Ohio State’s defensive line is going to demolish many an offensive line this season.
The previous line is an assumption, rooted in fact, which sounds like an opinion. But a quick look at the facts supports that opening assumption.
It all starts with the fact that the line was easily Ohio State’s best defensive unit in 2013. Michael Bennett, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Joey Bosa, and others contributed to whatever little success the defense had — in stopping the run, primarily, but also in producing sacks against the passing game, on those rare occasions when an opposing receiver wasn’t immediately open against the Buckeye secondary.
The Buckeye defense produced 42 sacks in 2013 and you could probably count the number of coverage sacks on one finger. OSU opponents lost nearly three full football fields in sack yardage on those 42 sacks. The Buckeyes finished ninth in the nation in rush defense, allowing 109.4 yards per game.
And the entire starting defensive line returns in 2014.
But wait (as they say in cheesy commercials), there’s more.
The Buckeyes also return key backups like Jamal Marcus, Steve Miller and Chris Carter, and former starter Tommy Schutt. Talented youngsters like Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle are coming on. And Purdue transfer Rashad Frazier showed flashes of brilliance in the Spring Game and has some of his teammates talking him up.
On top of all that, Ohio State traded up at defensive line coach. As good a coach and recruiter as Mike Vrabel was, Larry Johnson Sr. has been one of the best in the country at both tasks for several years.
Johnson loves to rotate his defensive linemen to keep them fresh. Vrabel kept his starters on the field for most of the snaps.
Imagine a fresh Bosa, Bennett, Washington and Spence getting after the quarterback late in the fourth quarter on a key third-and-long. Now imagine Chris Ash’s defensive backs playing a tight, aggressive coverage shell behind them, giving the front four even more time to get into the backfield.
And now, if you’re so inclined, give a moment of silence for the offensive lines that a rested OSU front four will destroy this fall under those circumstances, and keep the families of those quarterbacks in your thoughts and prayers.
There will be all kinds of fun defensive line combinations for Johnson to tinker with, and it will start immediately, due to Spence’s suspension for the first two games of the 2014 season. Marcus did a nice job filling in for Spence in the Orange Bowl. But Lewis came on very strong in spring practice. Several youngsters are ready to start staking their claim to playing time and we saw some of that in the Spring Game.
With Johnson coaching, four returning players starting, and a depth which we've not seen in quite some time, the 2014 Buckeye defensive line has a shot at being the best in recent memory.
Let’s take a look at the primary cast of characters (and this doesn’t even take into account incoming freshmen like Jalyn Holmes and Darius Slade):
|8||Noah Spence||6-3||252||JR||Harrisburg, PA|
|34||Jamal Marcus||6-1||243||JR||Durham, NC|
|52||Donovan Munger||6-4||306||SO||Shaker Heights, OH|
|59||Tyquan Lewis||6-3||260||SO||Tarboro, NC|
|63||Michael Bennett||6-2||288||SR||Centerville, OH|
|72||Chris Carter||6-4||342||JR||Cleveland, OH|
|77||Michael Hill||6-2||315||SO||Pendleton, SC|
|88||Steve Miller||6-3||255||SR||Canton, OH|
|90||Tommy Schutt||6-2||300||JR||Glen Ellyn, IL|
|92||Adolphus Washington||6-4||288||JR||Cincinnati, OH|
|93||Tracy Sprinkle||6-3||283||FR||Elyria, OH|
|94||Rashad Frazier||6-4||272||SR||Middletown, OH|
|97||Joey Bosa||6-5||285||SO||Fort Lauderdale, FL|