Urban Meyer Sees Glimpses of the 2006 Gators in Ohio State's Defensive Line

By Kyle Rowland on August 3, 2014 at 6:00a

Every coach in the country talks about the value of a productive defensive line. Urban Meyer had one of the best in the past decade. The 2006 Florida defensive line pounded opponents into submission, overpowering offensive lines and rendering quarterbacks – even Heisman Trophy winners – irrelevant.

Troy Smith and Ohio State found out the hard way.

Meyer believes the 2014 Buckeye D-line could be just as fruitful. The likes of Derrick Harvey, Jarvis Moss and Ray McDonald could evolve into Michael Bennett, Joey Bosa and Noah Spence. For all the chatter about Meyer’s offenses, it’s defense that’s always won him championships.

On that warm night in the desert nearly eight years ago, Smith was battered on seemingly every snap. The overwhelming Heisman winner was sacked five times, recording minus-29 rushing yards and completing just 4 of 14 passes. The 41-14 loss to Florida marked one of the darkest days in Ohio State’s proud history.

During the 2014 season, the Buckeyes hope to inflict similar pain on Michigan State, Michigan and whatever teams they might encounter in the College Football Playoff.

“This [line], if they all perform and stay healthy, could be at that level,” Meyer said, comparing them to the 2006 Gators. “It’s game-changers upfront.”

The unit contains depth and is stockpiled with five-star talent. Bennett, the lone four-star recruit among the starters, thought the defensive line could have been special last season but something was missing. There were issues with playing 80 snaps per game, a trend that’s now gone with Mike Vrabel exiting for Houston.

When asked about Bennett, who’s projected as one of the top D-linemen in the 2015 NFL Draft, Meyer commented about a tale of two seasons. In the first half, Bennett was an All-Big Ten player, Meyer said. But that changed dramatically over the final part of 2014.

“This is his last call. He could be as high as an early draft pick to a free agent,” Meyer said. “That’s up to him.”

Larry Johnson’s constructed top-flight lines for almost 20 years. The name on his hat may have changed, but the coaching technique remains untouched. Turning already high-end players into first-round draft picks is the norm for Johnson. Bennett, Bosa, Spence and others will discover that quality also traveled to Columbus.

“We have a ridiculous amount of weapons,” Bennett said. “Everyone can pass rush, everyone can stop the run.”

Braxton Miller sees the faces of Ohio State’s defensive line on a daily basis. He too is impressed with what the Buckeyes have at their disposal to harass other quarterbacks. There’s a combination of strength, acceleration and fundamentals that offensive coordinators dread.

“We want the fast players,” Meyer said.

Adolphus Washington would quality as fast. He’s also an enigma. The 6-foot-4, 288-pound lineman is moving to the interior this season. There’s an infinite amount of potential, so long as Washington’s health cooperates.

Many of the same prospects that accompany Washington into this season existed one year ago. But a groin injury sidelined him, and Bosa emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country. So Washington now finds himself inside, which enhances the pass rush.

“If he ever gets it all figured out, he could be as good as any I’ve ever had,” Meyer said. “He’s still a work in progress.”

For the first two games, Ohio State will be without Spence’s high-intensity motor due to a failed drug test. The line will miss Spence’s team-high eight sacks, but they’ll also get a sneak peek at who will be reliable when called upon. There’s no secret to Bosa’s worth. As a true freshman, he tallied 44 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

Historic numbers at Ohio State are often among the best in the nation. That notion was true in regard to Bosa’s first-year production.

Together, Bosa, Bennett, Spence and Washington form a quartet not to be taken lightly.


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TMargo's picture

Florida's 2006 D-Line was no doubt dominant. But I'll be plenty happy if this front can mirror our very own 2002-2003 front. For 2 years they constantly shut down the run as good as anyone in the country and consistantly put pressure on the QB with just the front 4.  I'm ok with comparing this d-line to one of our own.  No offense to Florida's 06 squad.  Go Bucks. 

