Raekwon McMillan had 16 tackles on Saturday against Western Michigan. It is a testament to McMillan's talent and sense of accountability that he wasn't particularly happy with his performance.

Raekwon McMillan had 16 tackles on Saturday against Western Michigan.

It is a testament to McMillan's talent and sense of accountability that he wasn't particularly happy with his performance.

"Personally, I don't think I played that well," the sophomore middle linebacker said.

Part of that comes from his natural modesty. Part was truth. He did miss some tackles.

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"I'm more worried about the ones I missed," McMillan said.

Western Michigan had surprising success last week, particularly during 16- and 14-play drives early, with runs up the middle. McMillan was far from the only culprit, but he wasn't blameless, either.

"They gave us different looks almost every other play," McMillan said. "I was getting too timid during the game."

He said Western Michigan's success with inside runs will serve as a wake-up call for the Buckeyes, who will have a major test this week at undefeated Indiana. The Hoosiers feature the country's leading rusher, Alabama-Birmingham transfer Jordan Howard.

"It's always good to have a challenge," McMillan said. "We never want to go into a game knowing we're going to just dominate someone physically because when you know you're going to dominate somebody, you become lackadaisical during practice and don't prepare the way you should."

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That isn't an issue with McMillan. From the time he stepped on campus in 2014 as a five-star recruit from Georgia, McMillan impressed OSU football coaches and teammates with his maturity and work ethic.

A year ago, he shared time with senior Curtis Grant, who all but adopted him as his pet project. McMillan said they still talk almost every day.

A middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, and it's a role McMillan takes seriously.

"He's a really solid player, a mature guy who goes out there and leads the team," weakside linebacker Joshua Perry said. "He's a great fundamental player and a guy who's really conscientious and doesn't want to let the other guys around him down."

When asked what he most wanted to prove this year, McMillan said it was to earn the trust of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell.

"I think I'm gaining his trust," he said. "We're working toward it each week. I'm building confidence each week."

Coach Urban Meyer, while bemoaning the trouble against the inside run last week, maintained he was "very happy" with McMillan's development. He has, after all, started only four college games.

McMillan came close to starting last season until Grant belatedly began living up to his potential. That McMillan was under consideration to start as a true freshman reflects how gifted a prospect he was.

In high school, he also played running back. McMillan's eyes lit up when that subject was broached.

"It's more fun talking about my rushing yards," he said.

When he was asked about his best game as a running back, he replied with glee, "Oh, thank you for asking," before talking about a 146-yard game in a victory against an opponent that had defeated his Liberty County team a year earlier.

McMillan said some colleges talked to him about playing running back, but it was understood by most that he would end up at linebacker. As much as he likes to talk about his days as a runner, McMillan knows that stopping them is his forte.

He also appreciates the opportunity he has playing middle linebacker on a star-studded Ohio State defense.

"You've got Darron (Lee)," he said. "You've got Josh. You've got Eli (Apple), Gareon (Conley), Vonn (Bell), Joey (Bosa), Adolphus (Washington)," he said. "I feel I'm a blessed individual to be in the middle of it all and be a part of this great defense."

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch