The Ohio State football team enters the 2014 season with the best projected defensive line in college football. All four starters from last year’s unit return to the field this season with an array of new talent behind them.
The D-line was the one bright spot on this defense a season ago. They produced 42 sacks, most of which were not due to good coverage behind them, and they allowed only 109.4 rushing yards per game, finishing ninth in the nation.
The starting four of Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, and Adolphus Washington is a talented bunch with All-American potential. But the reason this defensive front will be so dominant this coming season is the depth at the position. The Buckeyes also return key backups including Steve Miller, Chris Carter, and former starter Tommy Schutt. They will also have some key additions to the rotation including Purdue transfer Rashad Frazier and youngsters with monster potential in Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill, and Tracy Sprinkle. The D-line will lose one key player, backup defensive end Jamal Marcus, who decided to transfer from Ohio State just a few days ago.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to make teams fear this Buckeyes defensive line, they have also improved their defensive line coach this spring. Don’t get me wrong, Mike Vrabel was a great coach and recruiter, but Larry Johnson Sr. has been one of the best in the nation for years while at Penn State. Johnson is known for rotating his lines and keeping guys fresh, whereas Vrabel rides his starters most of the time. This bodes well for the Buckeyes’ defense, as they will carry arguably the deepest defensive line in the country into this season. With all of that in mind, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators around the country will shiver at the thought of facing the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2014.
Key Defensive Linemen
Starting DE Noah Spence: 6-3, 252 pounds, Junior, Harrisburg, PA
Spence had 7.5 sacks last year and 50 total tackles last season. His speed and athleticism off the edge consistently gave quarterbacks a problem, and the Buckeyes will look to him for more of the same this year.
Starting DT Joey Bosa: 6-5, 285 pounds, Sophomore, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Bosa was a beast in his first year with the Buckeyes. He too recorded 7.5 sacks on the year, with 44 total tackles. He was an important piece of the puzzle in the Buckeyes’ great rush defense, and will only look to improve this season.
Starting DT Michael Bennett: 6-2, 288 pounds, Senior, Centerville, OH
Bennett recorded 7 sacks and 42 total tackles in 2013. He was another crucial player who clogged the middle. He will look to make a splash in this, his final season with the Buckeyes.
Starting DE Adolphus Washington: 6-4, 288 pounds, Junior, Cincinnati, OH
Washington was rotated more than the previous three players last season. He recorded 2 sacks and 36 total tackles on the year. He has a more secure grip on the starting job this year, and will look to solidify that hold with a good year in 2014.
Reserve DE Steve Miller: 6-3, 255 pounds, Senior, Canton, OH
Miller was a talented reserve who saw limited action last season. Now, with LJ Sr. at the reigns of this defensive line, Miller will look to be a more impactful player in 2014.
Reserve DT Chris Carter: 6-4, 342 pounds, Junior, Cleveland, OH
Carter was another physically gifted reserve who did not see much action last year. He is a load at 342 pounds, and the Buckeyes will use his size and strength to wear out opposing offensive lines this season.
Reserve DT Tommy Schutt: 6-2, 300 pounds, Junior, Glen Ellyn, IL
Schutt is a talented player who has not lived up to his potential. He will see more playing time in Johnson’s defensive line schemes, and he will have to make the most of it to prove himself.