Unblockable: The Noah Spence Story

By Kyle Rowland on April 10, 2013 at 10:00a
Noah Spence is drawing spring practice raves as a nearly unblockable guy off the defensive line.

Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde have cemented their places in the Ohio State backfield. Quarterback and running back are coming off a season in which they combined for more than 4,000 total yards and 45 touchdowns. That’s ended any debate about who might be occupying said positions. 

But if the spring is any indication, another Buckeye may be spending a lot of time in the backfield. Defensive end Noah Spence has turned heads since the Buckeyes’ first practice on March 5.

He’s made life miserable for offensive lineman Jack Mewhort who, according to head coach Urban Meyer, has already secured a spot as team captain. Mewhort and his fellow linemen proved to be an effective unit last season and were considered by most observors to be the Big Ten's best, but even they have no answer for Spence.

“I’m glad he’s on our team, that’s all I can say,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. “His speed off the edge is amazing. He’ll make (the offense) better because he gives us something every day to work on.”

Said Mewhort: “Noah Spence has gotten a lot better and has more confidence since the last time I played against him.” 

Spence presented glimmers of that potential last season, when he appeared in 11 games and finished with 12 tackles, including a 20-yard sack in his first career game against Miami (Ohio). He spoke of a learning curve when he arrived on campus, and it was evident during fall camp.

Linemen that resembled tree trunks were far different than the twigs he outmuscled and maneuvered around during a five-star high school career. It helped shape expectations of immediate success. But Spence stayed realistic and just sought daily progress.

“Any time was good for me,” he said. “But I’m never satisfied with anything. I don’t think I did as well as I could have been. I want to do a lot better.”

Advancement came quickly and it equipped Ohio State with depth at a valued position. That depth disappeared, though, the moment the game clock hit 0:00 against Michigan. Gone are John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel and Nathan Williams. For the first time in more than a quarter century, the Buckeyes are tasked with replacing their entire D-line.

Spence, along with Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett, are aiding in the rebuilding of Ohio State’s line. The goal is to have little drop off from last season’s unit that ranked 14th nationally in rush defense and second in total defense for the month of November. Carrying the mantle is the gifted sophomore from Harrisburg, Pa.

“I would know pretty much what I was doing, but if somebody changed the call right before the play, then I wouldn’t know what was going on.”

“I think it’s a process,” defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. “I try to tell all our guys that are younger, first- or second-year guys, this is a process. It’s tough. I think they come from really, really successful high school careers and it doesn't happen overnight.

“You have to gain the confidence of your players and coaches to go out there and play. Every time (Spence) goes out there, we know he’s going to play hard. We just hope that his development continues and that role can expand a little bit.”

The likes of Bill Willis, Jim Marshall, Jim Stillwagon, Van DeCree and “Big Daddy” Dan Wilkinson have called the Ohio State defensive line home, stalking opposing offensive linemen, quarterbacks and running backs. But the gold standard remains Spence’s own position coach.

Vrabel still holds school records for sacks in a career with 36 and tackles for loss with 66. Spence would like to replicate the havoc Vrabel induced on Big Ten defenses in the ‘90s. 

Developing his raw skills into a bona fide nightmare for other teams is the path Spence is currently on. For now, it’s his own team that is terrified. An offseason filled with workouts – Spence added 15 pounds of muscle to an already impressive 6-foot-3 frame – and absorbing the playbook has paid instant dividends.

“I know more about schemes and where other people are going,” Spence said. “That messed me up a lot last year. I would know pretty much what I was doing, but if somebody changed the call right before the play, then I wouldn’t know what was going on.”

Problem solved. Spence has been so effective that it’s caused the Buckeyes’ O-line to become frustrated and left Warinner flustered. The term “unblockable” is thrown around loosely in the college football lexicon, but it can be taken in a literal sense in this case.

The Noah Spence File

“They are one of the top offensive lines in the country," Bennett said. “When you go against talent like that every day you are going to get better as a whole group. That’s experience a lot of D-lines are not going to get.”

Which better paints the picture of the potential greatness Spence exhibits. Coming off the edge, he has faced little resistance throughout the spring. There have sacks of Miller, including a highly publicized takedown that left the quarterback shaken up, as well as tackles for loss on Hyde, Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and whoever else dared to test Spence’s quickness.

“There's not a day we come out to practice that Noah doesn't get better or he doesn't learn a new technique,” Vrabel said. “Noah’s got a lot of ability, a lot of God-given athletic ability. You blend all of those together and you’ve got a pretty good product.”

But it isn’t finished yet. And Spence is mindful of that.

“I’m still not as good as I want to be,” he said. “I’m learning every day. I’m getting better.”


Comments Show All Comments

Dr. House's picture

this give me a warm fuzzy feeling

dubjayfootball90's picture

He is going to be a world beater off the edge throughout his career man. His potential is scary high and he should have an amazing career in S&G. That being said, I am very excited to see him play, along with the rest of the Dline, I really do like them all and can't wait to see how they mesh after the absence of the seniors.

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

USMC11917's picture

Man, I want to believe this so badly but too many times in years past we have hyped our defensive line up to be something it could never live up to. I hope that isn't the case this time. I am optimistic and hopefully not perceived as being too pessimistic.

cinserious's picture

So far, its mostly Spence being hyped up and after only one yr and a continually steeper trajectory, its warrented.

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

BuddhaBuck's picture

Agreed. However, I think we can find greater solace this year (compared to ghosts of Bollman past) whereby we have Coach Warinner and a solid OL - two things that have been absent from recent spring practices. To read about defensive linemen frustrating a more stout, experienced group is refreshing. I'd much rather read about this than say, Hankins and Simon dominating the Swiss cheese that Urban was cutting into last Spring.

Don't text while driving.

ArizonaBuckeye's picture

Well, considering Mewhort's arguably our best O-linemen and Spence is continually giving him problems, I'd say Noah will be a force next year. I feel Washington will resemble a Hankins esk, type of productivity he had his Sophomore year which was arguably better than his Junior year.
My biggest questions remain with Bennett keeping healthy, Moore/Hale stepping up, and Schutt showing us why he was such a highly touted recruit. Or maybe the 340 lb Chris Carter using that size for something other than 3rd string. I think if these guys step up we have a formidable D-line next year. If they don't, it'll be a long year for the D, because the part of the front seven I'm most concerned with is the LB core.

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

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Cannot wait to watch Spence and Washington these next couple of years. Both incredibly hard workers and both ooze talent. 

USMC11917's picture

I'm going to throw Bosa on there with you too.

buckguyfan1's picture

Unleash the Beast!!!


Buckeye06's picture

I'll throw this back up here; I put it up last year and it's kind of scary to think people thought he could be the #1 overall pick in a couple/few years

Unky Buck's picture

Not sure why they left him off, but Clowney is absent from that list. I know it's a year old and all, but he was incredibly highly thought of as a freshman already. If he comes out next year, which I think we all know is highly likely, he will be without a doubt the top player on everyone's board. Doesn't necessarily mean #1 overall as sometimes need is picked over talent, but it's a list for those to be considered and he has to certainly be considered.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

cinserious's picture

I don't see anybody passing over Clowney, reguardless of need. In the NFL with contracts and such, there is always a 'need'.

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

MN Buckeye's picture

I think Spence is developing into his potential.  The only disturbing thing about the article is that idiot Kalis of ttun is one of the three from the same class mentioned.  He has yet to show up.

Buckabroad's picture

"But if the spring is any indication, another Buckeye may be spending a lot of time in the backfield." Gave me the chills.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

PA Buckeye's picture

I gotta love a fellow Pennsylvanian Buckeye. Go Noah. Follow in the footsteps of Eddie George... not so much Terrelle...

Hell with the lid off

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Although the way he left wasn't great, I will always remember fondly TP's time at Ohio State.  No national titles, but Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl wins are awesome (I was at both so I know they actually took place despite what the books say).

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

cinserious's picture

3 and done!

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

buckguyfan1's picture

Agreed... we will reload and carry on!

Jugdish's picture

I think Spence will stay for his senior year. That degree and his family and be the driving influence to stay. I think Washington is 3 and done though.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

FitzBuck's picture

Can we please start calling him the Kraken.  
I want to shout Unleash the Kraken!!!!!

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Jason Priestas's picture

Just an opportunity for me to post my favorite GIF of all time...

Hovenaut's picture

Obligatory +1 for awesomeness.

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

Good D-Line play is so important.
Our linebackers our eager as hell (look at how hard Brutus got hit.) but other than Shazier they are 'untested'. I think they will improve exponentially as the year progresses but in April.......eh.
If Spence can be a force on the edge it buys those linebackers time. Time to get better.  Mr. Boren was able to do a great job as a linebacker in part because he had Simon and Hankins clogging things in front of him.
D-Line play matters. Great article.

Q: What is the difference between the Michigan Football Team and a bag of crap. A: The Bag.

Tanner's picture

Love it
Now please do not hit #5 in the black jersey ever again k thx

Run_Fido_Run's picture

On paper, this looks like the most athletically-gifted defensive line in particular and defense in general the Buckeyes have ever fielded.
That doesn't mean that it will be a dominant defense on the field, because of all the other factors that determine greatness, but I am very excited about the upside potential of these kids!
Plus, if the offense is as prolific as we hope/expect, the Buckeyes might almost be just as well served by a dynamic, play-making, opportunistic defense that gives up some plays here and there, as it would by a conservative but lockdown defense.
No matter, it'll be fun to watch . . .

shadybuck's picture

i just realized that i made a reference to touched: the jerry sandusky story in the skully this morning, and then this is the next post. funny coincidence.
coincidentally unblockable could also be the title of the jerry sandusky story lol

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Despite my excitement, I'm going to have to file this and a lot of the other hype surrounding this team in the "things to believe when I see them" manila folder.

Read my entire screen name....

Squirrel Master's picture

I would agree with some that we have drooled over the Dline potential in years past but those players were really good players that ended up being leaders for the line. Spence has been an elite prospect from the beginning and despite previous lack of production from other 5* players, Spence hasn't shown any doubt that he was correctly labeled. To have the expectation that he will get at least double digit sacks I don't think is unreasonable. Being the next Mike Vrabel might be a bit much though.
Plus, in past DL greats (Simon, Heyward, Gholston), they had decent players opposite of them but none of them had someone like Adolphus! "the next Clowney" is a line thrown around a lot lately with a few prospects but Washington could very easily be that. I wouldn't want to put that label on him but I don't think I know of a DE who has the same size, frame, speed and killer instinct that Washington shares with Clowney.
Maybe Mario Williams in the NFL but he came in with some doubt himself. Clowney is without doubt the future #1 pick next year and I think the same could be said about either Washington or Spence the year after.
We shall see but I am reasonably confident that this line will look very different than lines past. As great as they were last year, this line is built with 10X the speed!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

dmurder's picture

With a few cupcakes early on and weak big ten this year I won't be surprised to see him dominant opposing offensive lines. Question is who comes off the other side and benefits from him getting double-teamed?

I for one believe the hype and think spence will be a household name by the time big ten games start.

We haven't had a speed guy in awhile.

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

bodast67's picture

Noah "Stormbringer" Spence has a nice ring to it.




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

BuddhaBuck's picture

Noah "Supernova" Spence?

Don't text while driving.

buckguyfan1's picture

"I Noah You Can't Block Me Spence" 

bodast67's picture

I wanted to play off the Noah's Ark theme with "Stormbringer", but all of these are good...




