Spring Recap: Buckeye Linebackers Taking To New Defense

Now that spring football is over, it’s time to look back at exactly what we just saw. We’ll be going over each position group for the next two weeks discussing what was learned and what still needs to happen for the Buckeyes. Up first will be the Ohio State linebackers.

Quick Position Overview

The Buckeyes return the bulk of their linebacker depth from last season, though Cade Stover’s timeshare ran out this winter. Ohio State has both of their middle linebackers back in Tommy Eichenberg and Cody Simon, as well as both of last year’s Will linebackers in Steele Chambers and Teradja Mitchell. Former USC transfer Palaie Gaoteote is still around, as is redshirt freshman Reid Carrico. Chip Trayanum has come in from Arizona State where he was a running back, and Ohio’s top two linebacker recruits in the 2022 class are already enrolled.

Expectations Going In

The expectation going into spring ball was that this was going to be a time of learning for both the players and new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. Knowles also brought with him a couple of staffers from Oklahoma State to help install his defense, including Koy McFarland who worked heavily with the linebackers at (the other) OSU in the past. Everybody came into spring with a clean slate, so Knowles was taking a constant crash course in just what the Buckeyes have defensively. Given the experience and the number of veterans on hand, it was expected that the learning process would go well and Knowles wouldn’t be an overly frustrated coordinator by the end of spring.

Reality Coming Out

The reality coming out of spring is that Jim Knowles was actually quite happy with how much of the defense he got installed. He mentioned during the spring that he was tired of showing his players clips of Oklahoma State. After the spring game, however, he said that he now has enough of his defense on film at Ohio State that he doesn’t need to show those old clips anymore. The two starting inside linebackers at the end of last season were still the top two guys at the end of spring as Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg seemed to solidify their positions.

Any Surprises?

There haven’t really been any surprises in terms of players emerging or staking unforeseen claims. Maybe the most surprising thing is that Teradja Mitchell is still a Buckeye. After losing his starting job last year, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him hit the transfer portal in search of a starting job — especially since the other two linebackers in his signing class did the same thing. Instead, he returned and told reporters this spring that he’s back because he loves Ohio State. It’s hard to fault somebody for following their heart. Jim Knowles likes Mitchell’s energetic style of leadership, especially during the installation of a new defense, which can be both stressful and tedious.

Unanswered Question

Cody Simon missed the spring, so we don’t really know where he will be when he’s healthy. Is he competing with Tommy Eichenberg at middle linebacker? Is he competing at the Will with Steele Chambers? Jim Knowles put his linebackers in different spots this spring so he could see them in more than one role. Will he have to take some of fall camp to do that with Simon, or do they have a good idea of what his situation will be in the fall? He started the bulk of the Buckeyes’ games at middle linebacker last season, so don’t expect him to drift off into obscurity.

So Now What?

So now Jim Knowles and his linebacker assistants get in the film room and evaluate every snap from every linebacker so that they can teach from the tape. The players, meanwhile, will be studying up and learning from what they did right and what they did wrong. There is still plenty of learning to go for what will eventually be an aggressive group of linebackers. Before they can get there, however, they have to know exactly what they’re doing every step of the way.

One Concern

Despite the level of experience this group of linebackers has now, they were not exactly a stellar group last year. How much of that was inexperience and how much of it was the scheme? Those questions will sort themselves out this season, which is why their relatively unproven nature is a slight concern. Keep in mind, this is a brand new defense and they’re all learning some new things. There isn’t much proof in the pudding yet.

Are We Sure?

Are we sure the Sam linebacker is only going to have a part-time role in this defense? [Spoiler: Yeah, probably.] You didn’t see it in the spring game because there wasn’t a need for it. The Sam will make appearances against the more archaic offenses on the schedule, like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. This spring it was senior Palaie Gaoteote and redshirt freshman Reid Carrico sharing the job. Expect that to continue into the fall until Knowles and his linebackers have a better grasp on every different thing they can do.


“You have to be able to make an assessment, and in order to make an assessment you’ve got to get the guys repetitions. And there’s a lot of talent, but none of it is completely proven. Right? You have guys all coming in and competing for positions, so that’s where you want to take guys and maybe move them to other positions just to get a chance to look at them. I think Tommy has been a great leader for us. I really like what I’ve seen out of Tommy. I think he’s mastering the defense quickly and making plays. He’s quiet but he’s fierce. Teradja is also a guy who leads in more of a vocal way than Tommy. He gives us a lot of energy.” – Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles earlier this month.

Depth Chart


22 Steele Chambers | Redshirt Junior | 6-1 232
This was Steele Chambers’ first spring as an Ohio State linebacker and all signs were positive. He ended with the ones, just as he began them. He transitioned from running back very well last year, posting 47 tackles and 5.0 tackles for loss.
19 Chip Trayanum | Junior | 5-11 227 OR
Another running back looking to make the move to linebacker. Chip Trayanum transferred from Arizona State and got a brand new start under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. He was the No. 2 Will in the Spring Game but this competition is far from over.
11 CJ Hicks | Freshman | 6-3 220 OR
There are no linebackers on the Ohio State roster who can run and do the things that CJ Hicks can do, but he is just a true freshman and is still learning everything that the position requires.
28 Reid Carrico | Redshirt Freshman | 6-2 230
Reid Carrico played in his allotted four games last year as a true freshman and saw about 20 total snaps on defense. He is currently splitting his time between the Will and the Sam.


35 Tommy Eichenberg | Redshirt Junior | 6-2 235
Everybody loves Tommy Eichenberg and he seems to have emerged as one of the defensive leaders. He finished last year with the ones in part because of Cody Simon’s injury. Simon was also out this spring, which clouds the situation a bit.
3 Teradja Mitchell | Graduate | 6-2 239 OR
Teradja Mitchell has spent the vast majority of his career at the Will linebacker spot for the Buckeyes but moved to the Mike this spring. Ideally, the positions are interchangeable, so the move wasn’t a dramatic one for Mitchell.
30 Cody Simon | Junior | 6-2 232 (INJURED)
Cody Simon missed spring ball while recovering from shoulder surgery that should have him healthy this season for about the first time in a year. When uninjured, he was the Buckeyes’ starting middle linebacker last year. He will still have a say in this depth chart.
36 Gabe Powers | Freshman | 6-3 214
As you can see, Gabe Powers has entered a very deep linebacker room. He was able to get some snaps with the ones and twos throughout spring and certainly showed some promise and physicality in the spring game.


21 Palaie Gaoteote | Senior | 6-2 248
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said that along with working at the Sam for the Buckeyes, Palaie Gaoteote will also get some snaps as the Jack defensive end. They are trying to find a role for him and it’s still a work in progress.
28 Reid Carrico | Redshirt Freshman | 6-2 230
Like Palaie Gaoteote, redshirt freshman Reid Carrico is manning a couple of positions. Because of the lack of an every-down Sam, it’s not a position that will likely have a solitary dedicated player. At least not this early.