Chris Worley might have some rudiments he still needs to gain in his switch to middle linebacker this spring for Ohio State, but confidence is not one of them.
“I feel like I’m one of the most dynamic players in the country, honestly,” Worley said recently.
He was speaking about the way he showed up as a safety candidate at OSU four years ago, moved to outside linebacker and competed with Darron Lee for the starting job before the 2014 national championship season. Lee edged him out and last spring became a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets as Worley assumed his spot in the 2016 defense.
>> VIDEO: Chris Worley says he's a good fit a middle linebacker
Now it’s two-year starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan who has declared for the draft. The coaches slid Worley into that spot with Jerome Baker, a returning starter, and Dante Booker on either side of him for spring practice. McMillan indicated that Worley’s confidence about stepping into those shoes is not unfounded.
“Worley might be the next best linebacker to come out of Ohio State,” McMillan said. “He’s a dog out there on the field and he’s on path to be better than me. … He’s a great linebacker and he can be one of the next All-Americans here at Ohio State.”
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said Worley, fourth-leading tackler on the team last season with 70, has one trait in particular that should set him in good stead as he assumes the middle position.
“He’s just a really, really smart football player; he’s a guy who I think understands the game at a very high level,” Schiano said. “You know, we lost what I think is a man’s man in Raekwon McMillan, just a really fine football player and a smart football player, and we needed to make sure we tried to replace him with a guy who has that kind of presence about him.”
Some seem concerned about his size, specifically his weight, which was listed at 228 pounds last season, but the 6-foot-2 Worley said that was wrong.
“I was about 235, 236 last year playing,” he said. “So I want to stay around that weight, don’t want to get too heavy or too light. Coach Mick (Marotti, director of football performance) tries to keep me somewhere around there, but sometimes I go a little heavy and have to bring it back down.”
He believes he looks the part for a position where making tackles is just one of the responsibilities. Barking out the right adjustments for the defense is another. But being the leader on the field is at the top of the list for the Cleveland Glenville product.
“Raekwon was definitely the leader, that’s how it happens — middle linebacker, quarterback, they have to be the leaders or the team won’t go,” Worley said. “But I was still a leader last year and I helped a lot of guys out. … It’s another notch now, and I’m ready for it.”