Instant Impact: Defense

By Alex on February 27, 2013 at 1:30p

The Ohio State defense got off to a tumultuous start last year, but came together around the midway point of the season and was a force to be reckoned with at season's end.

The Bell will ring this seasonVonn Bell has a great chance to see the field

The good news coming out of that is that there will be plenty of momentum for the Silver Bullets heading into this year, but the bad news is that the unit will lose 7 out of 11 starters from last year's squad.

All four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and a cornerback have departed due to graduation or the NFL Draft, so it will be up to some of the younger players on last year's team, as well as the incoming freshman class to step up and fill the voids left by those talented players.

On Monday we took a look at which offensive players in the recruiting class of 2013 could make an instant impact this coming season, and now in the second and final part of this segment, we will take a look at which defensive players could be seeing the field this fall to help the Buckeyes work towards their next crystal ball.

Defensive Line

It is a fight between the secondary and defensive line in terms of which group is deeper for the 2013 class, but one thing for sure is that Urban Meyer did an excellent job bringing in Joey Bosa, Donovan Munger, Billy Price, Michael Hill, Tracy Sprinkle, and Tyquan Lewis.

I will be absolutely shocked if the Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas star, Bosa, does not see the field this year. At 6-5/270 and getting bigger by the second, Bosa has the body to get in the two-deep immediately and has proven over and over again how disruptive he can be at multiple positions along the line. It is my guess he plays behind Adolphus Washington at strongside end, but works his way on to the field on third downs and passing situations as the season goes on, where he can use his combination of strength and speed to get to the quarterback from end or tackle.

On the other hand, Munger is a player who is more raw and I think the former Shaker Heights star will need a year to redshirt. At 6-4/285, the size is certainly there for the four-star prospect, but I just get the sense he has a lot to learn from a mental standpoint when it comes to moving up to the college ranks. Munger was also an excellent offensive line prospect in high school and it wouldn't shock me to see him there at some point in his career.

Many people think Billy Price could eventually move to the offensive line at OSU, but I think he'll surprise many in what he does when he arrives at campus in June. At 6-4/300, it looks like Price will end up inside at tackle and with the position more uncertain than end right now, I think there is a great chance he can come in and earn a spot in the rotation.

Michael Hill is another candidate to make a move at defensive tackle, but his fate this season could depend on how quickly he bounces back from a hand injury that shortened his senior season. At 6-2/315, Hill is a big boy, but like the departed Johnathan Hankins, the four-star talent has tremendous athleticism that will help him at the college level. I'm a bit on the fence when it comes to Hill, but right now I'd lean to him seeing the field at some point in 2013.

Tracy Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis are two players who have enrolled early and have a leg up on their classmates to see the field, as they went through winter workouts and will have spring practice. I think both are talented players, yet need some time to develop, so early signs would lead me to think both redshirt. I could be completely wrong in that assessment and after watching spring ball I can revisit this, but I think the staff wants a year to figure out the plan for these two after some time with Mickey Marotti.


Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino have exhausted their eligibility, leaving Ryan Shazier as the only returning linebacker heading into 2013.

The Abusement ParkMike Mitchell isn't planning on redshirting

Josh Perry, Camren Williams, Curtis Grant, and others will have enough on their hands in fighting for the two open spots, but the staff brought in Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson this recruiting season to push the veterans currently on the roster.

Mitchell, nicknamed "The Abusement Park", made a name for himself on the national stage this summer at Nike's The Opening, where he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and earned a 154.57 SPARQ rating, tops in the nation.

The Army All-American is a freak of nature to say the least, and gives the Buckeyes a linebacker that can run sideline to sideline, as well as make plays in the backfield from the day he steps on campus.

Mitchell is capable of playing all three linebacker positions and I think he'll earn playing time early on special teams before eventually working his way into the two-deep at some point this season.

Trey Johnson is a talented player in his own right and the four-star prospect comes to Columbus as the 247 Composite second-ranked inside linebacker after notching 140 tackles during his senior season at Lawrenceville (GA) Central Gwinnett.

While Johnson may not be as athletic as Mitchell, he has good size at 6-2/220 and more importantly has a very high football IQ, which should certainly help him adjust to the more complex schemes at the college level.

Johnson played middle linebacker in high school, but early word is that he could move to the outside at Ohio State. Like Mitchell, I at least expect him to contribute on special teams and be competitive for a spot in the two deep.

Outside of Mitchell and Johnson, Cleveland Glenville's Chris Worley falls into the linebacker category for now, and I think he will start out at the hybrid Star position to begin his career, before eventually moving to linebacker down the road.

At 6-3/190, Worley certainly needs to bulk up for college, but he has the frame to do so easily and entering OSU's weight training program should yield big results. The athleticism, ability to deliver the big hit, and great football instincts make the sleeper prospect one to watch this coming year, as word is the staff if high on him and he could see the field on special teams.

Defensive Back

As previously mentioned, the secondary is right up there with the defensive line in terms of the plethora of talent the Buckeyes brought in this year. Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Cam Burrows, Vonn Bell, Darron Lee, and Jayme Thompson are excellent prospects and there's certainly a chance all and any could see the field this season.

Conley, at 6-1/175, could end up at either cornerback or wide receiver in college, although it seems the former is where he'll start out. I think he has the skills to see some green in year one, but if I were a betting man, I would say the staff takes a year to evaluate the best position for him or improve his cornerback skills, much like they did with Bradley Roby, a similar prospect coming out of high school, during his redshirt freshman season in Columbus.

Apple is already enrolled at OSU and has a leg up on most of his future teammates by getting on the field this spring. The nation's fifth-best cornerback according to the 247 Composite is almost a shoe-in to get some sort of action this fall, and he'll certainly get a chance to compete with Doran Grant, Armani Reeves, and others for the starting spot opposite Roby. I don't think Apple will win that job, but I think he will definitely play on special teams and contribute where he can in the secondary.

Burrows is also an early enrollee and while I think safety is his eventual landing spot, he proved to many at the Under Armour Game that he is more than capable of starring at cornerback, where the Buckeye coaches currently have him slotted. Cam is another player I see at the very least contributing on special teams this coming season and like Apple, will compete for time in the defensive backfield.

Bell is the stud catch of the class and probably has the best chance out of any freshman to avoid a redshirt. Bell will provide quality depth behind CJ Barnett and Christian Bryant at safety, and could also challenge Devan Bogard and Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown for time at the Star position. The five-star athlete is the real deal and you just know Urban will find a way to get him onto the field this year.

Lee is very much like Worley in that he was recruited by the Bucks as an athlete and they'll have to find a position for him when he gets to campus. It looks like that position will be safety to start, but he earned his offer after working out at linebacker last summer, so that is always a possibility in the future. Either way, while talented, I think Lee is headed for a redshirt while they figure out what to do with his unique skill set.

Finally, Thompson is an intriguing safety prospect and I can honestly see him going either way this year. I think if he does play it will be solely on special teams, as Barnett, Bryant, Bell, Brown, Bogard, Tyvis Powell, and Ron Tanner all start fall camp ahead of him on the depth chart. I think Thompson is capable of having an excellent career in Columbus, but I'm just not sure it starts this season.


Comments Show All Comments

LouGroza's picture

Mike Mitchell looks like a grown-ass man already and Bell will be on the field somewhere immediately. So many great players, so much fun to watch.

sir rickithda3rd's picture

didnt meyer say he doesnt like redshirting this many kids? has anyone ever scored higher than mike at the sparq camp? kid seems to be a freak athlete

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

CC's picture

No, he set the all-time record.

Toilrt Paper's picture

No, Urban says he doesn't recruit players who should redshirt. He recruits players than can play right away.

cinserious's picture

Way I see it, Urban doesn't plan on redshirting anybody he recruits because he goes after high-quality talent that fits his system. However at some point you realize some players are solidly stuck behind others after the competitive pecking order is figured out and there is no reason to waste a kid's eligibility for that year. Eventually the kid can resurface because of that extra year of exp.  and the early graduation/ injury/ disciplinary action of other players.

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

ab42beerman's picture

REALLY hope Curtis Grant has been working his tail off and wins that MLB job.  This could be a young but very talented and dangerous D...just need someone to take the reigns at Mike.

CC's picture

I hope he works out too, but at this point I would rather see a Johnson, Mitchell or other young gun TAKE the position.  Grant had lots of opportunities with very little competition and he hasn't made it work yet.  I think, at best, he ends up as good as Sabino while some of the others are limitless with potential.  I hope I'm wrong.

Citrus's picture

Mike Mitchell and Bosa are probably going to get a chance to get after the QB this year.

Charlotte Buckeye Chip's picture

Does anyone know what #'s the freshmen will be wearing this season?

~Charlotte Buckeye Chip

d1145fresh's picture

I think the defense will be good this year but I'm not sure about great. It is a young D who will need to learn and grow as the season progresses. However, 2014... Dear lord this defense will be nasty. 

Toilrt Paper's picture

But in 2014 the O-line will be greener than the D-line is this year. A worse scenario.

willshire58's picture

Is there any chance that Vonn Bell plays Bryant's safety spot and Bryant moves to the Star when we go to nickel? I always liked Bryant at the star and I think Bell is a pure safety.

Alex's picture

That is a possibility for sure...I know the staff is high on Bogard though and likes Brown's experience, so it will be tough....but the best players will play

Nappy's picture

If Mitchell's 40 time is legit, that's faster than any linebacker has run at the Combine in the last 8 years.  That's absurd.  Anyone know how accurate his time was?

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

buck4's picture

It's funny when I first saw his 40 time I said there is no way that was accurate!  But then when He committed, I started to believe!  Scarlet colored glasses...I think not!

Grayskullsession's picture

From what I heard the 40 times at "The Opening" were laser-timed so pretty accurate.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

Poison nuts's picture

Yes - from my understanding, his 40 time is fully laser timed, so it's accurate. That sort or speed in a linebacker out of HS is completely absurd.

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

osu07asu10's picture

According to Nike's SPARQ Training Protocol, it is only laser timed at the finish, once an athlete crosses the finishing "gate".  A test administrator watches for the athlete's back heel of his trailing foot to leave the ground to start timing the athlete's sprint.
So it isn't completely laser timed, a set up more like the NFL combine however, the reported time is as legit as a 40 combine time.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

Orlando Pancakes's picture

Yeah he actually ran that 40 time twice when he set the all-time SPARQ record. The 2nd time he ran it was the one that was shown on t.v., when it confirmed his ridiculous speed.

Defend Youngstown's picture

It's legit. They use the same timing system they use for the combine. Mitchell's SPARQ score was higher than not just any other high school football player ever, but any football player ever to have taken it (Reggie Bush, etc.)

brumon's picture

"Out of the 16,639 recruits at 2012 Nike SPARQ Combines, only 19 ran a electronically-timed sub 4.50 forty yard dash."
I know there have been discussions on this topic before, but that really shows how rare 4.4 guys are, especially in high school. We see the same results come NFL combine time as well. You truly have to be elite. Yet, I feel like every recruit on Rivals is listed with a 4.4 forty time.
The other stat Adams supplied was that only 3 guys out of the 16,639 who were measured ran sub 4.4 times, and one of them was none other than 6' 4" 220 lb. linebacker Mike Mitchell.

At Sparq they ran a cone type agility drill.......5-10-5.
to the left Mike ran 4.19 and to the right 4.00........with that 4.00 he finished third, as first and second tied at 3.97.
Mike's vertical jump was 40.6" and that took third.....first was 41.4 by Derrick Henry (RB).
Mike's first attempt at the 40 was 4.46 and that caused quite a stated above, his final effort was 4.39 and, as you might imagine, that sucked ALL the oxygen out of Beaverton.
Mike's final rating was 154.47....highest ever seen......even though Nike has rated about 175,000 players since 2004, including close to 17,000 in this years event.
Second place rating, at 144.99 went to a running back named Altee Tenpenny"

whobdis's picture

Can't believe Henry was first in the vertical..that guy is huge. He's going to be  beast for Bama..if they keep him motiviated.

Toilrt Paper's picture

His 2nd 40 was 4.39

Dougger's picture

I just read this while at a meeting. That made it the best meeting ever!!!
Whether or not these guys see the field this year I'm excited to see their development - but my god, the ones that do, we're going to have to have the best special teams unit in the country... Coach Coombs is gonna like what he sees.

I like football

cinserious's picture

Coach Coombs is gonna like what he sees.

Buncha nasty-ass pirranahs viciously chewing off the flesh of those that stand in their way!

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

MediBuck's picture

That piranha looks an awful lot like Woody. 

