Tag Archives: Raekwon McMillan

How will the Buckeyes Replace Raekwon McMillan?

Raekwon McMillan has been the heart and soul of the Ohio State defense for the past two-plus seasons, but with the former team captain set to be selected in the 2017 NFL draft after declaring early, who will be the next middle linebacker for the Buckeyes?

McMillan finished his career being named a second team all-American after a solid junior season. The former five-star prospect out of Hinesville, Georgia came to Ohio State with huge expectations as he was the consensus top inside linebacker in the country in the 2014 recruiting class. The expectations were almost impossible to meet, but having number five in the middle of your defense leaves one less thing to worry about every Saturday.

A big part of being a leader of the defense is being a student of the game, being able to put teammates in the right places and knowing exactly where everyone should be. This is something McMillan excelled at, and something Ohio State with surely miss as they try to replace him in 2017. Voted a captain as a true junior, McMillan is a player who played his best in some of the biggest games, as seen by his last game against hated rival Michigan in which he tallied 16 tackles.

Urban Meyer will have a huge void to fill with all that McMillan was for Ohio State over the last three seasons, and there is a shortlist of players who will try to replace him.

The first name that comes to mind as a player that should step up and take that role on as middle linebacker at Ohio State is former five-star prospect Justin Hilliard out of St. Xavier high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. A player who out of high school was the 17th ranked player overall and the # 1 outside linebacker in the 2015 class, Hilliard has the talent but has yet to put it together as a Buckeye due to injury. If the 6’1″, 230-pound linebacker can live up to his billing and finally stay healthy, he will compete for the job come fall.

Dante Booker, (a player who started game one at outside linebacker for the Buckeyes) will be another player who will compete for playing time at middle linebacker next season. Booker was injured in the opener against Bowling Green, and after Jerome Baker player the game of his life a week later against Oklahoma, it was impossible to take him out the rest of the way.

Booker has the talent, as seen by him holding off a talent like Baker to remain the starter through the spring and fall camp before losing his job to injury. His biggest hurdle like Hilliard will be to stay healthy if he wants to compete for the job. The former 2013 Ohio Mr. Football will have his shot to get acclimated to the middle linebacker in the spring, but may stay on the outside if someone else can step up in the middle.

Baron Browning, a true freshman from Kennedale, Texas who will participate in spring practice after enrolling early is also a player that is a dark horse to win the starting middle linebacker spot come fall. Although only a freshman, Browning is one of the best linebacker prospects in the country, and will immediately press all of the Buckeye linebackers for playing time. ESPN ranked Browning the #2 outside linebacker in the 2017 class, and his combination of size and speed at 6’3″, 232 pounds makes him one the best athletes in the country. How fast Browning can catch on to the college game during the spring will determine if he is truly ready to start as a true freshman.

Ohio State is stocked with talent at linebacker, with a number of former high school All-American players vying to replace McMillan this fall. But can any of them truly fill that void, or will the Buckeyes struggle up the middle this season?

E-mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

Predicted: New Year’s Six and the College Football Playoff National Championship

This is the third and final part of my 2016 College Football Preview. The picks in this article directly reflect my first and second article, so check those out before reading this one.

Orange Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND) 12/31/16

Miami (9-4) vs. LSU (10-2)

The Matchup: Miami will get the automatic ACC bid, as the Hurricanes are the best ACC team not in the CFP. LSU squeezes its way into the New Year’s Six over the likes of Notre Dame, the second team in line who just misses the New Year’s Six due to their indecisiveness at the QB position early in the season, which cost a few games. Other teams who are in the hunt for the Tigers’ Orange Bowl spot are Michigan State, Ole Miss and Arkansas, but none of them finish over 9-3.

The Game: This is Leonard Fournette’s final game in an LSU jersey. He will eat up the Miami defense, which will have to deal with a bit of Les Miles madness. LSU will come out passing early and often, as the Miami defense gets weaker the further away from the line of scrimmage you go. Once the Tigers expose Miami’s pass defense, LSU will catch the Hurricanes on their heels by simply letting Fournette run over the competition. Fournette’s early season injury may keep him out of the Heisman Race, but he will sure look like a Heisman winner after this game is all said and done. LSU will simply put up too many points for the Hurricanes to keep up with.

Final Score: LSU Tigers 38 – Miami Hurricanes 20

Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large) 1/2/17

Michigan (11-1) vs. UH (12-1)

The Matchup: Michigan is not happy to be here. The Wolverines believe that it belongs in the CFP. However, it ends up playing in Dallas facing off against a Houston Cougars squad whose excitement to be in this spotlight inversely mirrors the Wolverines.

