Although Raekwon McMillan is the new starter at middle linebacker for Ohio State coming out of spring practice, teammate Joshua Perry remains intrigued by what freshman Nick Conner could add to the lineup. Considering Perry is from Olentangy, the other outside starter Darron Lee is from New Albany and Conner is an early enrollee from Dublin Scioto, it appears to be the rise of the northern Columbus suburban linebackers.

Although Raekwon McMillan is the new starter at middle linebacker for Ohio State coming out of spring practice, teammate Joshua Perry remains intrigued by what freshman Nick Conner could add to the lineup.

Considering Perry is from Olentangy, the other outside starter Darron Lee is from New Albany and Conner is an early enrollee from Dublin Scioto, it appears to be the rise of the northern Columbus suburban linebackers.

"If anything happened to Raekwon, God forbid, that would be a little bit interesting," Perry said.

"Central Ohio guys get a bad rap sometimes, but we're trying to change perception a little bit."

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Just like Lee did a year ago, Conner rose through spring practice. He led all players in the spring game with seven tackles, and he also had an interception and forced a fumble.

"He finds the ball," Perry said, pausing before adding, "all the time."

It was a coming-out party of sorts for Conner, who had become an almost forgotten member of the 2015 recruiting class after he suffered a knee injury halfway through his senior season at Dublin Scioto.

Justin Hilliard of Cincinnati and Jerome Baker of Cleveland were more prominent, but they won't join the team until June, so Conner has stepped in early and set the bar high.

"Guys who really know where they want to go, and (Conner) always wanted to go to Ohio State, they don't get a ton of pub because they're not out there taking a million visits, doing the whole thing," Perry said. "Although he did show well while he was getting recruited at camps and stuff, I don't think C.O. guys - central Ohio guys - get the love they deserve sometimes.

"That's just a little biased, whatever, but he's a little bit under the radar in that way."

But Conner had such an outstanding spring that at least one team veteran repeated himself when he spoke of his impact.

"He's going to be good; he's going to be good," left guard Billy Price said. "He's tough … he's raw, and to have the kind of guys he has in his unit (to bring him along), things are going to get good for him."

Coach Urban Meyer even took note.

"He was good," Meyer said. "We had high expectations for him, though. Hope he doesn't redshirt and gets involved in the kicking game. He had a very good day (in the spring game). He's a tough guy who plays hard; good qualities to have."

Perry said those qualities were first displayed and honed by Conner before he came to Ohio State.

"You saw what he did in high school, then you turn on the film right now from the spring, you realize he's got tools to be a great player," Perry said. "The fundamentals aren't where they need to be yet, and he doesn't have quite the knowledge yet. But he always finishes on the ball, and you can work with that."

tmay@dispatch.com

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