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Opinion: Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan the best-kept secret in college football

OSU sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) celebrates during a game against Minnesota on Nov. 7 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 28-14. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

OSU sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) celebrates during a game against Minnesota on Nov. 7 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 28-14. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

The undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes are stocked with talent. Household names such as redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller and junior running back Ezekiel Elliott immediately come to mind whenever the Buckeyes are mentioned.

Yet, there’s one player deserving of such notoriety that has flown under the radar for quite some time now.

Through the first nine games of the season, sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan has quietly led the Buckeyes in total tackles with 83, good for third most in the Big Ten. McMillan has not only capably anchored the middle of OSU’s stout defense, but he’s become the heart and soul of a unit that has been the single most consistent entity on the team.

His conservative temperament on the field explains the lack of buzz coming from the national media. He leaves the boisterous celebrations to the likes of other notable names on the defense, like junior defensive end Joey Bosa and his signature shrug.

In spite of the shuttered spotlight, McMillan has outshined his fellow starting linebackers, senior Joshua Perry and redshirt sophomore Darron Lee. Overall, though, he’s been as good and as consistent as any linebacker in the country.

Averaging roughly nine tackles per game, few teams have been able to successfully move the rock against the McMillan-led front seven of the Buckeyes. His sophomore campaign is going so well, in fact, that he’s been named as one of 10 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the best linebacker in college football.

With Curtis Grant currently pursuing a career in the NFL, McMillan has stepped up big time in what is his first season as a full-time starter. He attributes much of his success to newfound confidence, saying as much on Monday.

“I wouldn’t say comfortable, but I would say confident,” McMillan said. “I’m out there making calls on the field; calling things out as I see it. Last year, I was more tentative on the field. But this year, I’m more confident in what I’m saying and I’m saying it loud.”

That confidence is something that has helped the Buckeyes to a top-15 ranking in total defense. Despite that high level of play, McMillan is still yearning for more.

“We’re steadily getting better every week,” he said. “That was one of our things at the beginning of the season: to progress every week and to be playing your best football at the end of the season. And I think we’re working toward playing our best football at the end of the season.”

With only three more games left on the Buckeyes’ regular-season schedule, McMillan will look to continue what has been nothing short of tremendous play at the middle linebacker position. Guys like Bosa, Lee and Perry may make all of the headlines, but it’s No. 5 who quietly serves as the integral leader of the defense. All things considered, McMillan may just be the best kept secret in all of college football, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.  

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