Honor and Respect

By Kyle Rowland on July 6, 2012 at 10:00a
A mountain of a man.

Everyone is well-versed in Rodney Dangerfield and his famous “no respect” line. It’s a part of the American lexicon, forever etched into the minds of millions.

It could also play in the halls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where a certain player gets little notoriety despite his lofty statistics and unlimited potential: Michael Bennett.

Prior to last season, Braxton Miller was the freshman gunslinger everyone talked about. The boy wonder who had achieved so much in high school and entered Ohio State with much acclaim was almost certain to start at least one game at quarterback. On the other side of the ball was linebacker Curtis Grant, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the entire country.

At season’s end, Miller had the typical ups and downs a freshman signal caller can expect, while Grant’s year was a major flop. Not only did he never start, he rarely even played a meaningful snap. Instead, Grant was relegated to special teams duty, covering kickoffs and punts. Not the bright lights a five-star recruit expects.

Bennett, however, lived up to his billing and then some, recording 17 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks.

Entering the spring, though, when it came to the defensive line, a unit among the best in the country, John Simon and Johnathan Hankins were the names that continually spewed out of pundits’ mouths.

No respect.

When it comes to Simon, though, even Bennett is effusive in his approval. 

"I think everyone has had that time with him where they've said, 'Man, this guy just doesn't stop,'" Bennett said. “He makes you step up your game so you don't look like a slacker. John comes back two hours later to lift again by himself. It's just a matter of how relentless he is. He loves what he does more than anything."

Meyer has applauding Bennett since he was hired.

He may not have been called “Tebowish,” but Bennett finally earned his respect card after a dominating spring. Head coach Urban Meyer took time to single Bennett out when the two-deep was released and it featured Bennett as a backup. Make no mistake, he’ll be an integral part of the defensive attack.

"That may not necessarily be the case this fall," Meyer said about Bennett’s position on the depth chart. "We will rotate him in and our four best guys will be on the field at one time. It's hard for me to say he's not one of our four best."

With a smile constantly stuck on his face, Bennett’s sunny disposition makes him an easy figure to like. But he’s not looking for any compliments. It doesn’t hurt ones play, though, when the head coach offers pats on the back. Bennett has transferred the kind words into motivation, as well. Once the coach talks in a positive tone, you want that trend to continue. 

"It feels good," Benneett said. "It is a sense of accomplishment. It's not a set position. I have to come in here and earn it. I want to be a big contributor to the team. I want to make plays and do whatever I can. You just have to take it for what it is. If I'm on the second team, then they put me there for a reason. They have a plan for it. It gives me a reason to work hard."

The sophomore from Centerville embarrassed his offensive counterparts throughout the spring, camping in the backfield to harass running backs and quarterbacks. The constant image of Bennett - and Simon and Hankins - barrelling over an unsuspecting teammate became a defining image.

Hankins attracts a crowd on the field.

Praise from Meyer is well-earned and not to be taken lightly. His honesty makes him somewhat of an anomaly in the p.r. savvy world coaches now reside. Most tell the media what they want to hear and rarely step out of bounds with controversial statements. Meyer is different – curt and containing an abundance of truth serum. And you’ll hear no complains – from the media or players.

"One of the best things about the new staff is they are blunt with you," Bennett said. "They are not trying to coddle you or make you feel good. They will make you feel good if you do a good job."

Bennett hasn’t let up since the summer session began. When the team was told to have “the best offseason in college football history,” they decided it was to be listened to.

"We have to be ready by the time the coaches get back to coaching football, so that we're physically ready and they don't have to start from scratch again,” Bennett said.

"We have to make sure everybody knows it's a short summer. I think everybody does understand that. When the coaches do get to talk to us, they make sure we are grounded."

Bennett’s eagerness comes on the heels of a lost summer in 2011. A high school All-American,  Bennett broke his arm in the U.S. Army game in San Antonio last season, limiting the amount of work he could partake in as his freshman season approached. Still, he was able to make an immediate impact. 

"Last year, a lot of it had to do with the fact my left arm was not as strong," Bennett said. "I couldn't build up my strength. I had a brace on (my left arm) all last year. It hurt when I got hit. This spring, I was able to go without the brace and it was fine. I'm not thinking about it all." 

There are other changes entering this season that have piqued Bennett and his teammates’ interest: the coaching change, a loss to Michigan and a bowl ban. But the biggest looming presence is the 6-7 record and four-game losing streak the Buckeyes carry into the 2012 season.

A year of constant criticism will eat away at most people, and last season’s final record may be proof of that. But Meyer’s troops aren’t about to wave a white flag. Bowl ban or not, Ohio State is out to prove its worth and march along the comeback trail with its head help high. While some outside the program view it as a lost season, the mood inside the Buckeyes’ locker room is decidedly different.

