2010 Defense: Who Lives Up to the Hype?

By Chris Lauderback on April 20, 2010 at 7:00 am
Etienne Sabino gettin' jiggy with itSabino seems primed for a breakout 2010

Last week, we examined the 2010 offense searching for players who might deliver after being the recipients of much hype before and during their brief stints in Columbus. We also recapped the various factors that can cause a player to get lost in the shuffle including off field issues, grades, injuries, skill set not conducive to the system and position depth.

Offensively, the candidates were Mike Adams, Jaamal Berry, Duron Carter and Jake Stoneburner with Adams emerging as your top vote getter.

Defensively, it's a little tougher to quantify just exactly who has received enough hype to qualify for consideration outside of a couple no-brainers. Throw in the somewhat disorganized depth in the secondary and the water is further muddied. Still, there are a few slam dunk candidates and we're curious to find out which guy you think is mostly to breakout, how and why.

Etienne Sabino

An easy choice since he's penciled in as the starter at the Sam spot, Sabino arrived in Columbus as a freakishly athletic US Army All-American. He showcased his ability to lay wood on special teams but failed to supplant a cerebral but slow Austin Spitler a year ago.

Early rumors indicated Sabino was slow to pick up the defense which is understandable. Even now, he's a 19 year old junior but Luke Fickell sounds confident telling Adam Rittenberg, "He's the guy....this has been his best spring so far."

Partnering with an underrated stud like Ross Homan and a playmaker like Brian Rolle, this could be the year Sabino puts it together.

Orhian Johnson

Slotted as a first year starter at strong safety, OJ came to Columbus as an Athlete/QB fresh off earning US Army All-American accolades. Johnson didn't rack up the recruiting credentials some of his peers garnered as a Scout three star but we began hearing tales of his practice exploits last season.

The rangy Johnson is also developing as a vocal influence showing he has command of the defensive playbook by helping teammates line up in the correct spots. Of course, this shouldn't be surprising considering his QB pedigree.

Still, Johnson has much to prove if he's going to step into OSU's secondary and help replace Kurt Coleman. What do you think? Will Johnson emerge as a top notch safety in his first year as a starter?

The Glut of D-Ends: Soloman Thomas, Melvin Fellows and Keith Wells

I group these guys together because they are all vying for the same minutes. Sure, Heacock will use as much depth as possible but with Nathan Williams proving himself already and Cam Heyward easily the best defender on the squad, a rotation spot is all this group can hope for if Heyward plays end allowing Larimore and Simon to occupy the two inside slots.

Fellows earned the most high school props including five stars from Scout and is looking to breakthrough after taking a redshirt last season. Safari Planet has looked strong in practice including a stand out jersey scrimmage.

While Fellows has seized his opportunity so far this spring, we're still waiting for Keith Wells to do the same. The four star out of Gainesville looks the part but similar to the fact I probably look dope in a sweatervest, nobody is asking me to replace the Senator.

The other more realistic depth option at DE is Thomas. The kid is to spring defense what Taurian is to spring offense, now it's time to see if he can earn the right to potentially be a factor during fall. His spring exploits have caused many to trumpet his skills 'round the comments section but is this the year he earns time?

Tyler Moeller

Maybe a strange addition to this group for some, the fact is we've seen just enough of Moeller to know he can play but the real question here is, well, can he play? The victim of an assault last July, Moeller was expected to log heavy minutes as a combo LB/Star allowing Heacock to utilize Tyler's strong blitz skills but now we simply do not know if he'll be cleared to play again. We do know that Moeller is not taking part in any contact this spring as doctors will wait until fall camp to rule on his status.

While his playing status is hugely iffy, what if he does? He could be a legit Star, giving the defense versatility and affording Heacock plenty of personnel options based on down and distance. Thriving at times in 2008, Moeller flashed promise especially against Illinois when he filled in for Jermale Hines recording seven stops (2 TFL) and a forced fumble.

Overall, there's a slew of young DB's looking to earn minutes including Travis Howard, CJ Barnett, Corey Brown and Jamie Wood but none have earned enough HS love or practice clout to expect significant contributions this year. Throw in vets Nate Oliver and Donnie Evege and there's a boatload of guys battling for second string opportunities. Any of these guys a 2010 sleeper, in your view?

At this point, it seems like a two horse race between Sabino and Johnson. It's just a guess, but I'll take Johnson to be the biggest contributor. I like his makeup and expect he'll add intangibles along with steady play setting himself up for an even bigger 2011. Plus, if you squint your eyes just right, dude looks like Flavor Flav. Who you got?