Ohio State Buckeyes: David Perkins

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just as soon as Ohio State took a big step forward in replenishing its depth at linebacker, it once again appears to have followed it up with one in the opposite direction.

The school confirmed on Monday that former four-star and ESPN 300 recruit Mike Mitchell is no longer practicing with the team and won't participate in the camp that opens Tuesday, another blow to the depth at the thinnest position on the roster. ElevenWarriors.com, citing sources, reported previously that Mitchell is planning to transfer at the end of the spring semester to be closer to his family and ailing father.

His departure would put more pressure on a group of four new recruits and two returning starters for a unit that has clearly not lived up to coach Urban Meyer’s expectations over the last two years and has been plagued by attrition.

The news release from the program doesn't address his future plans, but Mitchell’s departure would make him the fifth linebacker to leave the program with eligibility remaining since the end of the 2012 season, ramping up pressure on the incoming freshmen and rising sophomore Trey Johnson to fill the void left by all those missing bodies.

“The emphasis is on linebacker,” Meyer said last month. “There have been far too many mistakes in either lack of development or whatever, and it’s just not where we need to be.”

Mitchell was supposed to help address that when he chose to leave his home state of Texas last year and join the Buckeyes, but he ended up redshirting last season despite the lack of many options at the position.

The need to find more contributors in the middle of the defense only increased when star outside linebacker Ryan Shazier elected to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. And while veterans Joshua Perry and Curtis Grant will return for the Buckeyes, at a minimum they’ll need to identify one new starter and could wind up counting on the newcomers to fill out the two-deep given the accumulating losses concentrated at linebacker.

Mitchell would join David Perkins, Luke Roberts and Conner Crowell (injury) as potential candidates for playing time who have left the program since the end of the 2012 campaign, stretching Ohio State thin and contributing to the uneven play of a defense that struggled at the end of last season during consecutive losses to Michigan State and Clemson.

“There’s four linebackers that have been recruited, Raekwon McMillan, Sam Hubbard, Kyle Berger and Dante Booker, four guys I’m putting pressure on,” Meyer said. “[Co-defensive coordinator Luke] Fickell and myself have to get them ready for next year. They have to play for us, in addition to the players we have on our roster already.

“So just so everybody knows, there’s no redshirt plans for those players at all. We thought about that during the recruiting process.”

It’s now more clear than ever that Ohio State won’t have much time to wait for those young guys to develop.
As the recruiting class rounds the halfway point in its cycle, Ohio State certainly has done its part in strengthening weaknesses and shoring up depth issues in the Class of 2014.

With four starters gone after this season on the offensive line, the trenches were a priority as were the linebackers. That became even more a factor after linebackers Luke Roberts and David Perkins transferred.

Under NCAA guidelines, the Buckeyes essentially have two remaining scholarships to fill, but they aren’t recruiting that way. Through transfers, medical scholarships and the like it appears Ohio State’s class will be a decent size once again and will far exceed the 16 spots it currently is allowed to have.

Remember, the Buckeyes will have until August of 2014 to get to the allotted 82 scholarships. With that in mind, here’s an idea of who might be left to grab:

Offensive line

With Luke Roberts following David Perkins out the door as a transfer, the linebacker depth chart at Ohio State became even thinner.

It also opened up another scholarship for Ohio State in the Class of 2014, should the Buckeyes choose to use it that way.

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Linebacker depth takes another hit 

July, 2, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The depth was already dwindling.

Now the group of linebackers signed in Urban Meyer's first class to help restock Ohio State's cupboard is starting to look a bit empty as well.

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Why Meyer takes patient approach 

June, 11, 2013
Some coaches come out in flurry. Some like to wait and close the door behind everyone else.

While Michigan and Ohio State go at the recruiting process differently -- or more to the point, Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer -- both strategies work.

Hoke has the No. 1 2014 recruiting class right now. Michigan held the same distinction at this point last year before falling to No. 6. And no one closes quite like Meyer.

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Recruiting Week In Review 

June, 10, 2013
Ohio State football had its first June camp this week, but the big commitment of the week came in basketball. As always, it was a week full of action. Here’s what went down in the last seven days:

On Sunday, the Buckeyes had their first senior advanced camp and it was dominated by underclassmen as 2015 inside linebacker Justin Hilliard, 2015 cornerback Ashton White and 2016 outside linebacker Rahshaun Smith picked up offers after camp. Poona Ford looked solid at the camp, as did Stephen Collier, Daniel Burns, Cameron Chambers and Terry McLaurin.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsESPN 150 defensive end Solomon Thomas is visiting this week.
On Saturday, ESPN 150 defensive end Solomon Thomas confirmed he’s visiting Ohio State this week, and Bryce Dixon talked about the impact the switch from wide receiver to tight end has made in his recruiting.