"Personally, I look at this as a statement year," Bennett said. "If we come out and go out 12-0, like it should be every year, I think everybody in the country will have to stop and take a look at us. The biggest thing is improvement and coming together as a team. I haven't noticed anybody thinking that this is a year to rebuild. I don't think anybody is looking at it like that. We all came here to win.

"We have to show we're still Ohio State, and we're a top-notch team."

Do that, and they'll earn everyone's respect. 


Comments Show All Comments

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Kyle, thanks for helping to tide us over a bit during the long offseason.
I'm very excited about this DL: they have the potential to wreak some serious havoc. Not only do they bring a nice blend of veterans & youth, power/strength and speed/quickness; they seem very hungry and are led by some great character guys.
Btw, it's good pieces like this that might keep Maestro from posting pictures of Rosie O'Donnell.  

buckeyejma's picture

gr8 article good reading,  keep up the good work!

Step aside Nick, Urban is the real rock star!

buckeyeEddie27's picture

"If we come out and go out 12-0, like it should be every year...."     
I think these guys are going to play with a ferocity not seen in the shoe in some time.  
57 days.....

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

3technique's picture

He is my favorite Dline player , other than Simon! He came in with no summer last year and made evryone forget about the spring of Joel Hale... He will be a doninant force this year if for no other reason that Hankins and Siimon will have to be accounted for.. I believe even with the elite talent that Urban is bringing in that he will be an ALL american before he leaves Cbus! LeCharles Bently compared him to that kid from LSU that was unblockable in the champiionship game..

sir rickithda3rd's picture


mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

3technique's picture

Yep. I am semi-retarted with names... haha

ARMYBUCK's picture

I agree with 3technique.  I think Michael Bennett will be an All American. I could easily see him being a two timer.  He was one of my favorite players to watch from the first time he stepped on the field.  I see a very very bright future for this young man and hes got the head and heart to make it happen.

nickma71's picture

OSU will be a threat to run the table because of the front 4. Just like 2002. And for the basketball folk, Larry Bird was the same way, in how they talk about being around Simon and it is hard to not be "slacker". Which is why I think Simon will be just fine in the NFL.

scottynoshotty's picture

gotta agree with nickma..the front 4 on the defense on this team alone gives osu a great chance to run the table. simon and hankins will draw a ton of attention and when you add in bennett along with an absolutly ridiculous recruiting class coming in they will be absolutly dominant in the trenches. that will ease the load on an unproven LB corps and make the secondaries job even easier. not trying to seem overly optomistic but this d-line looks like it will make the entire defense even better all around. a huge key for the season on that side of the ball will be if the LB's can step up and play at the level of the d-line and secondary. if they can..watch out

Well i like college and i like football...and im gunna keep doin em both cause they make me feel good!!!

3technique's picture

I also think this Dline makes it easier for the D-coordinator to call a more aggressive gameplan.  If you can get pressure and create havoc with your front four you can gamble a little more in coverage... I also think Shazier will be a blast to watch behind this front four, along with a great 2nd and even thrid wave of Dlinemen! I cannot wait to watch this unfold!

rdubs's picture

It's funny, I would argue the opposite.  A good d-line allows for a more conservative approach because you can drop LBs and safeties to support the coverage because you know you will still get pressure on the QB without blitzing.  Usually tough corners allow aggressive game planning because you don't need the LB and safeties to help out as much.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I was thinking the same thing, but I gathered he meant that, while being able to utilize more guys in coverage (because the 4-5 front is getting so much pressure by itself), that the Buckeyes could jam receivers, crowd the short zone, free up DBs to make aggressive plays on the ball (because they'd have additional DB support) etc.
We might also look at it in terms of aggression v. passivity rather than conservative v. risk taking. Maybe a great DL line enables you to be more aggressive without taking more risks. If your front 4 is wreaking havoc, sending another LB in now becomes "aggressive," but if the front 4 is getting swallowed up, sending an additional LB will often still appear to be passive (because it's not enough to disrupt the offensive play).
Conversely, if you're DL is getting its collective ass kicked, you might play "conservative" by giving up 4- yd running plays and short passes, basically holding on for dear life, hoping the offense makes a mistake (because you cannot sto them) = passivity. Or, you could start sending 2-3 guys on run/pass blitzes, taking mad risks, to compensate for getting manhandled at the L-o-S, but is that really "aggressive" or desperate?

buckeye76BHop's picture

Great article!  I wouldn't sleep on Bennett or Miller.  I was at the Spring Game and those guys are HUGE.  I'm glad you pointed that out Bennett, Kyle.  Just more to prove that OSU's defensive line will be nasty this year and who knows how good they'll be in 2013 and on (but they should be even better).  Not to mention number 11 Se'Von Pittman is a monster too.  Adolphus W. and N. Spence will be good too once they get used to going against College linemen.  I'm really excited about OSU's defense (especially the D-line).  I almost forgot about Tommy Schutt too... ;-)

