Amusing Bennett Focused on Pressuring Opponents

By Kyle Rowland on July 28, 2014 at 6:30p

CHICAGO – It’s what every player dreams of. Senior year, national championship hopes, individual accolades. But for Michael Bennett, all of it comes with less playing time.


That’s right, the Ohio State defensive lineman will play fewer snaps this season. It’s all part of Larry Johnson’s vision of having the deepest, freshest line in the Big Ten. The longtime Penn State assistant brought his Nittany Lion philosophy, which preaches rotation, to Columbus.

“I love it,” Bennett said Monday at Big Ten Media Days. His answer came equipped with a chuckle.

“I think it’s a great idea. You look at great teams, you see them go far, they’re rotating D-linemen again and again and again. It creates the ability for guys to play 50 snaps at 100 percent, rather than 90 at 60 percent. That’s when you get really disruptive plays. It also allows guys to last longer into the season. My body will be fresher, and I can still play at maximum potential.”

Under Mike Vrabel’s tutelage, the Buckeyes were disrupting. But they also tired as the season progressed. Instead of being eight deep or more – Johnson’s goal – Ohio State only had six reliable defensive linemen. It meant Bennett and others sometimes played 90 snaps a game. Johnson wants that number closer to 50 in 2014.

“You can’t play 70 plays full speed,” Johnson said during spring drills. “You can play 40 or 50 plays full speed and get other guys to come play 20 plays full speed, and that’s what we’d like to do.”

Bennett, who’s slid over to nose guard, is on board, and it’s taught him to be unselfish. Bennett and Joey Bosa admitted there were instances where fatigue bogged down the line last season. Health is also a concern, especially in the gritty Big Ten, where November means heightened aches and pains.

It took all of three games last year for Bennett to get dinged and realize the amount of plays could be an issue as the season progressed. Excuses aren’t his nature, but Bennett was adamant in saying the line was beaten down the final month of the season.

“People don’t understand how bad it was,” he said.

If the defensive line stays healthy in 2014, the amount of production they can achieve soars. The emergence of the line – if you can call it that – is not unexpected.

The unit was overshadowed at times last season by a shaky back seven – vulnerable linebackers and below average secondary. It resulted in 164 points allowed in the season’s final three games. But along the way, Ohio State recorded a Big Ten-best 42 sacks.

The belief among the defensive line is last season was the beginning of large-scale dominance.

“Guys are really starting to understand we can be the best D-line [in the country],” Bennett said. “We have to continue to work for it and not just think we’re the best. We have to prove it every single game.

“We’re going to be aggressive and disruptive. We’re going to shoot through holes and blow everything up in the backfield.”

Establishing depth is project No. 1. Without it, Johnson can’t run the system he wants and the defensive line will face another year of weariness. When games are won in the trenches – a reality coaches touched on throughout Monday’s interviews – being able to trot out new players is an asset.

Ohio State’s expanded on its search for a handful of backups who will provide depth. Candidates were found scattered about the roster, with the summer months serving as a precursor to fall competition.

“It’s difficult, but at Ohio State, we have a good amount of depth,” Bennett said. “Intrinsically, that’s what we want – we recruit a ton of D-linemen, so we have guys to lean back on. Coach Johnson’s had to build up the young guys. A big part is confidence. They have to understand they’re here to play and have the ability to play. We need them to be ready.”

Among the headliners are Tommy Schutt and Donovan Munger.

“Tommy Schutt’s going to be an integral part of our defense,” Bennett said. “He could probably start anywhere else in the country, and he could be a starter here any other year. The kid is extremely athletic, very strong, very smart. He’s pushing me for a position, and I don’t like it. Tommy is right on my heels. It’s good to see him coming up.”

Value in Bennett exists on and off the field. He’s a mercurial thinker who almost went to Northwestern on a pre-med track. Bennett enjoys watching documentaries in his spare time – sometimes for eight hours a day – and annoying his roommates. His sharp wit and intelligence is often found in his Twitter posts. His profile uses a Russian/Canadian translation: Mikail Benoit, an alter ego of sorts.

It’s a nickname given to Bennett from strength coach Mickey Marotti. Bennett said he needed something other than NotMikeBennett. Problem solved.