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

Hovenaut's picture

My sister and brother-in-law live outside Harrisburg, Pa, he's an assistant coach at a smaller high school, but saw Spence up close at Bishop McDevitt a few times.

Being a Penn State fan, he was doubly pissed when Urban locked up Noah's commitment, though there wasn't much shock over him not really considering Penn State during their mess. He was a big fish in a big football market, pretty evident he was going beyond Pennsylvania to an elite program.

With the talent on the line around him, and the secondary locking down coverage behind him, I expect big things from Noah Spence from the start. Going to be great to watch.

BrewstersMillions's picture

He's going to murder the Big Ten this year. Simple as that. I DO hope he has a lot of blood to give though, there's still that lingering threat of blood on the field....Him and Diesel are going to be a great tandem this year. Anyone fortunate enough to play on the defensive front with them will be benefactors of two soon-to-be-superstars.
This OSU defensive line is going to be absolutely terrifying for years to come.

MN Buckeye's picture

+1 for the 'blood on the field' reference!

lippertini's picture

Bennett is also underrated, bet he'll be in the backfield quite a bit this year, too.  Gonna be fun!

stevebelliseeya's picture

The day the music died at Penn State...

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

hcazualcc's picture

seems premature to call someone unblockable who's registered 1 sack so far...although it's nice to look forward to what he may be

Hovenaut's picture

Agree.....we need to see it this fall.

But Jack Mewhort's assessment sure sounds convincing.

rdubs's picture

Imagine him coming with a blitz by Shazier that is a lot of speed off the edge.  Not sure if it would be better to send them from the same side or opposite sides, but either way that QB will be trying to fire it off quickly.

d1145fresh's picture

The best part of this story for me is how, IMO the better the defensive line the better the linebackers can play. If Spence and Washington require double teams then it will free up a linebacker to make a tackle. As long as the linebacker can make the play you are going to be forced into a lot of 3rd and longs which means it is sack lunch time. 

Dougger's picture

go get you some big man

I like football

Unky Buck's picture

It seems like a comma should be in there...

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Earle's picture

Hey, let's not judge...

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Unky Buck's picture

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Earle's picture

No, not at all!

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Dougger's picture

haha no no! I didn't want the comma there, anyway!!!

I like football

Hovenaut's picture

+1 for sharing, good sir.

Or sharing good, sir.

Ahh Saturday's picture

Agree with those above urging cautious optimism, but I can't help thinking of Von Miller when people start talking about Spence. 

Buckeyejason's picture

With all the hype..anything less than 10 sacks this year will be a disappointment. I have faith he will deliver though!


cinserious's picture

10 sacks would be nice, but Spence will undoubtedly have alot of attention on him from opposing offenses. It all depends on how well the rest of the D-line performs. Speaking of sacks, I could go for a crave case right about now....... this cup of ramen suddenly isn't so appealing.

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

chirobuck's picture

I'm just as excited as the next guy about spence and washington but the guy who is going to come out and terrorize offenses next year is going to be Bennett.....hes going to have the break out year he should have had last year had he not been hampered with a nagging muscle pull.....by the end of the season when he was finally healthy he was outstanding......esp against TTUN, this season we will get to see a full season of that!!! 


^ best post ever ^

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

You can just feel the upcoming ass kicking this defense is going to hand out - it is going to be very fun to watch!  For f#$% sake, they completely laid out Brutus!!!  It will be epic!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

3technique's picture

He is the reason I cannot wait to go to the game this saturday. He has an amazing first step! Coach Vrabel has got to be excited! Washington is a freak! Bosa is a freak! This Dline will terrorize people! I think Shutt is one of the better interior linemen I have seen. I also think if Bennett stays healthy he will have an incredible year too! Whomever is not double teamed will feast on the rest of the Big Ten....

captain obvious's picture

1st Team All American
Book It

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me

osubuckeye4life's picture

I can't wait to see him unleashed this fall.