+16 HS
Abe Froman's picture

Great point.  I believe that D-line from '02-'03 had a few pro starts under their collective belts also.  Another thing the D-line will do is create necessary double teams which will free up linebackers to make the stops.  Can't let a tight end go out for a pass?  I guess the field gets smaller.... Those things are all good.

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

+2 HS
Becool12's picture

Well, I want to say that our 2001-2002 line was very good. That Florida line was nothing short of ridiculous. The not only stopped teams, they took over games the way a superstar receiver or running back would. 

+2 HS
ATLBuckeye09's picture

That 2002/2003 DLine was so very dominant. Tim Anderson at nose was the key to it all. But as good as they were they also had superior LBs to clean it all up as well as strong Safety play.  If the LBs & Safeties come to play this year then this DLine will be the best in America!! Go Bucks beat scUM!!

Because they wouldn't let me go for 3!
Woody Hayes 1913-1987

CGroverL's picture

The problem with what you said is this though...you talked about applying pressure to the QB with just the front 4. The 2006 Gator's didn't do it...especially against Ohio State. They blitzed CONSTANTLY. at least one of those blitzes turned into an interception. The Gators had extremely fast LB's that made the DL look like monsters. They weren't. Even their front 4 WAY underachieved in the NFL.

Derrick Harvey was drafted as the #8 pick in the first round. For that he has played 6 years and gotten 92 tackles, 8 sacks, and an interception. Great stats for a few years...he has played SIX though. Ray McDonald was drafted in the 3rd round at #97. In his 7 years he has 134 tackles and 13 sacks. Next on the inside would be Steven Harris. Mr. Harris was undrafted and has no stats to report, really. Last of this gruesome, mean crew is Jarvis Moss who is the 2nd 1st rounder of the players on the DL of those 2006 Gators. After being drafted at #17 overall he has given us a total of 46 tackles and 6 sacks in his 7 years of pro football. They blitzed, they blitzed nearly every play and they got all of the credit. The truth is that they had a solid secondary and some decent LB's with speed that could be called "lightning in a bottle".

Their weak spot was their DL. However, when you have great, fast LB's and exceptional secondary, the DL gets credit for a lot of sacks that were just coverage sacks and sacks that came to the DL from the QB's running away from blitzing LB's. I know. I live in Florida and watched every game of theirs that year. Do about 30 minutes of research and you'll see that I'm not making this up.

Wow...I've gotten more than 10 HS only once. You write some stuff that is 100% untrue and you get 10 HS? I'm not even drunk while writing this time, either. I sincerely apologize for sounding rude...but I really did watch the entire 2006 Florida Gators Football season and I've never seen a team blitz so much in my lifetime of watching football and I'm 41.

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



TMargo's picture

Please reread my post. I was talking about the 2002-2003 ohio state D-Line applying pressure with THEIR front 4.  But thank you for the education on the Florida 2006 defense. 

BeijingBucks's picture

dessert vs. desert...  always a conundrum.  #spellthis

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+1 HS
SilverState's picture

Double S - Strawberry Shortcake. Single S - Sand.

+9 HS
robobuck's picture

You want more dessert than desert, so it gets another 's'.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

+2 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

haha... I was just trying not to be a richard about it.

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+3 HS
ShoeHolder's picture

It is said that you win in the trenches on either side of the ball. With all of the questions marks still out there on defense, a line that is disruptive and that doesn't let our opponents get into a groove will be invaluable. 

I preferred my suspensions out of school. I needed to check in on what those Hollywood Squares were up to.

Blackbeards Delight's picture

I'm fairly convinced at what I will see from the first team d-line "carnage". I'm more interested in the remaining beasts that will be rotated in. With the recent attrition on the d-line, Spence out for the first two, and heavy rotation, I hope we see some less acclaimed gentlemen become household names as well. 

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


+1 HS
Jabba the Hoke's picture

The backups are capable of starting nearly anywhere else in the country. I think we will see some very good production from them.

IGotAWoody's picture

Word. Tommy Schutt would be a starter just about anywhere else.

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

+2 HS

I don't know... Been burned enough times to wait and see what plays out.  Don't mean to be an Eeyore to all the Tigger-like comments thus far, but let's not forget that the concern last summer was how the D-Line was so young and how much we lost from the 2012 team, and that the secondary was the reliable part of the defense... Uh, yea, that turned out well...