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What to do with the extra scholarship ... what to do?

When middle linebacker David Perkins parted ways with Ohio State, it meant the Buckeyes’ Class of 2014 got a bump if Urban Meyer and the gang so choose to increase the recruiting class by one.

That will likely happen, as Ohio State’s class size was 14 prior to Perkins departure.

What does that mean for the Buckeyes? If they use it like many think, it could mean a lot.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The school mascot might feel safer with David Perkins leaving, but his departure will provide one more body blow for Ohio State’s depth at linebacker.

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer confirmed the sophomore’s intentions to transfer on Thursday, leaving the bone-rattling hit Perkins put on Brutus during a spring scrimmage as the lasting memory of his career with the program.

“Perkins is going to try to move on,” Meyer said. “I don’t know where or whatever, but it’s mutual and we wish him well.

[+] EnlargeBrutus Buckeye
AP Photo/Ohio State University Department of Athletics, Will ShillingBrutus is tackled by exuberant sophomore linebacker David Perkins during the Ohio State football team's second Student Appreciation Day last month.
“Any time you lose [a guy], it’s disappointing. But that’s the business, and he sees himself behind another player who is going to be here for a couple years and someone is guiding him, but it’s not like it was a nasty breakup. We wish him well.”

Perkins wasn’t likely to crack the starting lineup this fall, but he spent the spring as a regular in the rotation while Ryan Shazier missed camp recovering from a sports hernia and could have been a factor for the Buckeyes as potentially the first guy off the bench to bolster a linebacker unit still low on bodies. Instead, the former four-star recruit will leave with just one season at Ohio State under his belt after signing in Urban Meyer’s first class in 2012, appearing in nine games and recording six tackles in spot duty at linebacker and on special teams.

The Buckeyes had previously lost reserve Conner Crowell after he was not medically cleared by team doctors to continue his career due to a nagging leg injury, and they’re already trying to replace senior starters Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren from a unit that was low on bodies a year ago as well.

Ohio State will be adding two well-regarded recruits this summer in Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell, and there is now one less guy to compete with when the ESPN 150 picks arrive on campus.
Ohio State isn’t done invading Detroit Cass Tech High School.

In fact the Buckeyes are far from it.

With 2014 cornerback Damon Webb already in the fold, the Buckeyes offered two more Technicians Saturday. But this time they went to the sophomore class, offering running back Mike Weber and defensive end Joshua Alabi.

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It wasn’t your typical unofficial visit. Then again, it wasn’t supposed to be.

Outside linebacker Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius), who has blown up on the recruiting scene of late, took a trip to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday to see the other side of Ohio State.

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Spring forward: OLBs breakdown

February, 22, 2013
With national signing day in the books, the next big date on the Ohio State calendar as it continues working toward an encore for an undefeated season in 2013 is spring practice. Before those workouts begin, BuckeyeNation will take a look at each position to see where the roster is at -- and where it's going.

[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesOhio State linebacker Ryan Shazier improved markedly over the 2012 season.

  • Who's back: Only one first-teamer is returning at the second level for the Buckeyes, but Ryan Shazier is certainly a fine place to start. The junior emerged as one of the most prolific defenders in the Big Ten a year ago, and if he's not a household name around the country yet, he should be soon as the hype builds leading into next season. Shazier does need a sidekick on the other side of the formation after Etienne Sabino exhausted his eligibility, and Ohio State has a handful of rising sophomores to sort through in March and April as it reloads the front seven. Joshua Perry, David Perkins, Camren Williams and Jamal Marcus all got their feet wet in some form or fashion as freshmen, and mixing and matching to find the right spots and best combination at linebacker will be at the top of the priority list this spring.
  • New face: The Buckeyes already have high hopes for the two highly touted linebackers they landed on national signing day, but they won't get to see what Mike Mitchell or Trey Johnson can do on the practice field until August. The coaching staff cast a wide net at the position a year ago, though, and the development of the second-year guys who weren't exactly regulars last fall will be critical.
  • Projected spring depth chart: Shazier will be back in his familiar role at weakside linebacker, with the athletic Perkins likely filling in behind him. Perry appears to be at the head of the line to replace Sabino on the opposite side, with Perkins battling for the gig as well.
  • Numbers game: The newcomers did get a taste of what college football is all about right away, but chances to contribute in meaningful situations on defense were hard to come by. Shazier and his senior counterparts rarely came off the field a year ago, and in limited work defensively and more regular appearances on special teams, the quartet of Perkins, Marcus, Perry and Williams combined for 22 tackles. That total, obviously, will have to improve dramatically -- and there will be no shortage of chances to do it.
  • One to watch: The way the coaches raved about the natural ability and the tireless way Marcus competed during training camp last August, it seemed like he was poised to make a substantial impact right away. Ultimately the rigors of one of the more difficult positions to play as a true freshman seemed to slow him down, but with a full season now behind him and the benefits of spring practice now ahead of him, Marcus should be in much better position to put his skills on display and potentially work his way into more playing time as a sophomore.
  • He said it: "Really, if you think about it, Shazier is the only experience we've got in the front seven coming back next year -- [only one] with a lot of experience. I think with that whole group, it's going to be an exciting time. I know I'm excited. We've got some young guys, maybe at linebacker we're a lot thinner with just depth and numbers, but it's going to be an exciting time. It's a big winter, and it's going to be a big spring." -- defensive coordinator Luke Fickell on signing day

