Chris Worley can play all three linebacker positions.
In fact, to hear the senior talk, he sounds as if he can play all three at once, or at least all in the same game.
“I’d like to play all of them,” Worley said. “I’d prefer to play all three and rotate.”
He understands why that’s not going to happen. It’d be impossible to get into a rhythm that way, at least for the other linebackers. So when Ohio State plays Illinois on Saturday, Worley will settle into one spot.
Which spot, and who will be next to him, will be kept a secret.
“We’re not going to give you that,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday.
Worley played outside linebacker until moving to the middle this year. He moved outside last week against Michigan State after concussions forced outside linebackers Jerome Baker and Dante Booker to miss the game. Tuf Borland played well in the middle, and Malik Harrison did well at the strongside spot.
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It was a dramatically better performance by that unit than in the debacle at Iowa the week before.
“They played great,” Worley said of Borland and Harrison. “Not too many mistakes. They played assignment-sound and played Silver Bullet defense.”
Baker has been cleared to play, but Booker remains questionable, Meyer said. An alignment of Borland flanked by Baker and Worley seems a distinct possibility.
At 230 pounds, Worley is on the small side for a middle linebacker, and he looked comfortable in his old spot.
Asked about the perception that he might be better at outside linebacker, Worley was diplomatic.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” he said. “If they think I’m playing better at outside, that’s a fair assessment for them, whatever they see. I know the people inside this facility know how well I’ve been playing.
“I’m just here to help the team in any way I can. Whatever my coaches tell me to do, I do. I’ve graded out basically a champion every week. Inside or outside, the only thing I can do is play my best.”
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano agreed that Worley is suited for all three linebacker spots.
“You might say, ‘Well, he’s not the biggest guy, so maybe get him out of the dead middle of the defense,’” Schiano said. “But he’s a resourceful guy. He’s found a way to get his job done without being 250 pounds.”
Borland filled in for Worley earlier this season when Worley missed extended time with a foot sprain. The redshirt freshman is instinctive and physical.
“It’s amazing that his name is Tuf,” Meyer said. “He’s a very tough player, a very consistent player. Does things right. A very valuable guy for our program.”
Schiano said that Borland is also better in pass coverage than some might think.
“He’s really a solid football player,” he said. “He understands what we’re doing in our defense and works extremely hard in his preparation. That’s how a really solid 'Mike' linebacker prepares. As far as the front seven, the Mike is the quarterback of the defense.
Whether that is Borland or Worley against the Illini will be revealed Saturday.