Freshman Washington Hoping to Boost Buckeye Pass Rush
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State defensive line was expected to be a cadre of conquerors beating a wide path to the opponents' quarterbacks this season, but that hasn't exactly been the case yet.
The Buckeyes currently sit with just three quarterbacks sacks this season, a number bettered by 73 other teams in the nation.
There are certainly arguments to be made as to the reasons for these struggles. Number one among them is the injuries to defensive ends Michael Bennett and Nathan Williams. Both are effective pass rushers who have been productive when healthy. Their absence is felt on every snap.
The other is that Miami (Ohio) and UCF simply didn't hold the ball long enough to be sacked. Three-step drops have been the popular plan of attack against the Buckeyes, and it has been relatively successful in keeping their quarterbacks upright.
Regardless of the offense's scheming, however, the defense still needs to get pressure. If they don't, the head coach will begin asking questions.
"I'm going to get that answer next week," Urban Meyer said on Saturday of OSU's inconsistent pass rush.
"I can't answer it today and tell you why. You'd think we'd have a little more pressure. I don't know how good Central Florida's offensive line is. I think they played pretty good today.
"But their quick passing was – I don't want to say it was our excuse the first week, but we have got to pressure the quarterback. He had far too much time to throw the ball."
Photo by Jim Davidson
One of those answers that Meyer is going to seek may come in the form of true freshman defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.
Washington, who notched his first career sack against Miami (Ohio), committed to Ohio State as a 250-pound pass-rushing defensive end. When he showed up on campus, however, he was tipping the scales at around 290 pounds. His size dictated a move to defensive tackle, and it was a move that he wasn't exactly thrilled with.
"At first I was kind of down about it, I'm not even gonna lie," he said.
"But Coach Vrabel just kept talking to me and John Hankins kept talking to me, and they just kept pumping me up. It turned into something that I really like and I enjoy doing it."
On Saturday, Washington again showed why he was a five-star prospect. Most notably on a third down pass rush late in the third quarter when he flew past the right guard and sidestepped a tailback trying to provide protection, forcing an incompletion.
"It felt good," Washington said of the third quarter play.
"Coach Meyer said that I need to start walking around with a little more swagger. I had it in my mind that when I make a play, I'm just gonna let it go. It felt really good to do something like that."
The confidence that Meyer has in the freshman comes from seeing him perform. Washington's own confidence comes from knowing that interior linemen don't normally possess his abilities.
"I get to use my athleticism against guards," he said.
"Most guards are not going to be quick enough to block me, and I'm a hell of a pass rusher. I just use my quickness against them and I like that."
After seeing the results in fall camp, the position obviously grew on Washington, and now he's seeing those results reach the actual games.
The coaches don't expect him to get to the quarterback on every snap, nor is he expected to be perfect, but he is expected to give complete effort on every single play. If he does, he knows that good things will happen. He also knows what will happen if he doesn't.
"Coach Vrabel trusts us," he said.
"We're freshmen and we go in and make mistakes. We don't know everything that's going on right now, but as long as we go in there and go hard like we're supposed to, he's just going to keep giving us the opportunity.
"I'm gonna get it, trust me. Coach Vrabel is a wonderful coach and he's gonna make sure I get it. If I want to keep playing, I've got no choice but to get it."
Expect Washington to "get it" relatively quickly, and don't be surprised if he also gets the quarterback a few times along the way.
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