Proceeding with Plan B

By Joe Beale on October 9, 2013 at 1:45p
The stare tells you he's all business, and that's bad news for your offense.

Everyone knew it. Almost everyone commented on it. Going into the 2013 season, there was one area where Ohio State had suffered the most losses in terms of personnel, and that was defensive line. Not one starter from last season was returning. It was time to reload, and quickly.

Not to worry, most of us said. There are a bunch of guys that are ready to step up and dominate now that they are going to get their chance to start. You know, guys like Spence, Washington, Schutt, Carter, Hale. The line is stacked, we thought.

Those guys, with the exception of the injured Tommy Schutt, have all played well, but on Saturday the stars in the trenches were two guys that you might not have figured to be huge factors in 2013. I'm talking about Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa.

It shouldn't be too surprising that these two have succeeded; they were, after all, highly regarded prospects coming out of high school. Bennett was part of the class of 2011, and he played pretty well his freshman year, notching 17 tackles and 5 tackles for loss. Bosa is an incoming freshman, ranked in the top 50 players in the nation according to Rivals.

But for some reason it seems surprising that these were the guys who stepped up and created the most problems for Northwestern on Saturday. Something about that sloppy, wet field and the urgency of the contest brought out the best, or maybe the beast, in these two players. A fire has been lit, but what was the catalyst? 

For Michael Bennett, the story is similar to that of guys like Carlos Hyde and Kenny Guiton. Holdovers from the previous coaching staff, they did not initially thrive under the leadership of Urban Meyer. Guiton's turnaround was almost immediate and has been well-publicized. Hyde's story is becoming more public now, but Bennett's has hardly been told. 

After that promising freshman year, he suffered a setback as a sophomore. A groin injury cost him a few games, and even after he got back on the field he seemed to be less than 100%. Bennett registered only 11 tackles in 2012, a total he has already eclipsed in six games this season. He has added to that total 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. 

The physical problems were one thing, but not the only thing. The new coaching staff seemed to detect a deficit of effort on Bennett's part. Meyer called him "nonexistent" and "a liability" when he was in the game. The capstone of the coach's commentary was referring to Bennett as "a no-name guy we were just kind of disappointed in." 

Turn the calendar to a different year, a new season, a new opportunity, and things have turned around. The loss of so many other players at his position seemed to grab Bennett's attention as if to say "now is the time; if you do not take advantage of this opportunity you may never get another." He got the message. He's with the program now.

They left it all out on the field in Evanston.Good defense leads to lots of moments like this one.

Against Wisconsin and Northwestern, when the spotlight was brightest and the competition was the strongest, Bennett has shined. He has shown an ability to beat blocks and get into the backfield that was lacking since the departure of John Simon. The future looks bright for the young man from Centerville.

As for Joey Bosa, he has simply picked up where he left off from high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Why has Bosa's success been a surprise? Because it was supposed to be Adolphus Washington who anchored the defensive line at the Strong End position. But Washington has been bitten by the injury bug, and Bosa has taken advantage of the opportunity.

The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity". In this sense, you could say Joey Bosa is a lucky guy. By all accounts, he worked his tail off in the fall to get ready for the season, anticipating significant playing time. One indication of this is how early he lost his black stripe.

The common denominator for both Bennett and Bosa seems to be that they were motivated by the opportunity to grab playing time in the absence of four departing starters on the defensive line. Bennett's opportunity came sooner because of his experience, and Bosa was the right guy in the right place at the right time. In any case, their emergence has come at the right time for Ohio State, just when great defensive line play can make a huge difference in the outcome of the rest of the season. Thanks for being ready, guys.


Comments Show All Comments

Hovenaut's picture

Well deserved praise for Bennett and Bosa. They've been huge in stepping up on the d-line, which has clearly stepped up as the strongest unit on the defense.

MN Buckeye's picture

The emergence of both has been a surprise, but I think it is a case of maturity. And for Bosa to be starting and excelling as a freshman is just astounding. The transition from high school football, even from a program as outstanding as St. Thomas Aquinas, to B1G football is enormous, so in my mind Bosa is the surprise of the season so far.

doodah_man's picture

Frankly, I just can't understand the mindset where you stand in the shadow of Urban Meyer and say, "This guy doesn't know what he is doing. I am going to do it my way, or the way we have always done it. His program needs to be proven to me." Seriously? 

