Early OSU observations: No. 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There isn’t much to work with heading into spring break, but Ohio State’s two practices to open camp before taking the week off did give at least a peek at some new faces and a couple changes. While the Buckeyes are refreshing and gearing up for the sprint to the finish of spring workouts, we’re looking at the early developments and what they mean moving forward for Urban Meyer’s outfit.

No. 1: Darron Lee emerging at linebacker

Finding the right position that would best allow a versatile athlete like Darron Lee to thrive is a win. The fact that it also happens to be at a position where Ohio State has perhaps its most pressing need might make it the most critical victory of the preseason, even after just one week without contact.

There is certainly plenty left for Lee to prove, starting with putting on pads and actually tackling people to show that he might really be the answer OSU desperately needs to fill out the rotation in the depth-challenged linebacker unit. But based on the way he turned heads during the offseason program and his appearance with the first-team defense in the spot formerly held by do-it-all dynamo Ryan Shazier, Ohio State might have already found a solution. It's one that wouldn’t require leaning heavily on incoming freshmen making an overnight transition to life in the Big Ten.

Lee played in two games last fall so he doesn’t have all that much experience to offer. But after settling in at linebacker following a high school career that included time at quarterback, wide receiver and safety, the sophomore has had time to get acclimated to the position. He also bulked up to 225 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame without losing the speed that allowed him to be a playmaker in the secondary at the previous level.

Considering how valuable Shazier’s mobility was both in pass coverage and, more importantly, as a disruptive force blitzing the quarterback and diagnosing running plays in the backfield, Lee’s athleticism could make him the perfect fit.

There’s still a long way to go, even just before spring camp ends in April. But Lee’s early appearance in the starting lineup could pay significant dividends by August.