Ohio State redshirt junior Justin Hilliard has suffered two torn biceps. He also tore his left meniscus. These injuries, which all required surgery, kept the highly touted linebacker from contributing much during his first two seasons.
His role expanded in the 2017 campaign when he played in all 14 games, albeit mostly on special teams, and he’s now fully healthy and ready to contribute at the position the Buckeyes recruited him to play. With Tuf Borland sidelined this spring with an injury, Hilliard has been starting at middle linebacker for what should be another deep position group.
“This is probably one of the hungrier linebacker groups I’ve been a part of,” Hilliard told reporters at spring practice.
Hilliard said him and his fellow linebackers — such as sophomores Baron Browning and Pete Werner and juniors Keandre Jones and Malik Harrison — have been logging hours upon hours working to hone their skills, which they hope will translate both in the spring game and in the fall. When asked if this was the deepest linebacker group in his tenure, Hilliard spoke about how there’s depth at this position seemingly every season.
Now, it’s time for the latest crop of linebackers to step in and replace the production lost by their predecessors.
And at least for this spring, Hilliard has been in the middle of it all.
“It’s the [position] that’s making all the checks, getting everybody set up,” Hilliard said. “It’s a little bit of a challenge, but you make a lot of plays.”