NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Linebacker Unit Could Trigger Defensive Dominance

It was late in the fourth quarter of Ohio State's matchup against Indiana in 2012 when Urban Meyer looked at the scoreboard to confirm his defense had just given up 49 points to an eventual eight-loss Hoosiers team.

It was an embarrassing performance for the Buckeyes, who survived a late Indiana rally to secure a 52-49 victory.

"We were exposed,” Meyer said after the game, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors. “Spread offenses right now are really exposing us. We have got to get something fixed."

The biggest issue in need of repair?

That was the linebacker unit, which was short on depth and even shorter on talent. During the week leading up to that matchup with the Hoosiers, Meyer and the coaching staff moved fullback Zach Boren to middle linebacker because of a lack of production.

"When you take your starting fullback and start him at inside linebacker, you have a little problem," Meyer added, via Rowland. "I don't think you can pinpoint one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense."

That was a long and drawn-out process. A year later, at the tail end of the 2013 season, the unit was still Ohio State's weakest link.

"The linebacker position is still my biggest concern on our team," Meyer said in November 2013, according to Austin Ward of "The depth is a major concern."

But after two years of futility, things started to turn for the Buckeyes during their championship run in 2014. And with three very talented linebackers in the starting lineup and loads of depth behind them this fall, Meyer could have his first dominant defensive unit since taking over in Columbus.

It stars with Joshua Perry, the senior outside linebacker who led the team with 124 total tackles and 73 solo tackles a season ago. But the 6'4", 254-pound standout brings more than just production to the field—he's also expected to be one of the team leaders.

He showcased his leadership while speaking at Big Ten media days in Chicago last week, and that quality will be invaluable to the Buckeyes this year.

Darron Lee will occupy the other side and build off his breakout redshirt freshman campaign.

The 6'2", 235-pound wrecking ball came to Columbus as an underrated 3-star prospect who projected as a safety, but he bulked up in Ohio State's strength program and moved to linebacker.

After beating out higher-rated players for the starting job last year, Lee emerged as one of the most disruptive defenders in the country. He ranked second on the team (behind Joey Bosa) with 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, showcasing a speed off the edge that proved problematic for opposing offenses.

But the biggest bump should come in the middle as super sophomore Raekwon McMillan takes over as the full-time starter.

As a true freshman a season ago, McMillan shared time with Curtis Grant and thrived, notching 54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception that he returned for a touchdown against Maryland. But even though the former 5-star prospect has yet to make his first start for the Buckeyes, McMillan's ceiling is very high, and proof of that comes from his inclusion on the initial 2015 Butkus Award watch list.

That trio should thrive in a defense that's expected to grow in 2015.

The Buckeyes, running the simplified scheme that co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash installed a season ago, should make a big leap, and the talented linebackers will be a big part of that.

“Last year was different. As a defense, we were establishing our culture," Lee said during spring practice, according to Steve Helwagen of 247Sports. "Right now, it is a lot more fun and we’re getting better.”

And if Meyer can pair a dominant defense with his already explosive offense, Ohio State's path to—and through—the College Football Playoff could be clean and clear.


All recruiting information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Bo Scarbrough Suspended 4 Games: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Alabama freshman running back Bo Scarbrough has been suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season because of an NCAA-imposed violation, head coach Nick Saban announced Thursday, according to's Alex Scarborough

The Associated Press' John Zenor reported the suspension was "related to amateurism." 

The Crimson Tide head coach failed to elaborate further on the nature of the suspension.       

It's been a rough few months for the 5-star recruit, per 247Sports, who tore his ACL during an early-April scrimmage. And while Scarbrough is working his way back onto the field, he won't be able to start toting the rock until an Oct. 3 showdown with Georgia at the earliest, if his knee is even cleared by then. 

As a result of the suspension, Scarbrough will miss showdowns against Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Ole Miss and the University of Louisiana-Monroe. 

At his press conference Thursday, Saban also provided an update on the tailback's knee, noting the freshman can now practice "on a limited basis in a black shirt," according to the Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt

Furthermore,'s Michael Casagrande noted Scarbrough "is a little ahead of schedule in practice" but that he has not been cleared for contact yet.        