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

hit_the_couch's picture

Thank goodness Bosa had an uncle or something that played at tOSU. Glad that young man chose to be a Buckeye.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

carence's picture

It's a wonderful thing when you can replace the whole d-line and they perform at the level they are playing.

bodast67's picture




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

Chilimac419's picture

Nice article.   I'm not surprised with the Bennett , bosa or the the rest of the d line.  I'm surprised no one noticed the nw game was like  the bizzaro world , if you look at the box score , it seemed it was flipped    I'm surprised the o isn't as fluid as I wished it to be . I'm surprised that our weakness on d is the db's  on coverage , they're great on run support , but need to wrap up on the tackling   Go bucks. 18-0

saevel25's picture

Two monsters up front, i love it. Can't wait for this D-line to click. Who'd have thought that the weakness for OSU would be its secondary, that's just absurd.

theDuke's picture

great read! thanks Joe.  One guy who also needs to be mentioned (IMO) is Jamaal Marcus.  That guy was a beast last weekend causing all kinds of raucous on the right side of NW's line while Adolphus was out.  He's still a little undersized but makes up for it with sheer effort.  To put it simply, this D line is rollin' hard core and I'd put them up against any other D line in the country.  What a luxury. 


Joe Beale's picture

Very true; Marcus has played well without a lot of notoriety, but he didn't fit my "Plan B" theme. Maybe I'll write something on him during our next off week. BTW, that's a great avatar you've got there. "Fill your hands"

dwcbuckeye's picture

I have to second the call out for Jamal Marcus.  He is not in for many plays, but seems to make the most whenever he is in.  It would be interesting to see a stat that shows the percentage of, say, tackles made divided by number of plays.  Could be sacks, QB hurries, TFLs, etc.  I would be willing to bet, JM has a higher percentage then most.  That line is stacked IMO

chibucks's picture

agreed!  he was pushing his man into the line allowing for his teammates to clean up.  marcus was disruptive with his bull rush.

dwcbuckeye's picture

Quick update to provide some stats:  All numbers through the NW game

  Total Tackles TFL Sacks
Spence 23 6 3
Washington 7 1.5 0
Bennett 12 3.5 2
Bosa 16 4 2
Marcus 11 2 2

Also, Steve Miller has: 7 tackles, 3 TFL, and 2 sacks
Considering how infrequent I see JM play, he is making the most.
Edit:  That was supposed to be a Table.  Looks great on my screen before I hit "Save".  Shows total tackles as the first number, then TFL, then Sacks.  Not sure how to post correctly.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

That's cool, DWCBUCKEYE. As is the case with our D, it may not be real pretty, but it (your stats table) IS effective!
Thanks for doing the research! And, yeah, I'm surprised/impressed with Jamaal's stats...
Bosa is a straight up stud! The D-line is going to own many an offense - hats off to Urbs, Fickell, Withers and Vrabel.
Can't wait to see the lads back in action after this bye week.

theDuke's picture

you can't serve papers on a rat, baby sister. you gotta kill him or let him be. Cheers to all the 11W'sters out there


Oldschoolbuck's picture

While the remake of True Grit wasn't too bad, the original is an all-time classic with a ton of Hollywood legends; chief among them, of course, the Duke!

Joe Beale's picture

Two of my kids can recite that scene almost word for word, starting with "Mister Rat". I was outraged that they left it out of the remake.

Clinger76's picture

After watching the game Saturday, and seeing the progression over six games of BOSA.....he is gonna be a HUGE asset over the next two years!! (hopefully three) Way to go Youngen'!!

"If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats, But if you take no risks, you will earn no victories."


CLINGER76, I agree with you, it is going to be great to watch Bosa grow and strike fear into opposing players! not that he isn't already...

"Woody is a God-fearing man. It's good to know that he's afraid of somebody." --Archie Griffin


Meyer said it just a few weeks ago, the injury to Schutt and Washington's groin issues would have been "devastating" if we didnt have Bennett and Bosa stepping up. I heard Diesel's groin acted up again vs. NW but I know I saw him with a TFL early in the game. How bad is his injury? Or has Bosa simply passed him on the depth chart? THAT is something I never saw happening before the season if that's true.
One thing people keep forgetting about this team, it has only been at 100% for 1 game (Wisconsin). It will never be 100% the rest of the way because we lost Bryant. One could argue Bosa and Bennett have been the MVPs of the entire team thus far.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

MrWiley7's picture

Diesel's ankle got rolled on by one of NW's offensive lineman. That's the reason he did not play much in the 2nd half.

