Washington Moves Inside, but Continues His Assault on the Backfield

By Kyle Rowland on April 10, 2014 at 9:15a

In high school and during a breakout freshman season at Ohio State, Adolphus Washington became known as a speed-rushing defensive end. So it’s only natural that he’ll move to the interior after an injury-plagued sophomore season gave way to the emergence of Joey Bosa.

But Washington is not upset with the change. There was nervousness at first, which gave way to comfort. As spring practice concludes Saturday, he’s content with having “defensive tackle” next to his name.

“Now that I’ve got the whole of it, it’s whatever,” Washington said. “I’m just going to go out there and play.”

The one worry is double teams. It’s something Washington didn’t experience when he was coming off the edge. Fellow interior lineman Michael Bennett has given some lessons on how to deal with the wall of resistance. Bennett instructed Washington to get low and fire off the ball. Simple as that.

It takes grit to move inside where interaction with hulking offensive linemen is a regular occurrence. A cat and mouse game can ensue, with the victor needing to strike first. But when one is in the three technique staring at a double team, it presents a fresh set of challenges.

“I’ve been doing really good with it this spring, especially going against guys like Pat Elflein and Antonio Underwood,” Washington said. “If I can do it against them, I know I can do it pretty much against anybody.”

New defensive line coach Larry Johnson agrees with Washington’s self-assessment. The skill set, at a nimble 6-foot-4, 288 pounds, is one that can create havoc for opposing lines.

“That’s big enough to play inside,” Johnson said. “It’s going to give you a different edge on the inside. That’s why I’m excited about him.”

Washington’s already displayed a level of disruption. He missed two games last season and spent time at two different positions. Still, he was able to record 36 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks at less than full health.

“He’s got great hips and can rush the passer. So there should be some great things coming from him.”– Larry Johnson

Replicating those stats becomes paramount for Ohio State’s reconfigured defensive line. The starters and accompanying depth form the strongest unit on the team. In a season when the offense is reloading, the defense’s play becomes more pronounced. A position change could make Washington stick out like a highlighter between No. 2 pencils. But teammates and coaches haven’t noticed a steep learning curve.

It might have something to do with Washington’s well-conditioned body and never-quit attitude. Playing at 100 percent, he’s flashed the dynamic skills that fans fell in love with two years ago. The double teams that presented caution have been pushed aside with brute strength. Bennett’s witnessed a player who’s naturally it into the position. There’s no square peg and round hole.

“Guys have really adapted and changed,” Bennett said. “We’re getting after the ball, we’re running to the ball-carrier. I’m really excited for where we’re going to be. We’re a lot better than we were last spring.”

And with such talent, opponents must decide which linemen they want to limit. The answer isn’t all of them, leaving open the possibility for Washington, Bennett, Bosa or Noah Spence to face little resistance en route to the backfield.

“We’re trying to create some havoc in the backfield,” junior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt said.

The rise in numbers and adequate depth has Johnson eager to see it translate in the fall.  

“I’ve been really excited for all these guys,” he said. “Adolphus has done a really good job for us. He’s worked really hard. He really has. We moved him inside because of the pass rush ability. He’s playing the run real nice.”

The same speed that made Washington a gifted edge rusher is contributing to his transition as a tackle. He’s proven his versatility can be an asset for Ohio State. The ensuing confidence caused a spike in Washington’s production. Johnson is the proud pupil with confirmation that the switch is paying off.

“He’s got great hips and can rush the passer,” Johnson said. “So there should be some great things coming from him.”

Said Washington: “We want to be the best D-line in the country, so we’re going to do what he says. If playing fast is what he wants, then that’s what we’re going to do.”


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye06's picture

Is there a worry that we are getting to "light" inside?  Bennett and Diesel are not huge guys for DTs.  They are big enough, as Johnson says, but if we run into a team, like Wisky for example, who wants to pound the ball inside, do we need to put some more meat in there more often (like Schutt or Carter??)

But in a base, this group of 4 sounds like it could be the absolute best in the country.  I think every one of the 4 was top 5 at his position in his respective year.  Could be a monster year (and to think that only one of them leaves this year, potentially being replaced by Schutt, another top 5 guy at DT).  The depth will be the key, and we have a lot of guys who have taken meaningful snaps, and so many new guys who haven't taken snaps that I legit think we could go 10 deep this fall at the position often





+6 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

Suh wasn't much bigger than Washington when he was at Nebraska, and he was one of the most dominant DTs I can recall watching.  288, like LJ says, is big enough to play the position provided that you have the speed, agility, and technique to make up for it.  If not, you're gonna get pushed around.