Matt Zenitz of Alabama Media Group added that Saban said the running back will "hopefully" be good to go by late September.  

The good news for the Crimson Tide is they should have stellar runners in Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake ready to roll when their 2015 season gets underway Sept. 5 against the Badgers. 

"Henry is poised for a big year as Alabama’s No. 1 back. Saban has praised Henry’s work ethic and improvement this offseason," Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence wrote. "According to’s Matt Zenitz, Henry—who is built like a linebacker at 6’3”, 242 pounds—ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and put 440 pounds on the bench press in spring testing."

With Henry and Drake comprising one of the nation's most imposing duos in the backfield, expect the Crimson Tide offense to open the season clicking on the ground despite Scarbrough's absence. And when he eventually returns, Alabama figures to have an embarrassment of riches for Saban to lean on. 

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Jon Gruden Considers Head Coach of the Tennessee Volunteers a 'Dream Job'

Former NFL coach and current analyst for ESPN Jon Gruden reportedly considers manning the sidelines for the Tennessee Volunteers a dream job.

Gruden discussed the program and how close he was to accepting the coaching job after it opened up following the 2012 season with the SEC Network, per Chase Goodbread of

I don't know how close. I love football. I'll be the first to tell you, I miss coaching. But I do look at my job here as a lot like coaching. i get a chance to be around it 364 days a year and I feel like I'm improving, but I don't have a team. Tennessee is a dream job for a lot of people, me included. Timing wasn't right. I'll say this about the Volunteers, they got the right guy. I think Butch Jones is going to put the Volunteers back on the map. It might happen this year.

Gruden coached for the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1998-2008, won a Super Bowl with the Bucs and counts five division titles on his NFL resume. It is no wonder that any pro team or college program with an opening would consider him a viable candidate with numbers like that, and he even has a Tennessee connection.

Gruden was a graduate assistant for the Volunteers in the 1980s, which is one reason why he was potentially linked to the coaching position after the 2012 campaign.   

Alas, Tennessee hired Butch Jones (which Gruden praised in the above quote), and there is plenty of momentum in Knoxville after impressive showings on the recruiting trail and a dominant victory over Iowa in the Gator Bowl.

Gruden would have likely succeeded in the SEC based on his NFL track record alone, but Goodbread noted that fans should take discussions surrounding the ESPN analyst and potential coaching jobs with a grain of salt:

Gruden's name has routinely popped up for various pro and college coaching jobs since he left the Buccaneers after the 2008 season, but it seems as though a return to coaching for Gruden never gets past the flirtation stage.

It might never again, but coaching moves happen in the winter, not the summer.

Give it four months, and Gruden speculation will be back -- just probably not at Tennessee.

If the Volunteers cash in on elevated expectations this season, they won’t have to worry about any chatter surrounding the head coaching position.

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Georgia Football: Bold Predictions for 2015 Fall Camp

The Georgia Bulldogs have started fall camp, and the intensity level has been hot and heavy this first week.

One of the things that has stood out is the quarterback battle as all three quarterbacks will get to work with the first team this week according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Also, the wide receiver spots looked set with two speedsters being able to help stretch the field, which was something the Bulldogs were not able to do last season.

But there are still a few weeks left before the Bulldogs kick off the season against Louisiana-Monroe. And because of that, there will a lot of twists and turns along the way.

So here are some bold predictions for the Bulldogs as they continue to work in fall camp.

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Schools to Watch After 4-Star Rahshaun Smith Decommits from Clemson

Clemson lost a key commitment Thursday afternoon when blue-chip defender Rahshaun Smith backed off his verbal pledge to the program. 

The 6'3", 239-pound linebacker announced his intentions on Twitter.

"It is with a heavy heart, but clear conscience that I announce that I have decided to decommit from Clemson," he wrote.

Smith cited his desire to visit other universities as main motivation.

"Due to my need to further explore all of my options and make sure where I sign is 100 percent where I want to attend, I must take other visits. Since this is not allowed by Clemson, I have made my decision," he wrote.

The Tigers initially landed Smith in March, and he remained the team's top-ranked 2016 defensive recruit until Thursday. His departure leaves Clemson with 10 commitments in the class.

