Strong Defensive Line Depth Aids in Replacing Noah Spence

By Mike Young on August 25, 2014 at 10:10a
Noah Spence will have to sit out Ohio State's first two games.

A combination of intrigue, fright and excitement surround the quarterback position, but the Buckeyes will also be without one of their defensive leaders.

Due to the stream of stories about Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, you might have forgotten about Noah Spence's situation. The junior defensive lineman will serve the remaining two games of his suspension during the Navy and Virginia Tech games after missing the Orange Bowl due to his positive drug test.

With Spence out, Urban Meyer mentioned three players who will take his snaps at the Viper spot.

"Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier are the two that will fill his spot, at this point," Meyer said, at a press conference, Aug. 16. "Jalyn Holmes is really making a push right now." 

Jamal Marcus filled in for Spence during the Orange Bowl, but transferred to Akron in July. Luckily, the Buckeyes have experienced options beyond Spence and the departed Marcus. 

Miller, the projected starter, played in 20 games over the course of his first three seasons at Ohio State. Last year, he played in nine games as Spence's backup and took 41 snaps in the Orange Bowl. He displayed some pass rushing prowess, recording three sacks. 

Even if Spence wasn't on the sidelines for the first two games, OSU's philosophy on defense would lead to increased snaps for Miller, Frazier and Holmes.

"You like to play eight to nine guys, who you feel can go in and contribute in the course of a game," said defensive line coach Larry Johnson. "You try to get 10 ready, five inside and five outside. You want to have a bonus guy who can play end – right or left – and an inside guy who can play nose or shade. If you can get that going into the season and someone goes down, you have a guy ready to go."

Meyer said Tyquan Lewis is in the mix at Viper, and might also be Joey Bosa's backup at the other defensive end spot. So, Lewis appears to be the "bonus guy" Johnson referred to. 

On the other hand, Frazier and Holmes are competing for playing time behind Miller and Spence, when he eventually returns. It might seem like there aren't enough snaps to go around, but Johnson expects a constant rotation of players along the entire defensive line.

"The game of football on the defensive line is about playing fast and a guy has to play at his maximum speed all the time," he said. "So, when you build some depth, a guy can go in, play 15 or 20 snaps in the course of the game and it's going to make you better defensively."

That depth will be crucial against an aggressive Navy offensive line, who will constantly cut block and, potentially, wear out some of the first-string Buckeye defensive linemen. 

"[Navy is] going to hold the ball, they want to get possessions and keep your offense off the field."– Larry Johnson

"You have to be very fundamentally sound and very disciplined playing that offense," Johnson said. "They're going to hold the ball, they want to get possessions and keep your offense off the field. We have to play good defense and be very disciplined in our assignments."

As difficult as the Midshipmen will be on the field, Ohio State is also facing issues in the weeks leading up to the game. First off, the coaching staff still has to integrate Spence because he will be back for the Kent State game.

Meyer removes Spence from the first string rotation in practice, but that doesn't mean he isn't an active participant.   

"When we go Navy period, which is pretty much every day, he's on the scout team," Meyer said. "We do keep him training with the ones on defense, though. Just not in the Navy period and, obviously, for Virginia Tech because he won't play in that one either."

The Midshipmen's unique, triple-option offense, which the Buckeyes won't see again this season, is another significant challenge for Ohio State. Meyer, Johnson and co-defensive coordinators Chris Ash and Luke Fickell have to delicately balance practicing for the triple option, as well as a traditional college offense.

More so than usual, Johnson emphasized proper technique. That is particularly important against Navy's disciplined attack.   

"It's a really complicated offense and they do it well," Johnson said. "Some people say 'they're not athletic.' Well, they're athletic enough to run their system and that's really important. It's going to be a great challenge for us."


Comments Show All Comments

J.Mo's picture

I'm still disappointed by the transfer of Jamal Marcus.

+9 HS
AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

Was it ever said WHY he transferred? 

I know it wasn't because of his play. Maybe grades, or a conflict with one of the coaches?

steveoz49's picture

I thought that I read that he left because of grades...

+1 HS
AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

Ok thanks.

So I wonder since he went to another D1 school, that Akron;s academic standards aren't that strict as Osu's? I know im reading too much into this, but I just like to understand the logic of things lol.