+4 HS
d5k's picture

Washington and Bennett both work fine as 3 techniques, but Bennett is certainly undersized at the nose.  That said, we play a 1-gap scheme so we don't need a 350lb nose.

Defend Youngstown's picture

I think it's generally much less of a problem with a base 4-3 defense like we are going to be playing this year. If you really need beef out there, Carter and Schutt have already proven themselves and are in the rotation.

teakwood's picture

hey we weren't to light last year, and Hale only started for part of the season.  I never saw our D-line get pushed around.  They might have been a step slow getting to the passer because the corners were 10yds off but(imagine if we would have lead the nation in sacks if the coverage was a bit tighter or the corners disrupted the receivers for an extra step or two), I don't remember getting run or pushed around.

Buckeye06's picture

I must recall a different D-line because there were times at the end of last year, specifically against MSU and even Michigan (who couldn't run the ball on anyone), that guys were having success.  Langford averaged 5+ yards a carry in the B1GCG, and went over 120 yards. 

We were light last year, but most teams we played couldn't exploit it.  Against Wisky we put 8-9 guys in the box to stop them, and had great success. 

GVerrilli92's picture

You must recall a different line, or you're relying on stats over tape.

All of the success that any team had running the ball on us last year came from misdirection and delayed handoff-type stuff. Yeah, *ichigan gained some yards on us, but they also shat out a brand new playbook just for that game. They didn't line up and run a conventional play for 4 quarters, and it took our D-line completely out of the game.

MSU employed the same tactics. But they were actually talented, so they could gain yardage more conventionally. Dantonio saw *ichigan expose us for our inability to play well-leveraged defense. And so they attacked with constant misdirection and rollout PA. The gameplan was to attack the back 7 100% and avoid the front 4 100%. They did sacrifice a couple of runs into the teeth of our line, but that was to suck the safeties and LBs up when it mattered. Such has been part of Bollman's gameplan all along, and it's worked extremely well with a dominant D that forces close games.

And finally, Clemson's entire offensive identity just so happened TO BE this synthesis of misdirection and forward-handoff passing. We didn't stand a chance. There's little doubt in my mind that we are as talented as Clemson, and probably much more so on defense. But it was sort of like what happens in basketball when a great shooting team is pitted against a great zone defense. The zone D can be damn good but it won't stop shots from falling. (Now why we were unable to adjust is another matter entirely)

We found ourselves in a vicious negative cycle in the back 7 last year. There were players who lacked confidence being targeted often, losing often, losing even more confidence, and as a result being targeted even MORE often. Meyer talked about our unit-strength because of how our system was setup. When one player would consistently fail to do his job, it let the offense off the hook and made the other 10 defensive players' efforts obsolete.

Just wait until this new back 7 gets some confidence and creates a positive success-cycle. Because if we can make offenses even slightly hesitant to pass the ball, then this D-line will have a chance to break NCAA records. Sorry about the length, I'm bored in my legal aspects of sport class down here in Chapel Hill.

I got a gray kitty, white kitty, tabby too, and a little orange guy who puts snakes in my shoes. Got mad MC skills, that leave ya struck, and I roll with my kitties and I'm hard as f*ck.

+2 HS
southbymidwest's picture

Ross Fulton, what are you doing down in Chapel Hill? Kidding. Nice breakdown for those of us who don't necessarily get x's and o's, but can understand this. Nice points on the psychological issues that lurked and eventually bit the defense in the behind later in the season.

RedQueenRace's picture

Langford had over 120 yards but I'm pretty sure about 60 of them came on 2 carries.  One of them (his longest, IIRC) came very late in the 4th quarter. MSU did not pound the ball at the D-Line successfully at all.

pdan46's picture

I believe that, to a reasonable degree, agility trumps size.  So, Washington and Bennett should be fine and could be dominant.  

I believe that our DL has to go about 10 deep to be considered the top DL in the country.  And, I think that it will go that deep and will be the top DL. 

BDobina's picture

Our D- Line is absolutely loaded. There is no reason we shouldn't be the best in the country.

OSUFlash's picture

Could be college's version of the Steel Curtain.


RunEddieRun1983's picture

His size doesn't concern me at all.  I like it, when you couple it with the speed he brings to the position.  He's going to be a force, MY GOD BRING ME FOOTBALL ALREADY!  O-H!

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

stevebelliseeya's picture

This year should be the coming out party (part deaux) for Diesel Washington. So excited to see all of these guys excel when we have an adequate DB and LB corp to help these guys have more time to disrupt. 