Smith, a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is considered the premier inside linebacker prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. Rated 55th overall among 2016 recruits, Smith won't have trouble locating alternative collegiate opportunities.

His scholarship offer sheet features more than 30 schools. Smith started receiving serious recruiting interest early in high school and now anchors a defensive unit that includes LSU cornerback commit Saivion Smith and 5-star lineman Shavar Manuel.

Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani broke down his range during B/R's CFB 200 recruiting series.

His length and his ability to be a disruptive force as a pass-rusher separate him as an elite prospect. In pass coverage, he displayed a good feel for dropping into zones and breaking on routes. Plus, he's versatile enough to play on the outside or even at defensive end in certain situations.

While Clemson remains in the mix—Smith shared plans to use an official visit there—his focus will be elsewhere during much of the fall.

Auburn, Miami and LSU are locked in as trips, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. Considering Clemson already made the cut, that leaves one unfilled official visit slot before national signing day.

Maryland could emerge as the landing spot since he previously attended high school in the state. The Terps appear to be on a recruiting upswing after 4-star wide receiver Tino Ellis joined elite quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the class last week.

Maryland sits in second place among expert predictions for 247Sports' Crystal Ball, trailing only Clemson.

A former Mid-Atlantic connection could strengthen the chances of him landing at Miami. Lawrence Cager, who played alongside Smith at Calvert Hall High School, is a freshman wide receiver with the Hurricanes.

Miami already claims a commitment from fellow 4-star inside linebacker Shaquille Quarterman. A date for his trip to Coral Gables is undetermined at this stage, per Bartow.

Smith is already scheduled to attend contests at Auburn and LSU.

He will head to Baton Rouge for an Oct. 17 showdown between LSU and Florida, before traveling to the Nov. 14 Auburn matchup against Georgia.

Expect Smith to enjoy a front-row seat at several highly anticipated games this season. His new uncommitted status should make him a welcomed guest at multiple contending colleges. 


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Rapid-Fire Predictions for Every SEC QB Battle

Kay Adams sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee to discuss the quarterback battles going on in the SEC.

Who do you think will win these battles? Watch the video and let us know!

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Who Will Be the Best Defender in College Football in 2015?

The college football season is fast approaching, with everyone wondering who will become the next superstars.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss who they think will be the best defender in 2015.

Who do you think deserves the top spot? Watch the video, and let us know!

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Oluwole Betiku to UCLA: Bruins Land 5-Star DE Prospect

UCLA bolstered its defense on Thursday when defensive end prospect Oluwole Betiku joined its 2016 recruiting class.

Betiku announced his decision on Twitter:

I have decided to continue my education and play football for the next 4 years at #UCLA 🐻💙💛

— WoleBomaye (@Kingwole47) August 6, 2015

The 6’3 ½”, 240-pound Betiku checks in as a 5-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.

While Betiku is officially listed as a California prospect, he is a Nigerian native who is still adjusting to life in the United States. He played soccer and basketball growing up in Nigeria and has yet to tap into his full football potential.        

Former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington is Betiku’s mentor.

Now, he joins a UCLA squad looking to make a run at a Pac-12 championship. Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes headline a loaded Bruins defense.

Head coach Jim Mora Jr. has to be thrilled about landing yet another potential star as the Bruins look to hold off USC, Arizona State, Arizona and the rest of the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South.

A number of schools saw Betiku's potential before he even made a mark in organized football. As a result, USC, Maryland, Penn State, Oregon, Miami and Washington, among others, were involved in his recruitment to varying extents, which is a testament to his sky-high ceiling as a developing prospect.

Betiku certainly caught the eye of Tom Lemming of CBS Sports in the evaluation process:

The overwhelming strength that Lemming mentioned is the first thing that jumps out about Betiku’s game. It allows him to overpower offensive linemen on running plays and make a push into the backfield on passing plays.

Throw in the athleticism and explosiveness off the snap and the footwork he honed during his basketball and soccer days, and Betiku has the opportunity to be a star in college. He is still developing in the nuances of the game given his relative inexperience (reading plays, reacting to play actions, etc.), but the talent is clear.

Betiku is also versatile enough to play defensive end in pass-rushing situations and outside linebacker, which will help him immediately contend for playing time as a freshman at his new school.

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