COLUMBUS, Ohio- Versatility can be considered a bit of a lost art in the college game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. However, after moving from outside to the middle before the season started and then back to the outside, Chris Worley has shown he can be a contributor in all aspects of linebacker play for the Ohio State defense.
“It’s really valuable and when you have an experience guy that can play all three positions,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “It not only gives you flexibility to start the game, but within the game.”
That is the kind of flexibility that Ohio State utilized in its last game against Michigan State. Prior to pregame, it was announced that both starting outside linebackers, Jerome Baker and Dante Booker, would miss the game due to injury. With that Worley moved back to the outside with Tuf Borland taking the MIKE position with Malik Harrison on the other side.
Even with experience on the outside, the transition between outside and middle linebacker is a bit of a shift in thinking.
“Early on, I was looking in the right places, but I was kind of still feeling it out,” Worley said. “As the game started going along, we just started to flow better.”
In the 48-3 win over Michigan State, Borland, Harrison and Worley were three of the top four Buckeyes in terms of total tackles, each recording a sack. Also, the linebackers helped stop the running game at the second-level of the defense, allowing Spartan rushers to average 1.9 yards per rush.
Now, with Baker cleared to play against Illinois on Saturday, Worley is not sure where here will start on Saturday. He said that he has been splitting time at both inside and outside linebacker this week.
In his ideal defense, though, Worley said he would be rotating between all three-linebacker positions throughout the game. However, he said this is something that you do not see in college very often.
“It’s tough to play that way, especially in college,” Worley said. “You see a lot of linebackers doing it in the league and change from different packages, but it’s kind of tough to do it in college because you have to make sure everyone stays in a rhythm.”
Despite being a bit small in stature to be a MIKE linebacker, Schiano said that he is suited and has done well at all three positions, which is something that is very hard to do at this level.
“It’s hard because it’s not like the positions are identical in any way, but he is a bright football player and an experienced football player, so we are fortunate,” Schiano said.
Worley has an unwavering confidence in his ability to perform at each of those respective positions. Coming into his final game at Ohio Stadium, Worley will have the same mentality no matter which position he plays.
“Whatever the coaches tell me to do, that’s what I do,” Worley said. “I’ve basically been graded as a champion every week, inside, outside. Only thing I can do is go out there and play my best.”