I can only assume the guy on the left is Bo after he was finished with him ;)

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

CC's picture

There are soo many open spots on D and so much talent in the last 2 classes it's going to be fun to watch.  I expect at least 1 to start by game 4 maybe Mitchell, Johnson, Bosa or Bell.

d5k's picture

I would think at most 1 as well unless there's some unfortunate injuries.  Mike linebacker and Star are the only spots where the freshmen aren't serious underdogs to start (although several will get on the field in backup roles or special teams).

heartofabuckeye's picture

Stoked to see what these studs have to offer. TSUN will not be happy come November !!!!!

Hovenaut's picture

Wow.....Silver Bullets don't rebuild, they reload. Some serious talent in each defensive

gobucks96's picture

The Silver Bullets just upgraded to a newer version!

RedStorm45's picture

They'll kind of have to rebuild after the last 2 years.  Just saying.

BrooklynBuckeye's picture

I am ridiculously excited to see how these guys are in action, but let's not count out the guys who've been in the program for a while. If I remember correctly, Antonio Smith didnt get a lotta pt before starting every game his senior year for a dominant defense on a national championship team.

Edit: wrong. Started in 2006 and was all b1g.

dubjayfootball90's picture

good article, great insight. Definitely enjoyed reading this. I am pumped to see the recaps on spring practice now. Less than a week away!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

RedStorm45's picture

Don't forget Ohrian Johnson graduated from the secondary and Storm Klein had some PT at MLB last year.  Further depleting depth.
If Doran Grant or Armani Reeves can live up to their potential that everyone seems to think they have, I think it'll be difficult for too many freshmen to see the field in the defensive backfield unless it's a blowout.

JYBUCKEYE's picture

I think one thing we have to remember is Meyer and the staff having more time with their recruits.  Going through a full spring with his guys (especially LB's).  For Instance had Boren been a junior last year and was returning for his senior season this coming year, there is no way he plays LB.  Meyer & Co. will be able to implement more of their system (SPEED).

d5k's picture

From everything Urban keeps saying, it sounds like a lot of these guys you would typically chalk up to redshirt likely won't do so even if it means only seeing the field as a backup special teamer.  How many guys redshirted in 2012?

Notor's picture

Really wouldn't mind seeing a true freshman get a start at LB. If all things are equal between someone like Curtis Grant and Mike Mitchell, give Mitchell the nod.

syphon2677's picture

Anyone else rooting for Curtis Grant?

Hayze's picture

Oh absolutely. His athleticism is off the charts which is why he was rated so high.
He just might not be the football player everybody thought he could be.

yankeescum's picture

The only true freshman to start at MLB was Katzenmoyer.  And as far as I know, he was the only one in the history of the program.  If Mitchell or Johnson is starting at MLB this season, it probably means that something catastrophic happened.  I think that both of these kids have a ton of potential, but for Christ's sake, how long ago was it that we were all DROOLING over Curtis Grant?  If either of them were enrolling (is that either/were or either/was?) early, I would give them an outside shot.  I don't think that they will redshirt, but starting is a whole different ballgame.

luckynutz's picture

I think the only real givens about this defense are roby and shazier will be absolute studs. The rest is shaping up to be the kind of situation meyer loves. All out competition, guys getting after it and really putting it on the line to earn a spot. Should make for a very spirited spring session. Can't wait for the spring game to see what it looks like!

Buckeyejason's picture

We signed 6 defensive lineman this year..that's just too many bodies and not enough reps with all the young lineman already on the depth I see Price and/or Munger beings moved to the offensive line. Makes sense considering they played O-line in high school and the O-line depth not being so good in 2014. Price will make a hell of a Guard or Center.


cinserious's picture

Its easy to get caught up in returning players or incoming freshmen but the reality is COMPETITION!   Urbz has assembled enough studs that almost every spot will be highly competitive regardless of class or star ranking. This all but guarantees our defense will have a stud at all posititons.

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

DMcDougal24's picture

I think you nailed it with Bosa. While he's versatile, I think he has strong-side end written all over him. He is the guy who I'm most excited about on defense this season. 

MediBuck's picture

I'm incredibly excited about the Bell-Mitchell combination on the field. Tremendous lateral speed and athleticism to defend the flats (which really were our Achilles heel last season).

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

osubuckeye4life's picture

I can't wait to see how the D shakes out this year. So much talent at every position!