Offseason countdown: Big pickups at linebacker

The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

No. 3: Buckeyes land pledges at a critical position

  • Development: For the better part of a year, the biggest hole on Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class was the same as void that can be found on the current roster. The Buckeyes were thin enough at linebacker, but heading into January, they didn't even a single pledge at the position. It only took two days for Urban Meyer and his coaching staff to fix that this month, with a pair of ESPN 150 recruits making their intentions to sign with the Buckeyes public, as Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson helped boost a class that's currently ranked No. 4 in the country.

  • What it means: The demands of the position can make the transition from high school to the Big Ten a bit more challenging for a linebacker than it might be at a few other spots on the field, so it's difficult to project exactly how much the talented tandem might contribute right away for a team that is likely going to start the season among the top 5 programs in the country. That certainly doesn't mean Mitchell or Johnson can't be a factor, but the best-case scenario for the Buckeyes would be that they find two starters to pair with Ryan Shazier out of the group they signed a year ago -- or one guy to match with Curtis Grant if he's ready to live up to his billing coming out of high school. With Jamal Marcus, Camren Williams, David Perkins and Joshua Perry all having gone through a season, spent time learning the defense and benefitting from the upcoming work in spring practice, there are plenty of options already on hand for defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. But just in case a reminder of the importance of depth was needed, all Ohio State has to do is look at the situation it was in last season.

  • Numbers game: The high school resume doesn't always offer a true reflection of the potential for a recruit, so it has to be taken with at least a couple grains of salt. But the statistics Mitchell and Johnson put on paper are hard to ignore. As a senior at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, Mitchell piled up 186 tackles, with 32 of them going for a loss. At Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga., Johnson was credited with 140 takedowns. The two potential Buckeyes combined for 14 sacks.

  • He said it: "At this time, we like our class. As with most classes, how you finish is what determines if you love the class. You have to hold on to what you have. There’s a lot of chaos with a lot of new staffs, new coaches trying to take your players and all that kind of stuff. We just have to keep recruiting our players and get going." -- Meyer on the homestretch for the 2013 recruiting class