I don't think we will be overrated on the D-Line per se, but I'm hopeful of a complete defensive performance and the D showing out when it matters the most - and if we hope to go undefeated, then that is something that will have to be special about this year's defense. 

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Tons of talent in the starters and the 2nd line. They have to be excellent this year for the team to get into the playoffs. Not only stopping the run and pressuring the QB on deep drops, but also playing smart and disciplined on screens and covering side line to side line. 

Read my entire screen name....

+1 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Great point. The DL could be amazing this year and yet get a few less sacks compared to last season - because they're disciplined and staying at home and using "leverage" to suffocate offenses. But also because they're getting off the field faster and less enticing to pass against. 

In other words, a well-rounded stout DL will look most impressive on the scoreboard more than the stay sheet.

+1 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

WARNING: Offensive lines beware the second wave is just as good, has fresh legs and loves raw meat...... Coach Johnson & Mickey

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

+1 HS
TobyMagic's picture

They've been talking up this rotation of D linemen which sounds like a logical way to promote production and health. My only concern is how you plan on doing this with up tempo offenses setting even loftier (number of plays) goals annually.

I don't doubt LJ and defensive staff can do it, I guess I'm just excited to see it in action.

+1 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good question/point. Maybe they'll have to rotate more by series than x-# of downs. Now, if they these no huddle spreads in 3 and 12, they will tend to take extra time on those plays. 

RenegadeBuckeye's picture

Building depth through quality playing time should really help in the latter part of the season. Having "fresh" bodies going into November and beyond will be a luxury most teams won't have. Vrabel didn't believe in the heavy rotation of d-linemen. I'm glad LJ does. 

BuckeyeGrownFloridaLiving's picture

Now that Jamal Marcus is gone, any thoughts on who the starter will be for Spence for the 1st 2 games?

+1 HS
RenegadeBuckeye's picture

From what I've read, Tyquan Lewis will get the start. But things can change during camp.

+2 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

I wonder if they'll consider Washington to play a number of snaps at Spence's end position, early on, to get Schutt on the field with Bennett. That coud be just as deadly a line, with little or no drop off.

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

+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture

All I could think of when I read the title "wrecking ball"

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

+6 HS
Smanpoint10's picture

Hopefully they all come out healthy from the knee attacks of Navy

+5 HS
Arizona_Buckeye's picture

It is going to be fun to watch these guys just crush quarterbacks!

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

seafus26's picture

I remember thinking going into that '06 NC that we held advantage over their DL in running the ball. After Beanie was stuffed on that 4th down carry, we abandoned it. I deamed it more the formation and personnel made the play predictable and gave the defense more of a chance. After down a couple scores, Tress/Bollman gave Pittman a series. I believe it was a four play drive, all runs and we were in the endzone. The D forced a punt and we came right back out and went to attacking their undersized front again.? No, 3 straight incomplete passes and a punt. I think their line was extremely athletic but we played right into their strengths. It just wasn't our night, from the bizarre Ginn injury on.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+3 HS
d5k's picture

They pinned their ears back when we got down.  Our defense let us down as much as our offense that night.  5 yard pitch and catch with tons of space after the catch.  Much like vs. Colt McCoy and Texas and vs. about half the teams we played last year.  I'm excited about Ash's scheme.  Rather than "forcing" teams to throw 5 yard passes all day while sending 8 guys downhill to force short running gains I'd like to force the offense into no-win situations with fundamentally sound defense.

+1 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

No offense to the Gators but the best defensive line I've seen play against the Buckeyes was the 97 FSU team with Andre Wadsworth, Greg Spires, Julian Pittman, Larry Smith, Tony Bryant & Corey Simon.