Indiana-Buckeye's picture

I remember reading it was about playing time which I thought was weird!?

+1 HS
grantmeaname's picture

I think you're thinking of Tommy Brown, who Urban said "just wanted to go play".

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Not as concerned about the DL right now, but the LBs will be key against Navy.  

Read my entire screen name....

+3 HS
Boo-the-blue's picture

I agree I really liked Marcus's upside

Jabba1977's picture

The triple option concerns me,we must win the battle at the line of scrimmage,and be patient at the backend of the defense!!


Squirrel Master's picture

I think getting up big early will help a lot. Force Navy to have to throw more early, keeping the cut blocking to a minimum.If they can do that, I think we'll be fine.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

+2 HS
73buckeye's picture

Cut blocking is a nasty but legal business. I hope we get through the game with no injuries to the d-line. 


+1 HS
Vinsaniti's picture

Losing Noah Spence is tough for those games, I trust the rest of the guys behind him in our deepest position group to step up and be playmakers in his absence. That being said not having Jamal Marcus around is a hit, Steve Miller is a senior and has been around the program and so is Rashad Frazier. I really like Jalyn Holmes in the mix there too! Wow this line is deep and going to be the strength of a renewed Defense that could be a top one in the country. I know the talent is there we need to go out and perfrom.

Squirrel Master's picture

and that doesn't include Darius Slade and I think Tyquan Lewis is sorely underestimated.

and this article doesn't mention Tommy Schutt, who has been getting good pub lately, and Michael Hill, a monster. And if necessary, Chase Farris can still play Dline in a pinch and Billy Price too. There are bodies if anything happens, but I think the first 4 with Steve Miller will be pretty good. Steve Miller might not have lived up to his ranking as a 5 star but he is no slouch. He just has been behind even better guys than him, doesn't mean he sucks.

man I'm getting stoked!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Vinsaniti's picture

This is a position group that has alot of guys that will be in mix. One you didn't mention that I really like is Chris Carter. He played in every game last year at tackle, he's a guy I think will have a good year. We have 7 olid guys at the end spot and 5 or 6 solid guys at tackle. I think this going to be our strength and the best part is they will not be dead at the end of the games with Coach J's rotation. Let's hope coach Fickell's focus on the linebackers and the rebuild in the back end are as good as the talent they have and we have to be one of the best in the country!

+1 HS
Bucksfan70's picture

i like chris carter too.

nice guy off the field / on camera

big, angry, pocket crushing hogger on the field

“Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't.” - Jerry Rice

cronimi's picture

Due to the stream of stories about Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, you might have forgotten about Noah Spence's situation. 

Damn, how'd you know?! You're like a mindreader. I had completely forgotten about Spence's suspension.

+2 HS
BigZ's picture

D-line is the one position I have zero concern about


Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Maybe I read something wrong along the way, but I thought part of the reason Marcus left was because Lewis was passing him.  Now Lewis is listed as Bosa's back up.  Anybody know what happened?

okiebuck's picture

The more I hear and read about Larry Johnson; the more impressed I am with him; he is a rock solid guy and I'm glad he's now in Scarlet & Gray.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

+4 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Amen, Okiebuck!  I respected him in his years at Penn State, and feared his front four.  Now, he's on our side, and I feel like we are invincible.  We are in for some special defenses with Coach LJ in town.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

GVerrilli92's picture

Everyone. Just. Stay. Healthy. 

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
TURD_BUCKET's picture

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

+1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

A Spartan.... really?

Slingin' swag since 1970


TURD_BUCKET's picture

I was thinking more of a warrior

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

+1 HS
CTBuckeye's picture

From what I've been reading here lately it sounds like the defensive philosophy this year is going to involve a lot of substitutions anyway to keep our players fresh for the entire game and later into the season, so better the backups get some experience now.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Dmac3212's picture

Ya LJ will be substituting 9 deep on the line. The group is deep and talented, but the loss of Spence will be felt. You don't just lose possibly the most talented dl on your team and be unaffected. With that being said next man up, and there is no reason the Buckeye front 7 cant dominate the first 2 games of the year. 