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Seth4Bucks's picture

Everyone keeps forgetting about Nathan Williams as well!

timdogdad's picture

and i hope nate williams comes back strong.  i see the philosphy of having a dominate d-line.  it's such an advantage against both the run and pass. it makes the back 7's job easier. and with the players we have and have coming in,  look out!   i'm forecasting a lot of 3rd and 8/9 and then simon either sacks the qb, or forces a bad pass or a throw out of bounds. and repeat the same in '13 and '14 with spence and washington and co....    

DJ Byrnes's picture

The biggest difference between SEC and B1G teams has been the play of their defensive line. Last year, the injury to Nathan Williams really hurt the depth/rotation of our d-line. I don't think one player is going to make or break the line for years to come. 
I love the d-line, it's my favorite unit in football, and in my elementary understanding of the game of football, the most important. I'm glad Urban has rectified this, and I look forward to them demolishing piddling B1G offensive lines for years to come.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Kyle Rowland's picture

Agree 100 percent. 

Everyone talks about SEC speed. It does exist, but it's not at the skill positions. WRs and RBs are all fast. But on the lines (offensive and defensive), the SEC has been superior, and a lot of it has to do with speed.

USC has had some years where they've stacked up, but by and large, the Big Ten and Big XII have too many big Midwestern guys that are slow. It worked in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but this is a new era of college football. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'm with you most of the way. However, during USC's big run (2002 - 2008), they didn't just stack up with the SEC; they were annually superior to the best of the SEC.
Granted, USC faced SEC teams only in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006 (winning all four, mostly by huge margins). Granted also that USC did not play the best team in the SEC those years, although they did beat Arkansas 50-14 in 2006, when Arkansas went on to win the SEC West and lose by only 10 pts in the SEC CG to subsequent national champs Florida. But I can't think of any years between 2002 and 2008 that the SEC champ would have been favored to beat USC at a neutral site (maybe FLA 2006, but we say that in hindsight).
To be fair, of course, the only big (non P12) game USC lost in that stetch was to Texas in the 2006 BCS CG (2005 season).     

JODO8411's picture

I knew that Bennett would come in and be a force. Watching the 2011 US Army Bowl, he is the reason why the East squad recorded so many sacks. Bennett blew up the Wes's O-line the entire game until he broke his arm. 

Kyle Rowland's picture

Another great thing about Bennett: he is smart. Like, really smart. He's a pre-med major. Chose Ohio State over Northwestern. 

45buckshot's picture

great article; got me excited again! i like to hear that from a player ("we have to show them who we are"); if they play that way this yr (barring unforeseen tragic circumstances, like BM getting hurt) and go 12-0 i think people will notice. ;)

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
—G.K. Chesterton

buck-I.8's picture

How dare you even exercise the notion that BM get injured is even possible

Run_Fido_Run's picture

There is a rule found in the bible of the football gods, which says that those who tempteth fate in July of the offseason shall not bring wrath upon their city. The reason for the rule is that the offseason is punishment enough.
Just in case, though, I better try to offset the danger . . .
Denard Robinson is guaranteed to stay healthy throughout the entire 2012 - 2013 football season.

Poison nuts's picture

As stated above - thanks for continuing to make this off-season bearable. Seems like the longest off-season of all time as we are all eager to see how things will look & what this little known coach can actually do. Seriously - it's been great getting interviews with staff/team members. This one was particularly inspiring. Much appreciated! Come on September....

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

zbd's picture

I already like Meyer being more blunt with the players and media. Tressel was just a pr man when it came to interviews. A positive attitude on hard work in conditioning is great.  Can't wait for the season to start. No bowl games or big Ten Championship as a penalty for the stupid AD Gene Smith going to a bowl game with a 6-6 regular season record is deserved.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Forgot about Nate Williams.  I heard he was jogging...or yogging.  
Ron Burgundy aka Nate Williams: Oop... I almost forgot. I won't be able to make it fellas. Veronica and I trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it's jogging or yogging. it might be a soft j. I'm not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It's supposed to be wild.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

buckeyedude's picture


While some outside the program view it as a lost season

I have not heard one Buckeye fan say this is a "lost season." I'm jacked as hell for this season! Only a bandwagon fan would say such an idiotic thing. Better not talk sh*t like that in front of me.  
That is all.



cinserious's picture

In '13 when we win the national champ. Everyone will be screaming "ohio st. Football is back". Bennet will be able to grasp the reason why he came here.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.