the team.

After showing what he was able to do while still adjusting to playing linebacker at the college level in 2021, the 2022 season looked bright for Chambers since he would have a full offseason to prepare for life at linebacker. Chambers didn’t disappoint, ranking second on the team with 77 tackles. Along with increasing his tackles, Chambers made 6.5 tackles for loss, recovered a fumble against Maryland, and picked off passes against Rutgers and Georgia. Not only did Chambers make at least eight tackles in five games last year, he notched a career-high 11 tackles against Rutgers, followed by 10 stops later in the year against Indiana.

Just how far has Chambers come in two years at linebacker? After initially being moved to linebacker to add to the depth at the position, earlier this week Chambers was named to the Butkus Award watch list. After the linebacker unit at Ohio State had become the punchline of some jokes with their poor play at times in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg have restored some pride to the position that has produced greats like Andy Katzenmoyer, A.J. Hawk, and Ryan Shazier over the years.

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

Tons of credit goes to Chambers for staying at Ohio State despite being moved to linebacker. With the transfer portal being introduced to college athletics, a lot of players would have entered the portal had they been approached about switching positions. While nobody would have faulted Chambers if he decided to look elsewhere to finish up his college career at running back, instead he did what was best for the team.

The gamble is likely to pay off for Chambers, as he’ll have plenty of eyeballs on him this year at linebacker, which will help him raise his draft stock when it is his time to head to the NFL.