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

I'll be the contrarian, DMAC.   I don't feel Spence deserves to be called "the most talented DL on the team" any stretch.  Until now, Spence, despite all the hype he receives, has been a one trick pony as a pass rusher.  As a run stopper......he wasn't.  He had a tendency to stick to blockers like velcro as someone outside of this Forum described to me.  Seeing him on tape, it was absolutely true. 

There is a reason why people groaned when Jamaal Marcus left the program.  It's because, during the game vs. Clemson, there was no drop off in DE production while he was in ...vs. Spence.   Joey Bosa was a guy opposing OCs started to game plan around.  Spence?  They ran right at him.   To be fair, as a pass rusher he is good....that is his strength.  But to think he is a complete DL is a stretch.  You don't give up X Box points like this D did last year and consider Spence....."your best DL" some sort of beast.  No f way. 

So....Navy and VA TECH give the other guys a chance to show what they've got before Spence comes back in game 3 to stake his claim with the DL coach who believes in and recruited him. 

Dmac3212's picture

I should have been more specific, I was talking from a pure pass rush stance. Same reason Clowney was the number 1 pick last year. Spence is in no means the best all around DE, that belongs to joey Bosa. But he can change the game with 1 play. I don't think the Bucks will miss him against Navy (its all amount assignment football), but he is the type of player the stands out under the lights against Va-tech. 

Nutinpa's picture

In that context, we are complete agreement, DMAC.

Go Bucks!

avail31678's picture

Noob here.  Can someone explain cut blocking and why it's a concern and why Navy seems to do it more than others?


73buckeye's picture

Cut blocking is blocking a lineman below the knees. It's legal in college if it's within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and inside the tackle box. It's usually a technique uses by smaller, quicker teams like Navy to negate the oppositions size advantage. It's illegal in the NFL if the person being blocked is engaged with another blocker. Knee injuries are a real concern with this type of block. 


+1 HS
buckskin's picture

Yes.  An ND friend of mine said that when they played Navy in Ireland a couple of years ago, ND left that game with 2 D lineman with major knee injuries.  Here's to our guys staying healthy.

+2 HS
avail31678's picture

At least the NCAA has done so much to reduce injuries with their war on concussions.

Meanwhile you can break a players knees with a block like this. (I'm all about reducing concussions, but all injuries are a concern in my eyes.  SMH at the NCAA)

Thanks for the info!

BoFuquel's picture

DB'S and of course The Clown Show, are still the biggest worries. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Dmac3212's picture

With the Braxton injury, I think many of us forgot how big of a loss this suspension is. He has the capability to absolute destroy an offensive game plan. He is a freak athlete who causes havoc, who is a 1st round prospect. I think he will lead the team in sacs, and be more productive than Bosa. He might not have the engine Joey has, but he might have a little more athleticism. The loss makes the va-tech game a little scarier. 

+1 HS
QueenCityBuckeye's picture

Agreed. Spence was double teamed most of the time last year allowing players like Bosa to dominate one-on-one match ups. 

Either way, I'm more concerned with our LB and safety play. This is a good test for them. 


+1 HS
BuckWylde's picture

I tend to agree with your and Dmac's perspectives on Spence, who has Clowney-esque athleticism and Bosa whom I see as being a JJ Watt 2.0 type of high motor beast.

My hope and prediction is that by the time we play MSU, Connor Cook will think he's facing the NFL Texans "D" and  we'll beat Sparty by 17 without Braxton, on our way to the B1G title and possibly the NC final 4 tourney!

All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. -Adlai Stevenson, governor, US ambassador

Dmac3212's picture

I like it! Defending the triple option is all about assignment football. Sometimes the more talented football players freelance, from that stand point its might not be a big loss against Navy. 

DoubleB's picture

Navy scares me because of all the cut blocks. I pray everyone makes it out injury free.


+1 HS
Icouldnotgofor3's picture

Proper technique of how to get off the chop blocks will be critical. I think LJ has his D-line well coached, and they're ready to play. The back 7 need to play assignment football. Simple as that. If they do that, we can shut Navy down.

Saban on a cart eating cold pizza

apack614's picture

I'm really excited about this D-line, actually the defense as a whole! For the first time in awhile!

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.