While many coaches wouldn’t admit it, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer had no problem saying his team had a talent advantage over Kent State.
“Obviously a little talent advantage, but we had to have a game like this,” Meyer said after his team’s 66-0 thrashing of the Golden Flashes on Saturday.
When a team has the quick success the Buckeyes had at Ohio Stadium — they jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead — it gives the coaching staff a chance to throw young but unproven talent into the fire early and often.
OSU did just that against Kent State as 12 redshirt-freshmen and 11 true freshmen took the field for the Buckeyes. Of those 23 players, few reaped the benefits more than freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
“Every time I came off the field, I just got a little more confidence here and there,” McMillan said after the game. “And then toward the second quarter, I felt like I can really do this.”
As McMillan said he feels ready to be on the field for OSU, his numbers might have proved that for him as he led the team with seven total tackles and a pair of sacks.
Regardless of the numbers he put on the score sheet, OSU co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said he wanted to save his opinion on McMillan’s performance until after the team sees footage from the game.
“Just from watching in the press box, it looked like he did a good job,” Ash said after the game. “Until we watch the tape, I don’t know. But it looked like he was active and around the ball.”
The first-year OSU assistant said McMillan is still learning the game, but added that he is “naturally gifted” and can bring another dimension to the Buckeyes’ defense.
“He brings a lot of athletic ability (and) toughness,” Ash said. “He’s got some juice to him, things like that.”
McMillan enrolled at OSU in January after receiving the high school Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker after his senior season at Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Ga. ESPN and Rivals rated him the No. 1 high school inside linebacker as a five-star prospect before he committed to Meyer and the Buckeyes.
After arriving in Columbus, McMillan said he was immediately taken under the wing of senior linebacker Curtis Grant. The freshman said the support he has received from Grant has done a lot to facilitate his success on the field.
“Knowing that I’ve got support from my big brother (Grant) and a guy who’s been starting here,” McMillan said. “Going in and him telling me that he’s got confidence in me, that I can do it, really gave me confidence.”
While Grant won the starting job heading into the season, he was able to give McMillan the support he needed despite the fact they were — and still are — directly competing for playing time, Ash said.
“That’s a testament to the program coach Meyer has, when an older player is going to take a younger player that could potentially take his job underneath his wing and help him develop and grow and learn what he needs to learn in order to get out there and play,” Ash said. “It’s a great testament to Curtis, that tells you what type of person he is.”
While Grant might be his big brother on the team, junior linebacker Joshua Perry said all of the veterans were excited to see McMillan and other young players at the position contribute against the Golden Flashes.
“When a guy like Raekwon makes a play, or (freshman linebacker Dante Booker) makes a play, I think we’re more excited than they are that they actually made the play,” Perry said. “Which is a really good thing.”
OSU is set to have a bye week before taking on Cincinnati on Sept. 27 at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.