FLAMikey's picture

Interesting how little spring/fall practice actually tells us......

celtic020's picture

Washington was a huge disappointment in Evanston.  He looked very hurt or very confused, or possibly even both...good to see the other guys step up!

MrWiley7's picture

He made plays while he was in. 3 tackles one of which for a loss in 1 half is pretty good.

theDuke's picture

before whatever happened to sideline him, Adolphus was going MANrage on NWs O line.  Even Kirk and Brent were gushing about him, saying he more or less is a man playing with kids and a dominant player.  


dwcbuckeye's picture

What does everybody think about the performance of Joel Hale at the Nose position?  He is the starter, but his stats are basically non existent.  He has 0 solo tackles, 4 assisted, 0.5 TFL and no sacks.  The back up, Carter's stats are much better.
Thoughts on potentially moving Washington in the middle with Bennett and Spence/Bosa on the outside?

celtic020's picture

As an outsider, this probably makes the most sense to me.  Spence and Bosa on the outside with Jamal Marcus up on the edge on blitz packages (he was a beast on Saturday) would be pretty spectacular. 

RedStorm45's picture

Bosa and Washingtong could play inside.  Hale has filled the Garrett Goebel spot - eating up space but not a ton of noise on the stat sheet.  He also is rotated out quite a bit, so I wouldn't read too much into the numbers.

southbay's picture

It will be interesting to see if Carter gets more playing time in the next few weeks.  He seems to be gradually earning the trust of the coaching staff.  Good for him.
It it inherently harder to get solo tackles at Nose?

Oakland Buckeye's picture

Based on depth chart etc... Bosa &  Bennett would be inside - Washington & Spence outside. Hey Spence with 6 sacks in 6 games  aint chopped liver!

D-Day0043's picture

To be fair, NT isn't a glamorous position. Their job is to basically eat up blockers and free up everyone else. Stats don't necessarily reflect the influence a player at that position has on the defense. They can be skewed. Teams can just simply double team them or run away from them. One way to tell how effective the interior lineman are is by the amount of yards gained up the middle. I haven't seen teams gain squat up the middle on this defense. 
As far as moving Washington back in the middle, I think he has the skill set to work as a tackle. Having a lot of great D-lineman is a wonderful thing to have. Being able to rotate fresh bodies in without any drop off in production is a true luxury.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

southbay's picture

Thanks, I think if the NT can stand his ground in the middle it means that the quicker guys in the other positions can make plays.  At least, that seems to be how this D line works.  
With Schutt coming back next week the Buckeyes are in great shape there with Hale and Carter also shouldering the load.  
Then you have Bennett and Ferris at the other tackle position, and talented DEs stacked up like cordwood, with Washington and Bosa also big enough to play inside.  What a group, this team is so loaded on the D line.  And this was supposedly a weakness, possibly, because of inexperience.  

AndyVance's picture

Seeing Bosa and Bennett (and Marcus) in action these past couple of weeks reminded me of my favorite movie, The Blues Brothers, during the chase scene: "The use of excessive force... has been approved."

bodast67's picture

What every team's O-line sees every play...




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

Ahh Saturday's picture

One of my favorite plays of the NU game was the second to last when Bosa sacked Siemian just by looking at him!


Bosa is just a beast, what talent! As for Benntt, just shows never count a Buckeye down.  The right motivation, time and opportunity and it all clicks and for the Buckeye nation, just in time.

"Woody is a God-fearing man. It's good to know that he's afraid of somebody." --Archie Griffin

vitaminB's picture

How refreshing it is to hear a coach refer to a player like that.  In this day and age it's less and less likely that people are called out on their lack of effort.  We are becoming a society of pussyfooters.  I for one am glad that UFM is not one of them. 

Boxley's picture

It is hard to believe that the unit with no starters back, is the strength of the D. Never thought that would be the case. Let's not forget the stellar O-line either, no slouches there.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

AndyVance's picture

Every play starts in the trenches - as long as we continue to win that battle, we'll continue to have a shot to win titles.