Raekwon McMillan is one of three returning starters on the Ohio State defensive unit this season, a unit that saw six of its members get drafted by NFL teams last April.
Entering his second season as the starting middle linebacker, McMillan is the leader of the Buckeyes defense and was named one of the team’s co-captains by head coach Urban Meyer.
A former five-star high school prospect and the nation’s top-rated inside linebacker, McMillan made an immediate impact for the Buckeyes as a freshman. He saw over 400 snaps, playing in every game, at the “Mike” linebacker position for the eventual College Football National Champions.
This past season he led the Buckeyes in tackles with 119, which was the highest number of tackles for a sophomore since Steve Tovar had 125 back in 1990, and he started every game. McMillan was a finalist (finishing in third place) for the Butkus award, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding linebacker.
McMillan is a thickly built inside linebacker who was made to play inside the box and in the middle of a defensive unit. He is a physical player who possesses the instincts, size, and the leadership qualities required to take command of a unit and make sure every member knows their assignments.
McMillan demonstrates the ability to quickly diagnose, locate and flow to the ball. It’s apparent he possesses the natural instincts for the position.
He has no issues with coming downhill, filling the hole, and laying a big hit on the running back. He is a good tackler who will keep his feet churning and run through the ball carrier.
While in coverage, he appears comfortable dropping into a zone and capable of opening up his hips to shadow a tight end or receiver coming across the middle of the field. McMillan can also cover a running back leaking to the flats.
The concerns with McMillan are that he does not appear to be a quick-twitch athlete, and while he has good speed, he doesn’t have sideline-to-sideline type of speed. He will need to make certain that he takes proper angles to a spot, or he will have the running backs go right by him.
McMillan has trouble disengaging from blockers, which led to McMillan getting pushed out of plays, as he was not strong enough to hold his ground at the point-of-attack.
McMillan was also not very effective as a blitzer, whether it was in the middle (A- or B-gaps) or on the outside.
While he lacks the overall athleticism that some of the other linebackers in college football seem to possess, he makes up for it with instincts and toughness. McMillan is an inside linebacker who can supply a physical presence to a defense. His ability to quickly reads his keys and diagnose a play, coupled with his capacity to drop back into coverage will allow him the opportunity to develop into a three-down linebacker who will mature into the leader of a defense for years to come.