One day it may be possible to talk about Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers without mentioning that he spent his first two years as a Buckeye at running back, but that day is not today.

The 2021 season was Chambers’ first as a Buckeye linebacker, but he didn’t even make the move until the summer. Last spring, he was still the same OSU running back who had averaged 7.9 yards per carry in his 28 career attempts in 2019 and 2020.

The move to linebacker wasn’t a shock considering the depth at running back and Chambers’ high school past as an All-State linebacker. What was more surprising was how effective he was and how quickly he established himself as a guy who made the Ohio State defense better when he was on the field.

“I think it went better than I expected,” Chambers said last month. “I went into the season thinking I would somewhat be a key role, maybe in some packages and stuff. And the way stuff’s turned out, I feel like I’m a pretty vital part of this defense so far. So I’m pretty glad with how it turned out.”

Chambers finished fifth on the team with 47 tackles in 13 games. He eventually won the starting Will linebacker job during the season and ended up leading the Buckeye linebackers in snaps in each of the final four games of the season.

It wasn’t easy, however, and Chambers has admitted as such. But the days of wondering about his Buckeye future and pondering a move to baseball are now gone and his present as a linebacker has Chambers excited for what is yet to come.

“I feel like my potential’s pretty high. I feel like there’s still a lot of stuff I can work on. Start learning from linebackers from the past. Work on fundamentals. But I feel like I got a lot of room to improve,” he said.

Chambers has now been a linebacker for about six months, which means this is his first time really training to be an Ohio State linebacker. It is going to take some work to get to the desired playing weight that strength coach Mickey Marotti has targeted for him. Though with new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles in town, perhaps some adjustments to those plans will be made.

“I’ve been told right now it’s 235,” Chambers said of his target playing weight for next season. “Not sure how I’m going to get there. I’ve never been that heavy, but it’s got to happen.”

For most of the 2021 season, Chambers played at 225 pounds, but by the end of the season he was fluctuating between 215 and 220 pounds. That’s very light for a Big Ten linebacker.

“Oh, it’s pretty hard. Yeah, realizing that guys have like 110, 120 pounds on me, it’s pretty rough getting in there,” Chambers admitted. “It wore on me a little as far as just physically being sore and stuff. But I mean, mentally I think I can still do it. Still got to get in there because, I mean, I have to.”

Steele Chambers will hit this offseason in a much better headspace than a year ago when he was still a running back wondering where the snaps were going to come from.

Now he is a linebacker who in some ways will be in the same situation as the Buckeyes’ veterans on defense. Like them, he will be learning a new defense under Jim Knowles.

And Chambers is just fine with that.

“The last 12 months have been weird. It kind of feels chopped in half between whenever I was on offense for literally, like, the first half of the year, to now being on defense,” he said. “But, I mean, at the end of the day, the journey worked out. So I got no problem with it.”

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