Spring Forward: Defensive Players on the Rise
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Tuesday, we ran our list of “Offensive Players on the Rise” following an active spring at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are looking to replace four suspended starters on the offense, but on the defense, it’s simply about reloading after the departure of a solid senior class.
That group included first-round NFL draft pick Cameron Heyward along with four other players who were selected in this year’s draft. The Buckeyes must replace seven key starters from last year’s defense. Fortunately, they have some players on the rise, especially on the defensive front.
Photo by Jim Davidson
DL John Simon — A returning starter from last year’s defense, Simon is almost too established to be on this list. He recorded 41 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last year to go with a pair of fumble recoveries, but Simon looks like he is ready to take the next step.
DL Garrett Goebel — A highly-recruited defensive tackle out of Illinois, Goebel has disappointed some by not being a larger part of the rotation during his first three seasons in Columbus. Now a redshirt junior, it looks like Goebel is finally establishing himself as a key player on the defensive line. A former heavyweight state champion in wrestling, Goebel slid into the starting nose tackle spot this spring, replacing departed senior Dexter Larimore. He isn’t going to fill up the stat sheet, but that has never been the measuring stick for a good nose tackle.
Photo by Dan Harker
DL Johnathan Hankins — It might come as a surprise that Hankins isn’t being considered the nose tackle considering his size, but “Big Hank” is actually better suited for the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. Playing next to Goebel inside, Hankins is remarkably quick for his size and could wreak havoc in the backfield this season.
Photo by John Porentas
DL Adam Bellamy — Underrated as a prospect out of Aurora, Bellamy is a lock to be in Jim Heacock’s rotation this fall. He started coming on at the end of last season, but really came into his own during the spring. He is big and strong, and his versatility makes him the unofficial fifth-man in the defensive line rotation. He can play the 3-technique, strongside defensive end and even nose tackle, which makes him a very valuable asset heading into the fall.
DL J.T. Moore — One of the young guys who emerged this spring was Moore, a redshirt freshman out of Youngstown Boardman. With Solomon Thomas suspended for the first five games and Nathan Williams being asked to do more this year, Moore could slide into the rotation as the seventh or eighth guy this fall. He did enough this spring that the coaches felt comfortable moving David Durham over to fullback.
Photo by Jim Davidsion
LB Etienne Sabino — Proving he benefitted greatly from last season’s redshirt, Sabino came storming out of the gates this spring and put a stranglehold on the starting middle linebacker job. Part of that was Storm Klein’s hamstring injury, which is worth keeping an eye, but Sabino looked fast and determined out there this spring.
LB Jordan Whiting — With Klein sidelined by the hamstring, Whiting moved up and played middle linebacker with the second-team defense this spring and the Buckeyes didn’t miss a beat. He probably isn’t going to compete for a starting job, even with a strong showing in fall camp, but Whiting will be a valuable backup when he returns from his one-game suspension, especially now that Dorian Bell is suspended for the season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
CB Travis Howard — It’s possible that no one had a bigger spring than Howard, who seemed to establish himself as the team’s No. 1 corner in the wake of losing Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence. The best thing he did was stay healthy, something that’s been a problem for him in the past, but he also did a good job making plays. He should be in the starting lineup this fall.
CB Bradley Roby — A redshirt freshman out of Georgia, Roby opened spring working exclusively with the second-team defense. He was considered a wide receiver prospect until late in his high school career, but Roby has proven to be a natural at the corner position. He is still learning the defense, but his instincts are undeniable. By the end of camp, Roby was splitting time with Dominic Clarke on the first-team defense across from Howard.
DB Jamie Wood — Wood’s spring came to an early conclusion after a big hit in the jersey scrimmage left him with a separated shoulder. Before that injury, he was laying the wood (pun intended) throughout the spring as one of the big hitters on the back end of the defense. With Tyler Moeller, C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant out, Wood got an opportunity to work with the first and second team defenses and he played well.
DB Jeremy Cash — One of the guys who benefitted from Wood’s shoulder injury was Cash, who moved up to second-team safety for the spring game. An early enrolled freshman, Cash is big and lanky and seems to be a playmaker in the secondary. He is still raw, but he doesn’t shy away from contact and could be a name to keep an eye on for the future.
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