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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
State of the Rivalry: Linebackers

By Brad Bournival & Chantel Jennings

The writers at WolverineNation and BuckeyeNation put their heads together to break down the rivals' 2013 recruiting classes. They'll give readers a position-by-position look at who coaches Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer signed and, ultimately, which class edged out the other. It's too early to say what will happen through the next few seasons, and we won't make any promises except that Hoke and Meyer are going to put talent on the field.

Ohio State got: The Buckeyes looked like they were fine when Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa./Wyomissing) and Lewis Neal (Wilson, N.C./James B. Hunt) gave early commitments. But both decommitted, leaving the position in a state of need. That need carried on for the better part of eight months, until a January weekend took Ohio State from a state of uncertainty to one of strength. ESPN 150 inside linebacker Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett) committed to Ohio State during the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 4. ESPN 150 outside linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) followed suit the next day during the U.S. Army All-American Game. Three-star outside linebacker Christopher Worley (Cleveland/Glenville), who can also play safety, rounded out the unit after committing on Jan. 11.

The signing of Johnson, Mitchell and Worley was a sigh of relief as linebacker was the biggest position of need in the class. Last year, fullback Zach Boren had to move over to defense to help. If the play of Mitchell and Johnson lives up to the hype, these two could be the talk of Columbus. Worley hits like a tank. He could play the role as an intimidator over the middle.

Michigan got: The Wolverines picked up two pretty impressive linebackers in Mike McCray (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison) and Ben Gedeon (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson). Between the 2012 and 2013 classes, as well as 2014 linebacker commit Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) the Wolverines have filled holes pretty well in the middle of the field. Their front seven will continue to get stronger because of solid classes in position groups like this.

However, a few question marks remain as to why the Wolverines had a late interest in linebackers during the 2013 recruiting cycle. Late offers went out to Virginia Tech signee Jamieon Moss (Elizabeth City, N.C./Northeastern) and Michigan State signee Jon Reschke (Bloomfield Hills, Mich./Brother Rice), who spent his entire high school career less than an hour from Ann Arbor (as well as being best friends with quarterback signee Shane Morris). So while it does seem as those holes were filled well, there might be some holes that no one knows about yet, or Greg Mattison might just have something up his sleeve. Overall, was this a good class? Yes. Was it the best class? No.

Advantage: Ohio State

This one was a pretty easy choice given the fact that Johnson and Mitchell combined for 326 tackles and 14 sacks last season. ESPN’s Billy Tucker rated Florida State as the best recruiting class in 2013 in terms of linebackers, but put the Buckeyes on the honorable mention list with the No. 2 inside linebacker (Johnson) and No. 10 outside linebacker (Mitchell) as the headliners. While it’s rare for freshmen to start on defense, don’t be surprised if both Johnson and Mitchell get reps this season.