The Game: The team’s respective enthusiasm for this particular game reflects into the matchup’s first half to a large degree. Michigan comes out uninterested and sluggish, which a Greg Ward, AAC player of the Year, powered Cougar offense heavily exploits. The First Half ends with the Cougars up 14-10. The Wolverines swing back in the second half, and take a three-point lead over UH with just over a minute left in the game. Greg Ward leads a final charge down the field into the red zone with time winding down. However, after two incomplete passes, Jabrill Peppers fools Ward, after Peppers fakes a blitz before dropping back into coverage. The strong Wolverine defensive line forces Ward to rush a decision, and he overlooks Peppers before throwing a pass which Peppers intercepts.

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 41 – Houston Cougars 38

Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) 1/2/17

Iowa (9-4) vs. Stanford (11-2)

The Matchup: Iowa, who lost the Big Ten championship to Ohio State, gets the automatic Rose Bowl bid. Stanford, meanwhile, wins the Pac-12 and because no Pac-12 team gets into the CFP, are the other automatic bid, which makes the 2017 Rose Bowl an identical matchup to the 2016 game.

The Game:  This game will have a similar outcome as the matchup the previous year. Stanford will let Christian McCaffrey run free, and he will single-handedly slaughter Iowa. Iowa, in all honesty, does not belong in the Rose Bowl, and once again, the game’s result shows that. This one is not even close.

Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 31 – Iowa Hawkeyes 6

Sugar Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC) 1/2/17

TCU (10-2) vs. Tennessee (10-3)

The Matchup: I’m going to be honest. Even though I picked them to be here, I would be surprised if Tennessee can win the SEC East and get the automatic bowl berth. The Volunteers’ inconsistency over the last several years makes I hard to believe that it can string together a solid season and take the East over Georgia and Florida. But, that’s what my mind believed when I wrote last week’s prediction article, so here we are. If the Volunteers manage to make it to the Sugar Bowl, it will face off against TCU, winners of the lackluster Big 12.

The Game: Despite the fact that I don’t think it will make it to this game, I think the SEC will prove too much for TCU. Tennessee, behind powerhouse running back Jalen Hurd and a Joshua Dobbs who develops into a great passer throughout the season, are able to out muster the Horned Frogs offensively. Tennessee’ defense, which nine starters, will shut down the Horned Frogs’ offense. This will be a defensive battle between these two teams, but the Volunteers prevail.

Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 24 – TCU Horned Frogs 17

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)  12/31/16

#1 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #4 FSU (11-1)

The Matchup: Ohio State, still riding off “The Game of the Century” Part 2, in which the Buckeyes beat #2 ranked Michigan, gets the #1 overall seed for the third annual College Football Playoff. FSU, meanwhile, campaigns hard for its spot, which the Seminoles fight Michigan, Stanford, TCU and Houston for. However, dominating wins late in the season after a close defeat to Clemson allow FSU to squeeze into its second College Football Playoff appearance.

The Game: Lead by recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner, J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes get off to a quick start, scoring quickly on a pass over the middle against the weakest part of the Seminole defense. However, the Buckeyes’ inexperienced defense will struggle to do anything to stop the Dalvin Cook Seminole offense, and FSU goes up by 10 heading into halftime. Coming out of the half, Dontre Wilson brings the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, making the Buckeyes deficit only three. Both defenses then hunker down, with the likes of Raekwon McMillan and DeMarcus Walker dominating for the Buckeyes and Seminoles respectively. Late in the 4th, J.T. Barrett leads Ohio State down the field, but Urban Meyer has to settle for a field goal. However, with two minutes to work with, Dalvin Cook is able to take his time and rush the Seminoles into Field Goal position with only a few ticks left. Ricky Aguayo gets a perfect hold ad knocks home a 52-yard field goal as time expires to allow the Seminoles to win.

Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 23 – Ohio State Buckeyes 20

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) 12/31/16

#2 Clemson (13-0) vs. #3 Alabama (12-1)

The Matchup: Winners of the ACC and SEC respectively, Clemson and Alabama both come off monster season to qualify as the middle seeds for the College Football Playoff. Heisman runner-up Deshaun Watson, Clemson finished undefeated, while Alabama’s only loss came to Ole Miss early in the season.

