Ohio State Football: Linebackers Will See Pieces Moved Around in 2024

Ohio State Football Linebacker CJ Hicks and Defensive End Jack Sawyer | Image Credit: USA Today
Ohio State Football Linebacker CJ Hicks and Defensive End Jack Sawyer | Image Credit: USA Today

With two big departures, someone new needs to carry the torch this season for the Ohio State linebackers. 

Heading into the 2024 season, the Ohio State defense will look to return to their peak form last season. The defensive side of the ball was a plus for a majority of the season, and a lot of familiar faces will be back ready to chase a championship.

The defensive line and secondary both have stability and familiarity with very minimal changes and inexperience along those fronts. The linebacking core, however, will see some old and new faces in that role this season.

Tommy Eichenberg was undoubtedly one of the best linebackers in the country and a huge playmaker for the Silver Bullets. He and his partner in crime Steele Chambers are both heading to the next level with long Buckeye careers coming to an end.

Cody Simon, the fifth-year senior, will step into one of the roles left by the two pro-bound Buckeyes. It is expected that he will fill the Mike position after playing both last season, including filling that role when Eichenburg missed time late last season. Simon had 57 total tackles and two passes defended last season. He also has three sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception over his four seasons in the Scarlet and Gray. Simon will provide experience and be a veteran presence to a group that is mostly young or has not played this role in the past.

The man who is moving positions to be a likely starter next to Simon will be former safety Sonny Styles. Styles will make the transition with the safety spots being occupied by Latham Ransom and All-American Alabama-transfer Caleb Downs. Styles is projected to be the starting Will linebacker and can drop back in coverage but also fly around the field. After just nine tackles as a freshman, Styles had 53 tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble last season in his former role. He and Simon will look to replenish some of the production that was drained out by two big departures at the position.

Next in line behind Simon and Styles is junior C.J. Hicks. Hicks has just 14 total tackles in his first two seasons with Ohio State in limited snaps. He is the only linebacker besides Simon who took snaps at linebacker last season, and will be asked to make some plays, especially in the position Styles will potentially occupy. Along with Hicks in the two-deep rotation is Gabe Powers, the junior who registered seven total tackles last season.

Behind these four will be true freshman Garrett Stover, the younger brother of now NFL-bound Cade Stover, and Arvell Reese. Reese saw time on special teams and will be heading into his second season. Other true freshman Payton Pierce, redshirt freshman Nigel Glover, and fifth-year senior Kourtney Williams II are other names filling out the group.

This unit has the potential to make key plays from sideline to sideline for the silver bullets defense in 2024. With the loss of two playmakers, the unique blend of old and new faces will need to find ways to produce. With stars across the field around them, the linebacking unit in 2024 will just need to do enough tackling and coverage to allow others to help out.