On the field, he’s anything but anonymous. Bennett is a pre-season All-American and rated as one of the top defensive tackle prospects for next May’s NFL Draft. He’s been on an upward trajectory since he first stepped foot on Ohio State’s campus.

As a freshman, Bennett finished with 17 tackles and five tackles for loss, second most on the team. Injuries shortened his sophomore season to eight mediocre games, but he rebounded in 2013 with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

“Last year I had a lot to prove,” Bennett said. “This year I still think I have something to prove, but I was a no-name last year. I had to be the leader of the defensive line, and that was pretty stressful. You have to earn respect on the football field. Guy’s follow playmakers. This year, I think it’s a little bit easier because, to my teammates and my coaches, I’ve proven myself and they trust me. It takes a load off.”

There are chances he’ll take on even more responsibility.

A preview of who might be captains is based on the media day attendees. For 2014, that list includes Bennett, Braxton Miller and Jeff Heuerman. It only took a month on the job for Johnson to categorize Bennett as a special leader.

“When he opens his mouth, guys are listening to him. That’s the kind of leadership you want.” Johnson said.

For Bennett, the admiration from teammates is humbling.

“The title [of captain] isn’t necessarily as important as what it means because our team votes on it,” he said. “It would mean a lot to me that the guys think I’m a captain and a leader on the team. I do care that my teammate respect me and look up to me.”

Well, there is the bad blood that exists between Bennett and Miller, though.

“I don’t like Mike,” Miller said. “I wear the black jersey and he gets mad, because when he breaks through the O-line, he wants to tackle me and grab my jersey.”

“No, he’s good,” Miller said, laughing. “I think he’s a black belt, so he uses his hands really well.”

Said Bennett: “In games, people aren’t wearing black jerseys. I try and be nice about it, but I have to practice too. I’ll give him a shoulder here and there to let him know.”

If you’re playing fewer snaps, you have to get your hits in on the quarterback somehow. 


Comments Show All Comments

Tater_Schroeder's picture

My greatest anticipation for this defensive line is assisting the secondary with their new press coverage. Give the quarterback too much time and he can beat it. Force him to throw immediately, and our defensive backs have all the guys covered.

I'm very excited to see this new defense in action!


+4 HS
AndyVance's picture

The unit was overshadowed at times last season by a shaky back seven – vulnerable linebackers and below average secondary. It resulted in 164 points allowed in the season’s final three games. But along the way, Ohio State recorded a Big Ten-best 42 sacks.

If that isn't a real-life example of cognitive dissonance, I don't know what is... How these two things can be true of the same team would be baffling had we not seen it with our own eyes.

Also, hearing Bennett talk about "how bad it was" when the D-Line was one of the most dominant units on the field is a true illustration of how Johnson's philosophy is going to pay dividends down the road. If this D-Line can play fresher in the fourth quarter, how much will they improve over last year's performance? Let that sink in and tell me you're not excited for the season and the Silver Bullets to get here.

+7 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

Find me another defensive lineman who said "intrinsically" at his media days. Love this guy. 

+14 HS
CC's picture

When I read that I had to check to see if it was in quotes.

Groveport Heisman's picture

We good folks. We damn good. Cant wait to see those fresh legs in the middle of a 4th quarter dog fight up in East Lansing or in Indy.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Amen to that.  This team received some preseason love from traditional haters because, well, they don't want egg on their face.

In reality, this team is SCARY good, and may return yet another record-breaking season that eclipses last year's offense on one hand, and returns the defense to a top ten overall defense

Some would say such a jump is nigh on to impossible.

I say it will happen.

Go bet the odds and tell them you've been to the future in a beat up Delorean. 

I like cookies.

Hovenaut's picture

It starts up front, and the front starts with Bennett.

While I have some anxiety about youth and inexperience with some of the other units, I'm just as eager to see what could be a very good year for Bennett and company.

+1 HS
Jbucks's picture

i canrlt wait defensive line has always been a favorite of mine to watch theyre the ones i believe make the biggest difference on the game and with all these players rotating it will allow us to see the emergence of a full unit and give the younger guys a chance to get real in game experience guys like Munger, Hill and Jaylyn Holmes will all get much needed attention. who knows maybe there will be a Bosa esq performance from one of these younger guys, also its about time Schutt gets attention he was a guy i like from the get-go but has been over shadowed. "We dont rebuild we reload" yeah and this is one hell of a way to start the reload nice and easy learning from the best playing against the best competing with the best... CANT WAIT!!!!

