Gabe Powers Ohio State Buckeyes Linebacker

Gabe Powers More Comfortable Heading Into Year Three

When Woody Hayes said, “Anything easy ain’t worth a damn,” he could have very easily been talking about playing middle linebacker for the Buckeyes.

It’s a truth that Ohio State redshirt sophomore Gabe Powers has learned first-hand for the Buckeyes. A top 10 linebacker in the class of 2022, playing time on defense has been hard to come by. Part of that is because veteran middle linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Cody Simon were in front of him, but the other part is the sheer difficulty of playing the position.

So far in his two-year career, Powers has played just 21 snaps on defense. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s 10 more snaps than Eichenberg had over his first two years on campus. Eichenberg ended up being a two-time All-Big Ten selection, a two-time Second-Team All-American, and the 2023 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year.

These things just take time. And over time, the knowledge of the job becomes much clearer. Gabe Powers has seen that happen for him.

“I’ve definitely developed the mental part of the game,” he said this spring. “I think I still need to work on formations on offense. It’s a huge part of linebacker. A lot of people think linebacker is just set the defense and play, but you also have to know a lot about what the offense is gonna do. We’re kind of like the quarterback of the defense. So I think I can develop in knowing the offense more.”

A Team Effort

Cody Simon and Tommy Eichenberg have been there to help him his first two years, and Simon is still with him now. They have all watched film together and the veterans have passed on their tips of the trade. Powers is also fortunate to have OSU linebackers coach James Laurinaitis at his disposal. There is no more decorated linebacker in school history, so it’s a pretty nice resource to have.

“Amazing. He obviously knows the game,” Powers said of Laurinaitis. “He played at the highest level and was one of the greatest here. So him coming in and teaching the game — because he knows it, not just as a coach, he knows it as a player. So all the drills can translate to the field very well.”

Laurinaitis and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles spoke highly of the progress that Powers had made from last year, which is good news because right now he is likely the Buckeyes’ No. 2 middle linebacker behind Simon.

But the coaches were noticing the growth before this spring.

“Gabe Powers got significantly better from last spring, all the way through the fall and into the winter,” Laurinaitis said back in February. “So as the season went on, you would notice him making plays in practice routinely to where you’re like, ‘Okay, I think the light bulb is coming on for Gabe.'”

Expectations Versus Reality

Watch a handful of commitment ceremonies from blue-chip football recruits, and as they are announcing which school they plan to attend, they will say something to the effect of, “For the next three to four years, I will be attending…” The three in that equation is the expectation. The four is much closer to reality.

Powers was himself a blue-chip recruit out of Marysville, Ohio. He was one of the top linebackers in the class. He had expectations of playing early, but reality moves at its own pace.

“No, not at all gone the way I expected,” Powers said. “It’s a huge transition. To be honest with, you coming in, I didn’t know it was that big of a transition. From high school to college, it’s night and day mentally. Everything’s a lot mentally harder.”

As with any study, it just takes time to build up the knowledge and understanding. Eventually, however, if you study it correctly, the information gets to the point where it can be accessed much more quickly. The faster that process, the faster the linebacker.

Gabe Powers’ coaches have seen the processing speed up for him, and he has seen it himself. His confidence has grown and so has his production.

“You know, there’s a point where it all kind of clicks. Where all the plays started to make sense. Because it is a difficult defense,” he explained. “So I was learning, and then once it clicked, it clicked. So that was the biggest step for me. And I definitely felt it even before practices now, it’s a lot less stress on you. As a young guy, you’re kind of stressed out about what you’re gonna do on every play. Now you’re comfortable. You know what you’re doing. So it’s all good.”

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