+2 HS
seafus26's picture

Agree. I forgot about, them. I was at that bowl game too. At least New Orleans was more fun than Glendale. Yeah, FSU could stop the run and the pass. If I remember right Joe Monthomery had a little more power than our primary back and he had some success, but they were just better that year

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+1 HS
mtrotb's picture

Don't forget about Michael Hill.  The former #1 player in South Carolina was playing a true frosh last year and got hurt in game 3 or 4 and received a medical redshirt.  So he got some reps, now has four years left.  Potential starter from 15 to 17.


+1 HS
d5k's picture

And Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes and Tommy Schutt (who also was poised to be a beast last year before injury).  

cinserious's picture

Just imagine how deep the D-line is already and then add Jamal Marcus and Se'Von Pittman to that list! That's a testament to how strong Meyer's been at recruiting high-level talent to that position group. Now with Larry Johnson on staff, it should ratchet up even more. I'm excited to see what the state of Ohio has in store for 2016 D-linemen as well as the rest of the country. We're coming after 'em!

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

BassDropper's picture

I recall Urban talking more about Mike Hill than Joey Bosa throughout camp and the first couple games of the season


Holzjef's picture

Hate to be that guy, it's great we are talking about the d-line, all the firepower on offense, but what about the field goal kicker? That will cost us a lot of games.

Jeff holzaepfel

Myc24's picture

I'm not really sure how much the production on the D-line is going to matter if the linebackers and secondary don't raise up their performance. We've been hearing good things - but we'll have to see how they produce in big games this year. If the D-line is as good as it was last year, and the back seven pick up their game, this defense could be the real deal.

"Because I couldn't go for three!"  - Wayne Woodrow Hayes

+1 HS
cinserious's picture

The unit contains depth and is stockpiled with five-star talent. Bennett, the lone four-star recruit among the starters

I do recall Michael Bennett as a 5* recruit as per one of the major recruiting services and rated a 4* by the rest.

EDIT: I looked him up on Scout, Rivals, ESPN, and 247 all had him a four star. Oh well.

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

+1 HS
patriot-missile's picture

How much longer until Game Day?  Feels like an eternity. Go Bucks!  Bring the juice!

Kellen Winslow - Where can I get a sweater vest like yours?
Jim Tressel - Hit the weight room and you can borrow one of mine.

Buckeye AuD's picture

If the D-line is good enough at the start of the season, it may mask some deficiencies in the secondary until the new starters back there have time to develop.  With playing more press, hopefully we can avoid all those WR screens (Ohio State fans shutter at the thought of those) that have killed us for years...and with the D-line getting to the QB so quickly that means less time the young guys at corner and safety have to lock down a receiver. And if LBs like Lee are as fast as advertised, we may be able to even cover some athletic TEs!

Add that up and it's the return of the Silver Bullets.  So excited, Go Bucks!

"Because they wouldn’t let me go for three!"

BroJim's picture

I think we will see the defense make big strides this year. Ready for football!!!!

I season my simple food with hunger

Knarcisi's picture

Excited about our DL, but lets not crown them before they show us on the field.  

+1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Dline was as good or better as that Gator line LAST year, hell, Bosa matched McDonalds entire college career in just his freshman season. Losing Ginn, and the ability to take the top of a defense, made them look exponentially better than they were.

Slingin' swag since 1970


-1 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

It would be helpful if each QB the D-line goes after put on 20 pounds of flab.

Shangheyed's picture

Looks like we have 4 NFL D linemen... three of which could be first or second round draft picks... 

I can't wait to let the Silver Bullets loose! 

New scheme will be harder for the QBs to hit the quick bubble screen... spending more time in the pocket will be a challenge...Sacks could double!

bakerjon's picture

And now I'm salivating for this season to start

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

Jbucks's picture

we have the speed on all 3 phases of our defense, press coverage and our ability to cover the recievers will be the key, how many sacks can we have if we allow the D-Line to have a few more seconds each play??? 200 SACKS THIS SEASON!!! LETS DO IT

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

zhamilton05's picture

The 2014 tOSU D-Line will be awesome, but the 2015 one will be pretty great, too: Bosa and Diesel Washington at the height of their college powers, plus Tommy Schutt or Michael Hill blowing up the interior, and probably Tyquan Lewis at the other DE. And LOADS of hungry, athletic youngsters behind them.