Fifth-year senior ready for new role on Ohio State Buckeyes defense

Ohio State’s Chris Worley talks to reporters after practice on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
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Ohio State’s Chris Worley talks to reporters after practice on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Chris Worley moving to middle linebacker

The Ohio State Buckeyes put on the pads for the first time this spring Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Fifth-year senior linebacker Chris Worley couldn’t wait.

“I got to hit a couple people,” Worley said. “I haven’t done that since we took that big loss. We got a little bit of frustration out.”

That big loss, a 31-0 defeat in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson, will stick with Worley and the rest of the team until at least Aug. 31 when they open the season against the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. In reality, they won’t shake the shutout unless they return to the College Football Playoffs.

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“I don’t think it’ll really get out of my head until we get to back to that stage,” Worley said. “I’ve never in my career lost that bad.”

Few of the players had. The Buckeyes hadn’t been shut out since 1993. Urban Meyer had never been shut out. The Buckeyes hadn’t been blanked in a bowl game since 1920.

Ohio State players will answer questions about that game throughout the offseason, but the spring is mostly a time of optimism and a player like Worley is a reason to be optimistic. The Cleveland Glenville graduate is one of seven returning starters on defense.

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With Raekwon McMillan leaving for the NFL, Worley will move from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. Jerome Baker, who started 12 games last season, and Dante Booker, who redshirted last season with a knee injury, are the other expected starters.

Worley will be the leader of the group because of his place in the middle.

“That MIKE backer is our quarterback,” new linebackers coach Bill Davis said. “He has to understand everybody’s job. He has to line them up. One of the things about MIKE backers is you not only have to line up other people, you have to do your own job after that. Not everybody can do that. Chris is outstanding at getting everybody lined up.”

In his first season as a starter, Worley ranked fourth on the team last season with 60 tackles. He earned an honorable mention All-Big Ten honor.

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Worley will enter his final season with plenty of confidence. He called himself one of the most dynamic players in the country.

“I’ve always been crazy confident,” he said. “You can ask any coach. When I’m on that field. I’m just different. You can ask J.T. (Barrett) or whoever. I’m just being more vocal now.”

Worley competed with Darron Lee for a starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2014. He looks back on that competition as something that made him better and gave him confidence for the future. He’s always been vocal, he said, but didn’t want to show it when he wasn’t starting.

“Sometimes it’s best to go under the radar and help the team however they need it,” Worley said.