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

buckeyeEddie27's picture

What I'm really excited about as far as our d-line goes, is that they're adaptable.  If we need more beef, load up Carter and Schutt.  Need speed and explosion?  Here's Diesel Wash.    They're gonna be so nasty.

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

+2 HS
rekrul's picture

Hey are those Diesel Wash jeans that you are wearing???

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

+2 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Thanks again Kyle.  Looks like LJ is bringing it.  Washington should be a force and it sounds like the line will be motoring all the time.  I just wish we didn't have to play Navy first, I don't want anyone hurt by the cheap crack back blocks.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

I am pretty stoked at the idea, when we play with four down lineman, of Bosa, Spence, Washington, and Bennett. That is pretty damn scary. Add in guys like Schutt, Marcus, Lewis, etc. and they are pretty deep, talented, and quick.

Look at that top 4 and tell me, who are you going to double? Pick your poison Buckeye opponents!

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+2 HS
d1145fresh's picture

Spence, Bosa, Washington and Bennett is a crazy front four. Not to mention there are beast that come in to replace them. The Defense could be special this year.

HattanBuck85's picture

I love the fact that we are moving our DEs inside (which includes Tracy Sprinkle & incoming freshman Dylan Thompson). Adds quickness to the line. Look what Bennett was able to do after switching over to DT- he was a beast!  If Diesel can stay healthy, he can be even better. F@cking love it!

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." - Woody Hayes

bignut2017's picture

If our defensive line plays the way that they are clearly capable I fully expect for this team to break the all time sack record at Ohio state

"Championships aren't won on Saturdays, they're won on Tuesdays in August" Kerry Coombs

+1 HS
Zimmy07's picture

The record is 47 (2000 & 1998).  That's a lot.  Possible, though.

blufftonbuck's picture

Cannot wait for the use of rotation on line.  The fact I can name 12 off the top of my head is crazy.  Bennett, Washington, Bosa, Spence, Marcus, Miller, Lewis, Schutt, Carter, Hill, Munger, Sprinkle.

+2 HS
Horvath22's picture

Leading up to the NC game in 2007, nearly everybody was saying that Florida's DL was too light, and that we would just push them right down the field. How did that work out?

+9 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

If they are who I hope they are, it's been since Finkes, Vrabel, Fickell, and Garnett that the front four has been so good at all four starting positions.

2002 is close, but those 1994-1996 OSU DLines were AWESOME, at least at the collegiate level. You know, these guys -

 Garnett, LB Greg Bellisari, Vrabel, Finkes


"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+4 HS
Hovenaut's picture

That was a great unit - I still have to go with Anderson, Scott, Peterson and The Fresh Prince from 2002 though:


+2 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Is that Dustin Fox in press coverage? Do we know what this is anymore?

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+4 HS
Hovenaut's picture


+1 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I think the biggest change for our d-line is Vrabel to Johnson.  I know Vrabel played d-line at OSU but he mainly played LB in the pros.  Johnson is a true d-line coach and has been working with defensive linemen for a long time.  I think that change will be key.  I also like the thought of rotating more frequently.  I felt Marcus didn't get enough snaps last year.  Looking like he might not too many this coming year if he doesn't handle his off the field issues.  

+1 HS
bignut2017's picture

My prediction for each players sack total

Spence: 11.5 (only 12 games)

Bosa: 9 (double teamed a lot)

Bennet: 7 (this guy is my wild card)

Washington: 6.5 (big presence in run game)

Perry: 5

Mcmillan: 4.5 (earns playing time late)

10-14 more sacks from role players

"Championships aren't won on Saturdays, they're won on Tuesdays in August" Kerry Coombs

carton's picture

And all these excitement about improved secondaries,

add few more coverage sacks on top of that.

Yes, coverage sacks.

CGroverL's picture

There shouldn't be any worries about being too light...after all, no one seemed to be worried when Washington was a freshman and just weeks after becoming a Buckeye was reported as weighing 290. There aren't too many lightning quick 290 pound DE's and that was what the Buckeyes were going to have. He won't always be "head to head" with a guard, either. The overall speed and quickness that the unit has just complements their overall strength. None of these guys are going to get pushed around and all of them just happen to have "the best of both worlds". Hankins was a monster...but that size and strength compromised his overall speed which is VERY NICE to have. We just haven't had a DL that had the size (they are big, contrary to popular belief...it doesn't take 310 pounds to be big), strength, and speed like these guys have. I'm not worried at all and the Big Ten is where 300+ pound corn fed offensive linemen find their homes.

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.