The Game: This game will ultimately come down to Clemson’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. The Alabama offense will struggle with Cooper Bateman at the helm, but Clemson’s defense will not be nearly as dominant as years past, allowing the Crimson Tide to find holes to score both on the ground and in the air. However, the issue for Alabama is that Clemson’s offense simply has too many pieces, as if the passing game to wide outs Mike Williams and Artavis Scott struggles, Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, both of whom were 1000 yard rushers in 2015, can simply push Alabama back behind the Tigers’ O-Line. Though Alabama remains in the game in the first half, Clemson comes out firing in the second and breaks the game wide open. Alabama, though talented, won’t have an answer for Clemson, and the Tigers win the game by a fairly wide margin. The Crimson Tide’s shot at returning to the College Football National Championship is cut one game short.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 45 – Alabama Crimson Tide 24

 College Football Playoff National Championship 1/9/16 (Tampa, FL)

#2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles (12-1)

The Game: This game is going to be a rematch of possibly the best offensive matchup of the 2016 season. Earlier, Clemson beat out FSU in Tallahassee, and that is why the Tigers remained undefeated the entire year. The National Championship, featuring two teams less located less than 600 miles from the game’s location, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, will be an offensive bout the likes of which we haven’t seen in man years. While both teams have competent defenses, Clemson and FSU will look to win the National Championship with offensive firepower. This game will actually not be as much of a nail-biter as their first matchup, as Deshaun Watson, in his second straight title game, will come out firing on all cylinders. FSU will stay in the game, but the Clemson offense will prove to be too much, and keep a constant lead over the Seminoles the entire game. The Clemson Tigers will have its first National Title since 1981.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 48 – Florida State 35

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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Who Will Step Up for New-Look Buckeyes?

With Ohio State football camp already underway, it’s only a matter of weeks before the Buckeyes begin to show whether or not talent trumps inexperience.

Ohio State is ranked No. 5 in the 2016 USA Today Amway Coaches Poll and as we all know, it’s not due to experience. Some might say Ohio State is the most overrated team in the field. With the Buckeyes only returning six starters from 2015, they are arguably the least experienced team in the land.

We can thank the return of junior quarterback J.T. Barrett for the early-season respect. It’s going to take more than Barrett and five additional returning starters to land a Big Ten conference championship and a spot in the playoff conversation. Who will step up and become possibly the next great thing in this group of “baby” Buckeyes?

Let’s face it, the loss of running back Ezekiel Elliott is a devastating blow to the backfield. Can redshirt freshman Mike Weber and true freshman Antonio Williams emerge as viable replacements? They certainly possess enough talent and hype. Ultimately, both should receive a plethora of opportunities. Expect Weber to earn the bulk of the workload, especially in the early going.

It would be foolish to expect Weber or Williams to replicate the production of Elliott. The fact remains that Elliott was one of the most accomplished running backs in the history of the program and was arguably the best combination of running, blocking and pass-catching Ohio State has ever seen.

History says that it will take some time for a running back like Weber or Williams to make their mark. Other than Maurice Clarett in 2002, who compiled 1237 yards and 18 touchdowns, the highest rushing total in the modern era by an Ohio State freshman running back was 576 yards by Beanie Wells in 2006.

As far as the receiving core is concerned, I think Noah Brown should emerge as a go-to receiver and return to the form he reached prior to breaking his leg, which forced him to miss the entire 2015 season. Sophomore Parris Campbell had issues with drops during his freshman campaign, yet has a great chance to play a prominent role in the passing game opposite Brown. H-back Curtis Samuel has been impressive since he stepped foot in Columbus and should find himself in an even bigger role, both on the ground and through the air.

However, with that said, this is going to finally be the year for senior Dontre Wilson. It was four years ago that we heard about this sensational freshman talent, a speedster who decommitted from Oregon to join coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State. We’ve seen flashes from Wilson but never the total package and I believe his talent will come to the forefront in 2016.

From a defensive standpoint, there will also be plenty of new faces. We know Raekwon McMillan will be a stud manning the middle linebacker spot for the Buckeyes in what most likely will be his final season before the junior turns pro. That is just my hunch.

Junior Tyquan Lewis is back on the defensive line after leading Ohio State in sacks last season.  Gareon Conley returns at cornerback but other than that, we don’t know what to expect from the revamped silver bullets. Sam Hubbard should help Lewis wreak havoc on the defensive front. The sophomore was named a freshman All-American in 2015.

The much anticipated arrival of freshman defensive end Nick Bosa has finally come. You can bet that the little brother of former Buckeye Joey Bosa will see action sooner rather than later.

