Every year, we seem to say [insert name here] will be hard to replace on defense. Before the 2014 season, it was Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby. That seemed to work out OK.
In 2015, one of the toughest guys to replace will be defensive tackle Michael Bennett. The favorite to replace Bennett and play alongside Adolphus Washington on the interior is senior-to-be Tommy Schutt.
The Glen Ellyn, IL native is a fireplug at the one technique, occupying blockers and freeing his linebackers and safeties to make plays in the hole or behind the line of scrimmage. Ohio State’s defensive line became pretty adept at that this season, as Joshua Perry, Vonn Bell, Darron Lee, Tyvis Powell and Curtis Grant finished 1-5 in tackles for the Buckeyes this year.
Schutt provided depth along the defensive line during the championship season, appearing in 12 games. Playing on the interior and backing up Michael Bennett, Schutt primarily ate up space, finishing with only 10 tackles (eight solo), one tackle for loss, a pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
These aren’t big numbers, but a classic nose tackle typically doesn’t rack up statistics. Those numbers do represent Schutt’s best season so far, in a career that has been hampered by injury. He made only three assisted tackles last season and half a sack after missing the first six games with a foot injury which required surgery.
It’s been a bit of a disappointing ride thus far for Schutt, who appeared in 10 games as a freshman in 2012—starting against Central Florida—and finished with three solo tackles and an assist.
That freshman season seemed to portend great things from the former five-star recruit and No. 1 ranked player from Illinois by Rivals.com. Scout.com labeled him the fifth best defensive tackle in the entire 2012 class.
Perhaps Schutt simply lost some of his explosiveness with the foot injury or just took a while to fully recover, but he has still managed to be a useful player, if not the monster that Ohio State defensive linemen are known to be.
This is his year to change the narrative and make the same kind of leap that Curtis Grant—another five-star prospect—made in his final season. If he can’t do it, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger and others wait in the wings to steal his spot.
Urban Meyer has largely been disappointed in his defensive line depth. You may recall that his biggest concern last year was fixing the pass defense. All Ohio State did was finish:
- 29th nationally in passing defense
- Fourth nationally in interceptions
- Second nationally in pass plays allowed of 20+ yards
- Ninth nationally in passes defended
Now Meyer wants to focus on defensive line depth. Guess what’s getting fixed this off-season.
Schutt, a senior, needs to be a part of that renaissance. If he plays to his potential, Perry, Lee and Raekwon McMillan will eat like the big dogs they are this season.