OSU redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley (35) flexes after a tackle during the Buckeyes’ 31-0 loss against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

Ohio State redshirt senior linebacker Chris Worley is filled with confidence. Moving to the middle linebacker spot, Worley now has the opportunity to lead the Buckeye defense after a very successful 2016 season.

Worley was a big part of the record-breaking OSU defense a season ago. In 2016, as the Buckeyes’ weak-side, or WILL, linebacker Worley was fourth on the team with 70 tackles, recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and had an interception.

A former three-star recruit out of Glenville High School in Cleveland, Worley is used to moving around to different defensive positions throughout his college career.

“I moved to SAM (strong-side linebacker) and battled with a first-rounder until the end of the first game honestly,” Worley said. “That speaks a lot about Darron (Lee), but it also speaks a lot about myself. That was a battle that I’ll never forget because it made us both better. That’s two positions right there, then I can also play Mike (middle linebacker) or WILL (weak-side linebacker) and play it as well as the best of them.”

Worley said the versatility is what it took to get him on the football field.

“The only thing I did was put my head down and just went as hard as I could and coach Meyer told me, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to play, but if you just keep going, next year you’ll find a way.’ And that’s what I did,” Worley said. “That’s where I’m at right now. It was a struggle, but at the end of the day, it made me better.”

With the amount of experience Worley has at multiple positions on the defensive side, OSU linebacker coach Bill Davis had no hesitation at putting him in the middle.

“That Mike ‘backer’ is our quarterback,” Davis said. “He has to understand everybody’s job, he has to line them up. One of the things about a Mike ‘backer is you not only have to line up others, you have to be able to do your own job after, and not everybody can do that. Chris is outstanding and getting everybody and himself lined up.”

The role of the defensive “quarterback” is much more than getting his teammates lined up in the game. It defines Worley’s role as a leader of the defense. The vocal aspect of being a leader is something that Worley has always had, but did not want to bring out in the past.

“I didn’t want to be the biggest loudmouth and wasn’t even really touching the field in the ways that I wanted to,” Worley said. “But sometimes it’s better to go under the radar and help the team in any way they need you. But, I feel like now I’m in a position to be more vocal.”

Worley’s responsibility of leading the defense is especially critical now that linebacker Raekwon McMillan has left for the NFL. Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano feels that Worley will fill those shoes nicely.

“We lost what I think is a man’s man in Raekwon McMillan,” Schiano said. “Just a really fine football player and a smart football player. We needed to make sure that we could try and replace him with a guy that has that kind of presence about him. I really am impressed with (Worley) in two days.”

Junior linebacker Jerome Baker is not worried about Worley being the unquestioned leader of the defense.

“Worley’s going to do his job,” Baker said. “I just gotta do my job, and make sure he can trust me the same way I trust him.”

The expectations are high for the Cleveland native. However, this is the opportunity that Worley has been waiting on for a long time.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted,” Worley said. “I’m a grinder. I like to hit people. So just to give me that more ammunition in my toolbox to just go kind of hurt some people, that’s what I like to do. It’s a blessing to be in this position and it’s up to me to sort of live up to expectations.”

Worley might have high expectations for next season. However, his confidence is not going anywhere.  

“I feel like I’m one of the most dynamic players in the country,” he said.