Meyer has labeled the 2016 season as “The Edge.” After “The Chase” and “The Grind” in 2014 and 2015, the new-look Buckeyes have their own chapter to write.

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College Football’s Next Stars

The 2016 NFL Draft has now come and gone. While the draft has exploded into a huge event for NFL fans, it’s also fun for college football fans to look back on the best players from the previous year or two. With each pick, highlights are shown that take you back to those explosive plays that show the skills that went into first-round picks terrorizing opponents. Now that the draft is over, it’s a good time to look toward next year. Which players will we be talking about during the 2017 NFL Draft? Here are some players who may not be household names yet, but could dominate the college gridiron this fall on their way to becoming a first-round pick in next year’s draft.

Brad Kaaya – QB, Miami (Fl)

Kaaya has been a good quarterback for the Hurricanes since starting as a true freshman in 2014. Though his touchdowns decreased in his sophomore year, he improved his accuracy to 61% and threw just five interceptions in 389 attempts. With prototypical size (6’4’’, 210 lbs) and Mark Richt there to help develop him, Kaaya could have his name called early in 2017.

Jamal Adams – S, LSU

Adams has been terrorizing the SEC since stepping on the field as a freshman. At 6’1’’, 210 pounds, he packs a punch and makes receivers think twice about going over the middle. On a Tigers team that is loaded this fall, Adams might be the best pro prospect of the bunch.

Justin Davis – RB, USC

Next year’s NFL draft may see an influx of RB talent that we haven’t seen in years, so Davis will be flying under the radar. He didn’t become the Trojans primary ball-carrier until halfway through 2015, but finished the year by averaging at least 5.2 yards per carry in his last five regular season games. After earning now-permanent head coach Clay Helton’s trust and behind an elite offensive line, Davis is primed to burst onto the national scene in 2016.

Mike Williams – WR, Clemson

The Clemson wideout could have heard his name called early this year if not for a neck injury suffered in the first game of the Tigers’ season last year. That injury cause Williams to miss the entire season but if he’s back to 100 percent, it won’t take long for everyone to remember his name. Using his great size, Williams had over 1,000 yards on 18 yards per catch in his sophomore year, and if he had been healthy in 2015, likely would have been the first WR off the board in last week’s draft.

Roderick Johnson – OT, Florida State

A lot was made about Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson’s play as a freshman in 2014, but over in Tallahassee Johnson was having a similar impact. He was so good that Cameron Irving was moved to center and later ended up a first-round pick himself. At 6’7” and 300+ pounds, Johnson has the size and athleticism NFL teams look for in a franchise tackle.

Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee

Barnett isn’t exactly flying under the radar after notching double-digit sacks a year ago, but when it comes to collegiate pass-rushers, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett gets all the hype. With the SEC not exactly churning out high level quarterbacks lately, Barnett will wreak havoc on the conference once again.

Eddie Vanderdoes – DT, UCLA

A five star recruit coming out of high school, Vanderdoes has had a rocky college career, transferring to UCLA and then suffering a season-ending injury in the 2015 opener. He was having an excellent game before the injury and looked to live up to his hype. If he can do that for a full season in 2016, Pac-12 offensive coordinators will pray that he leaves for the NFL.

Raekwon McMillan – LB, Ohio State

McMillan was one of the top recruits coming out of high school and hasn’t disappointed to this point. He’s produced on a defense that had plenty of veteran NFL talent in front of him. With much of that talent now in the NFL after last Thursday, it’s McMillan’s time to shine. There is little doubt he will be one of the Big Ten’s best players this fall, if not the country.

TreDavious White – CB, LSU

White could have entered this year’s draft and went on the second day but decided to stay with the Tigers to be part of a loaded defense. He doesn’t have the type of size most first round defensive backs have, but his speed and quickness can help him succeed in a football world that is more wide open than ever.

Desmond King – CB, Iowa

It’s hard to say the Jim Thrope Award winner isn’t a household name, but that’s what happens when you play for Iowa. King was the best player on a defense that helped lead Iowa to its surprise season in 2015 and will look to do so again after returning to school. King had eight interceptions this past year and would have been a first round pick already this year.

Quin Blanding – S, Virginia

Quin Blanding has size, Quin Blanding has speed. What Blanding doesn’t have is a team that’s good enough to get him national recognition, after the five-star recruit decided to pass up on offers from schools like Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan. He was first-team all-ACC last year and if he continues to develop and takes that next step it wouldn’t matter if he played for a Group of Five school, everyone will know his name.

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