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

IGotAWoody's picture

I remember when Tressel had recruited him and got his commitment. He told the story of breaking his arm, I believe it was in the US Army All-American game. He had already been studying medical journals, so when he knew he had broken his arm, he rolled on it using a technique he had read about, to try and set the bone back in place. I knew then that this guy was smart AND tough, and was going to do great things at OSU.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

The unit was overshadowed at times last season by a shaky back seven – vulnerable linebackers and below average secondary. It resulted in 164 points allowed in the season’s final three games

How did you get 164 points allowed? The last 3 regular season games saw the Buckeyes allow 35 to Illinois, 14 to Indiana and 41 to Mich*lin.  Total 90 points.

If you count The Game, B1GCG and Orange Bowl, OSU yielded 41,  34 and 40, totaling 105.

Counting the last 5 games the total is 164.  There's a big difference between allowing 54 pts/game vs 32.8.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+4 HS
Colerainbuck's picture

While we're correcting the addition.....41 + 34+ 40 = 115....

+1 HS
CTBuckeye's picture

Seems to have a good sense of humor too...really like this guy:

"Because we couldn't go for three"

+8 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

It's all I can do to keep myself from exploding!!!!!!!!!!! Aug 30th needs to get here in a hurry. I can't remember the last time I was this excited for the season to start.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

nfischer's picture

I was almost exactly a year ago.

+2 HS
Jabba the Hoke's picture

If I recall, we were all hyped up about a kid named Dontre.

+1 HS
O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Bennett giving a shout out to Donovan Munger has me pumped. A lot of that credit obviously goes to Donovan for staying involved, but I'm sure Coach Johnson has been a source of great motivation for our younger players. Fresh legs in the 4th quarter, here we come.

GOOMBAY's picture

It creates the ability for guys to play 50 snaps at 100 percent, rather than 90 at 60 percent. 

I was told no math would be involved!

bbb's picture

This is the joke people here say when they see more than one number. It's funny every time

-1 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

Bennett is a top notch guy, great representative of the team.

Is it just me or do we have 6 D-linemen who would start anywhere else in the country?

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.

buckskin's picture

Like the fact that Bennett is not an excuse maker, but he did admit the D-Line was getting worn out by season's end.  I'm looking forward to more rotation and fresh legs in the trenches this year.  Also interesting to hear Bosa echoing his statements regarding fatigue towards the end of the year.  Tell you what, Bosa is one hell of a ball player if he damn near dominated that MSU title game while being tired and dinged up. 

+1 HS
shaggybuckeye's picture

Tell you what, Bosa is one hell of a ball player if he damn near dominated that MSU title game while being tired and dinged up. 

Not to mention the Bowl game where he was basically playing on one foot. I can't think of any other true freshman to EVER have so much impact on the defensive line in all of college football as Bosa did last season.  This d-line is going to be friggin crazy good so long as the injury bug stays away.

Shangheyed's picture

Let the Dline Loose!  Lead with your strongest suit... the greatness of the DL should help all other Defensive Units.

bakerjon's picture

Bennett will be disruptive, but so will his backup, Tommy Schutt. I'm on record saying he'll have a breakout year and will replace Bennett well next year at that position. I think our DTs are extremely strong with Washington moving inside, now. Everyone is talking about Bosa and Spence, but I think the true strength of the D-line will be inside. 

"You do what I cannot do. I do what you cannot do. Together we do great things"

+1 HS
shaggybuckeye's picture

With Diesel fighting off a nagging groin injury for what seemed to be more than half of last season and Schutt having had an injury of his own(I can't recall when or what it was...) We didn't get to see them in as much action and get as excited about them, but when we did get to see them at 100%... Yeah you might be on to something there.

STL Buckeye's picture

Just think, if Spence doesn't leave early after this year, we will return 3 of the 4 starters on the D Line for the 2015 season, with Schutt coming right in as Bennett's replacement. That will be scary.....but I'll wait on that on just enjoy the dominance we will have this year.

brbrbuckeye's picture

From what I hear, we have 9 guys ready to go at any time on the D-line. You can't wear out a D with that much depth.