Chris Worley didn’t understand the questions he heard in the spring. Well, he did. He just didn’t understand why they needed to be asked.
How do you replace a player like Raekwon McMillan? Or Malik Hooker? Or Gareon Conley? The list goes on.
“Under Coach (Urban) Meyer, every year is sort of the same headline,” said Worley on Monday during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. “They’re losing so many guys. How are they going to replace them. Year after year, he continues to do so because of how he recruits and how he and the coaching staff and the leaders of the team build young players and mold them into the players you see on Saturday.
Worley, a fifth-year senior from Glenville High School in Cleveland, started all 13 games last season and ranked fourth on the team with 70 tackles. He’s one of seven returning starters on defense and one of two returners at linebacker, along with junior Jerome Baker, who ranked second with 83 tackles.
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The Buckeyes lost their top linebacker, McMillan (102 tackles), to the NFL. The Miami Dolphins drafted him in the second round.
Worley will move into McMillan’s spot at middle linebacker. Senior Dante Booker, the starter last season until he hurt his knee, will move into the starting rotation with Worley and Baker. At least that was the top group in the spring.
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Worley expects sophomores Malik Harrison, Keandre Jones and Justin Hilliard, redshirt freshman Tuf Borland and senior Zach Turnure to be in the mix for playing time.
There will be similar competitions for playing time in most position groups, especially with the defensive linemen and receivers.
“It’s going to have to be a rotation,” Worley said. “That’s the only way that I can fathom how you’re going to play the best players. You have guys with talents that are very similar, and they put in the same amount of work. It’s kind of unfair to say this is the starter. You might see 8-10 wide receivers and 10-12 defensive lineman playing this year in a rotation because of how good the competition is. You should want it as a competitor at the top of your game. You shouldn’t want it any other way. You should want to compete with the best every single day. That’s what Ohio State gives you.”
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Worley is one of seven fifth-year seniors on the roster, along with quarterback J.T. Barrett, center Billy Price, tight end Marcus Baugh and defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis, Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill. That group has seen it all.
Worley’s advice to the younger players would be, “Take no step in this journey for granted. Since I’ve been here, every year has been different in some way. A lot of times people like to look at the end picture, but that journey is what you remember every year.”