Most Important Buckeyes: No. 19
By Tony Gerdeman
In a disjointed year of disappointment and difficulty, one of the few bright spots of the 2011 season came in the form of freshman defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
Photo by Dan Harker
Bennett, out of Ohio State-friendly Centerville, Ohio, played in every game last season and finished with 17 tackles. That may not sound like a lot, but also keep in mind that he finished tied for second on the team in sacks (3.0), and tied for fourth in tackles for loss (5.0).
Despite playing in a reserve role, he managed to have an impact when given an opportunity. Those opportunities will come much more frequently in 2012.
What Makes Him Important
Just a sophomore, Bennett will likely be the second-most versatile defensive lineman on the roster behind John Simon. At 6-3 and 277 pounds, he can play defensive end or defensive tackle.
His quickness allows him to play defensive end, and it also makes him very difficult to block in small spaces when he's lined up at defensive tackle. As an interior lineman in high school, he was quite accustomed to mixing it up in sequestered quarters.
When Urban Meyer released his post-spring depth chart, he made special mention of Bennett, who was listed as a backup.
“I know we have him listed with Johnathan Hankins as a backup," Meyer said.
"That may not necessarily be the case this fall. We will rotate him in and our four best guys will be on the field at one time. It’s hard for me to say he’s not one of our four best.”
Bennett's presence allows for easier rotation on the defensive line because he can simply slide over no matter who the coaches send in.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
Michael Bennett will be one of the most active defenders on this team, and that's saying something. He may not finish with a lot of tackles, because Hankins and Simon simply won't allow it, but he will be in constant motion.
In fact, whether at end or tackle, he will be one of the guys funneling offensive players to other defenders to be tackled. He will beat his man frequently, thereby disrupting the backfield and throwing off the timing of the opposing offense.
On a defensive line that may be nine or ten deep, it will be hard for any one defender not named Hankins or Simon to put up big numbers, but Bennett has already shown that he produces no matter the playing time.
Playing time won't be an issue for him this year. He will be on the field a lot, and you will certainly notice him. In fact, if it wasn't for Simon, Bennett would be a fairly good bet to lead this defensive line in sacks and tackles for loss.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
If the Buckeyes truly wanted to find out what they would do without Bennett on the defensive line, they could simply move him over to offense, because he might be a better offensive guard than defensive lineman.
The fact that the Buckeyes are still looking for offensive line depth but haven't moved Bennett tells you how they feel about him on the defensive side of the ball.
If Bennett wasn't on the roster, Ohio State's versatility would suffer. Yes, Adam Bellamy can play inside or outside, but while he is more powerful and rangy than Bennett, he doesn't have his quickness.
Without Bennett, you lose the complementary nature of he and Bellamy. You'd also lose one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the Big Ten.
On a defensive line that returns all four starters, Michael Bennett is the wildcard. Expect that wildcard to be played by the Ohio State coaches as much as possible.
Most Important Buckeyes: No. 20
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