Late-game success could bolster class 

February, 1, 2013
Ohio State heads into the weekend still wanting a wide receiver, craving an offensive lineman and praying Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) falls into its lap.

While the Buckeyes could get all three or strike out and be done with the class as it sits now, that remains to be seen.

That said a late-day snare -- even as late as national signing day -- isn’t out of the question.

Last year, Ohio State was able to score three commitments at the last second to shore up what became the sixth-ranked class in the nation.

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The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

No. 3: Buckeyes land pledges at a critical position
    [+] EnlargeTrey Johnson
    Miller Safrit/ESPNThe commitment of Trey Johnson on Jan. 4 gave Ohio State a much-needed shot in the arm at linebacker.

  • Development: For the better part of a year, the biggest hole on Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class was the same as void that can be found on the current roster. The Buckeyes were thin enough at linebacker, but heading into January, they didn't even a single pledge at the position. It only took two days for Urban Meyer and his coaching staff to fix that this month, with a pair of ESPN 150 recruits making their intentions to sign with the Buckeyes public, as Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson helped boost a class that's currently ranked No. 4 in the country.
  • What it means: The demands of the position can make the transition from high school to the Big Ten a bit more challenging for a linebacker than it might be at a few other spots on the field, so it's difficult to project exactly how much the talented tandem might contribute right away for a team that is likely going to start the season among the top 5 programs in the country. That certainly doesn't mean Mitchell or Johnson can't be a factor, but the best-case scenario for the Buckeyes would be that they find two starters to pair with Ryan Shazier out of the group they signed a year ago -- or one guy to match with Curtis Grant if he's ready to live up to his billing coming out of high school. With Jamal Marcus, Camren Williams, David Perkins and Joshua Perry all having gone through a season, spent time learning the defense and benefitting from the upcoming work in spring practice, there are plenty of options already on hand for defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. But just in case a reminder of the importance of depth was needed, all Ohio State has to do is look at the situation it was in last season.
  • Numbers game: The high school resume doesn't always offer a true reflection of the potential for a recruit, so it has to be taken with at least a couple grains of salt. But the statistics Mitchell and Johnson put on paper are hard to ignore. As a senior at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, Mitchell piled up 186 tackles, with 32 of them going for a loss. At Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga., Johnson was credited with 140 takedowns. The two potential Buckeyes combined for 14 sacks.
  • He said it: "At this time, we like our class. As with most classes, how you finish is what determines if you love the class. You have to hold on to what you have. There’s a lot of chaos with a lot of new staffs, new coaches trying to take your players and all that kind of stuff. We just have to keep recruiting our players and get going." -- Meyer on the homestretch for the 2013 recruiting class

Meyer showing proficiency as closer 

January, 9, 2013
Mariano Rivera, save the split-finger fastball. The same goes for you Rollie Fingers, with your almost unhittable slider. The best closer in the recruiting business might indeed be Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

On the job 13 1/2 months with the Buckeyes, the two-time national champion’s early returns show just how strong he is at slamming the door shut on a class.

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Next up: Replacing Sabino, Boren

December, 27, 2012
Heading into the new year and offseason workouts, BuckeyeNation will look at some holes left by the departing Ohio State veterans and potential candidates to fill them.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Grant
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesMiddle linebacker Curtis Grant is someone that OSU would like to step up to help fill the void left by Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren.

  • Who: Neither senior was able to give a full season at linebacker, though it was an injury for one that helped open the door for the other to prove he was equally skilled on the defensive side of the ball after establishing himself as perhaps the best fullback in the Big Ten before that. After how much Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren offered the Buckeyes in what amounted to half of a year each, there's no question Urban Meyer would give plenty to have them back for one more run with the program -- particularly given the lingering depth concerns at the position. Boren was a natural at middle linebacker and provided invaluable leadership during a rocky defensive stretch in the middle of the season. Sabino blossomed as his career with the Buckeyes wound down, giving nearly every column on the stats sheet before a broken leg interrupted his last season. Both leave plenty of responsibilities behind, both on and off the field.

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