Ohio State football notebook: McMillan quickly proves himself at linebacker

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan came to Ohio State as the highest-ranked member of this year’s recruiting class, but he promised that he would take nothing for granted in trying to gain playing time this fall.

In the spring game at Ohio Stadium, linebackers such as McMillan, Curtis Grant, Darron Lee and Chris Worley had few opportunities against pass-first offenses. But McMillan stepped up twice near the goal line, helping the Gray team hang on for a 17-7 victory and proving himself again to his new teammates.

“He was just so humble when he came in, he was able to take coaching,” sophomore safety Tyvis Powell said. “That right there was setting him apart from so many other players. He came in and just listened to the coaches and did what the coaches said — they’re coaches here for a reason. They’re not going to tell you something wrong.

“So he was able to go out there, read his keys and make plays.”

Coach Urban Meyer said McMillan will be in the rotation with Grant, the returning starter at middle linebacker.

On a fourth-and-goal run from the 2-yard line early in the second half, McMillan and redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis stuffed freshman running back Curtis Samuel. McMillan later forced receiver Corey Smith to fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, the ball trickling out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback.

“He’s not a freshman anymore,” Meyer said. “He’s got to go play.”

Getting their kicks

Meyer brought senior Kyle Clinton and early enrollee Sean Nuernberger — competing to replace Drew Basil at kicker — onto the field for an impromptu field-goal session.

Clinton was on the first team through spring, but he made only 4 of 8 attempts from various distances. Nuernberger went 7 of 8.

The competition appears to be headed to a faceoff in August.

Who’s the fastest?

Team pride was on the line when senior cornerback Doran Grant and several fellow players competed in a 40-yard dash competition with five students who advanced through qualifying heats to find Ohio State’s fastest man at halftime.

It appeared that student Malcolm Branson of Massillon won by a nose, but master of ceremonies Anthony Schlegel ordered a run-off featuring Branson, Grant and receiver James Clark. Grant won the second attempt with a lean.

Grant said that he and Clark “were talking trash, so I had to make sure I beat him before anything. With the student, they said he got me in the first one, so the run-off had to seal the deal.”

In celebration, Grant popped a back flip.

“It was very fun,” Grant said. “The whole team was around, the whole stadium was watching because, you know, fastest man on campus.”

Dunn’s deal

Ezekiel Elliott is expected to start at running back, and Samuel made a push for consideration in spring drills.

But Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball, who scored the only offensive touchdowns yesterday, both for the Gray, apparently intend to push the competition into the fall.

“Every day I am going to work hard; everybody in the running back unit is like my brother,” Dunn said. “And whoever gets the spot is going to deserve the spot.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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