COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One of Ohio State’s biggest concerns last season was a lack of experience at linebacker. The Buckeyes entered the 2021 season having lost Pete Werner, Baron Browning, Justin Hilliard and Tuf Borland who played in more than 150 games combined.
The inexperienced position group was also marred in controversy after K’Vaughan Pope and Dallas Gant both left midseason, leaving former linebacker coach Al Washington in a tricky situation.
OSU used a combination of Tommy Eichenberg, Cody Simon and Teradja Mitchell while moving Steele Chambers from running back to linebacker. The unit, just like the entire defense, was exposed in several games leading to the firing of both Washington and former defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs.
Both jobs were filled by one man — former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. He was hired by the Buckeyes shortly before their Rose Bowl win over Utah and has made an impression during his first four months in Columbus.
“Coach Knowles is a genius, great guy to be around. As soon as he comes in the room the energy just goes up,” Mitchell said. “His energy is contagious, I love playing for him.”
“We have learned a lot. It’s pretty amazing how much he’s put in through 10 practices now,” Chambers said. “I have all the confidence in the world in his scheme. I mean he’s a hard ass, he’ll scream at you but I know what he’s doing for this program is pretty awesome.”
Chambers said last year he felt like opposing teams knew what the Buckeyes’ defense was doing at times but added that won’t be the case under Knowles.
“Knowing that we have more than like two or three plays in a game is definitely a lot better,” he said. “We’ve got more ammunition in the gun.”
The Buckeyes also have more ammunition when it comes to players at the position with the arrival of C.J. Hicks, the No. 1 ranked linebacker in the country for the class of 2022, as well as Marysville’s Gabe Powers who was the No. 8 ranked linebacker for 2022.
Other notable returners include Mitchell Melton, Reid Carrico, 2021 USC transfer Palaie Gaoteote who played sparingly last year and Arizona State transfer DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum.