Fall Practice Insider: Defense Looks Strong Up Front
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer is hoping his defense won’t look quite as good this fall as it did in the spring.
That’s not because he expects the group to suffer under defensive coordinator Luke Fickell this fall. Instead, Meyer is hoping his offense will look a little more polished against Fickell’s defense as the start of the season draws near.
Unfortunately for offensive coordinator Tom Herman, the Buckeyes should be even tougher along the defensive front this fall, as they added a number of key players to the mix.
Meyer said he expects at least a few of them to see the field in Ohio State’s season-opener against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 1. Here is inside look at Monday’s practice, which was the first for Meyer with his entire 2012 squad on the same field.
The Simon Factor
Photo by Dan Harker
Much like the spring, it was impossible not to notice the presence of senior defensive end John Simon on Monday. After a “fun” offseason of lifting at 6 a.m. every morning, Simon is stronger and faster than ever before.
He jogged past defensive line coach Mike Vrabel so quickly during warmups, it caused Vrabel to spin around and yell, “there goes 4.5”—an obvious reference to Simon’s reported time in the 40-yard dash.
The players weren’t in pads yet, so there wasn’t a lot of live hitting going on Monday, but Simon only has one speed. Go. He went pretty strong on Monday, especially during the one-on-one drills.
That’s where Simon’s dominance really starts to show up. Simon made a mockery of Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel—both of Ohio State’s projected starting tackles-during the one-on-one drill in front of both Vrabel and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
Warinner couldn’t even be mad, because, after all, it was John Simon.
Bennett Making Presence Felt
Photo by Dan Harker
Another guy who showed up big in the one-on-one drills Monday was Michael Bennett. Despite being listed as a backup on the post-spring depth chart, Bennett is clearly a first-teamer on the defensive line.
He played exclusively at the stongside defensive end spot across from Simon on Monday, and he looked ready to be a force off the edge. It appears the staff wants to try Adam Bellamy inside, and Bennett should be in the starting lineup, at least until Nathan Williams returns.
Meyer Rooting for Williams
Speaking of Williams, the fifth-year senior was at practice Monday, wearing football pants and his jersey. He was running around with his helmet in hand, but did not participate in position drills or the scrimmage.
Photo by Dan Harker
Williams spent most of the day watching the defensive line or working on the side with Jordan Hall, but he could be close to making some type of return. Meyer said he asked strength coach Mickey Marotti why Williams wasn’t involved in more drills.
Marotti told him it’s because the doctors are being extra cautious with Williams, as they don’t want to risk a setback in his return from microfracture surgery. Meyer said his dream is to have Williams and Simon on the field together, and that he “bleeds for a guy” who loves football as much as Nathan Williams.
Grant Missing In Action
One of the key guys missing from the defense Monday was inside linebacker Curtis Grant. The second-year player had made some odd tweets about going through a tough time before his unexplained absence from Monday’s practice, but it turns out he is back home in Virginia with his ailing grandfather.
Meyer said he expects Grant to be at practice Tuesday, but redshirt sophomore Conner Crowell did a nice job filling in for Grant on Monday. Freshman Luke Roberts was the No. 2 middle linebacker and preferred walk-on Joe Burger held down the third spot.
Joining Burger on the third-team defense Monday were freshmen David Perkins and Jamal Marcus. Classmate Camren Williams was with the second group at Will linebacker, but it was Marcus who caught his head coach’s attention, again.
“Jamal Marcus doesn’t know which way is up right now, but he knows point A to point B,” Meyer said after practice.
“And he’ll run over anything in his way. We’ll find a way to get him on the field.”
Pups Starting to Bite
Meyer also had some exciting things to say about freshman defensive end Noah Spence. The 5-star prospect out of Pennsylvania looked really good in the one-on-one drills Monday.
There were not many tackles who could slow him down, including Mewhort. Spence blew right past the fourth-year junior on the first matchup, but Mewhort did a better job slowing him down the second time.
Another guy who looked good Monday was Adolphus Washington. Though he was recruited as an end, Washington has the frame of a beastly defensive tackle. His hips are incredibly wide and he has strong trunk.
The Buckeyes had Washington playing inside at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot Monday, where he is behind Big Hank and Bellamy. He could move outside, however, because Vrabel obviously loves him.
He kept telling everyone around the group watching Washington during one-on-one drills “that boy can rush.”
Depth Charting Monday’s Defense
54 John Simon (6-2, 260, Sr.)
88 Steve Miller (6-3, 255, So.)
8 Noah Spence (6-3, 240, Fr.)
52 Johnathan Hankins (6-4, 317, Jr.)
93 Adam Bellamy (6-4, 292, rJr.)
92 Adolphus Washington (6-3, 289, Fr.)
53 Garrett Goebel (6-4, 285, rSr.)
51 Joel Hale (6-4, 295, So.)
72 Chris Carter (6-4, 358, rFr.)
63 Michael Bennett (6-3, 277, So.)
50 J.T. Moore (6-3, 250, rSo.)
95 Se’Von Pittman (6-3, 259, Fr.)
10 Ryan Shazier (6-1, 226, So.)
5 Camren Williams (6-1, 225, Fr.)
25 David Perkins (6-2, 220, Fr.)
36 Connor Crowell (6-1, 233, rFr.)
42 Luke Roberts (6-2, 230, Fr.)
48 Joe Burger (6-1, 225, Fr.)
6 Etienne Sabino (6-3, 237, rSr.)
59 Stewart Smith (6-3, 240, Sr.)
34 Jamal Marcus (6-2, 225, Fr.)
25 Bradley Roby (5-11, 185 rSo.)
9 Adam Griffin (5-8, 180, rSo.)
18 Najee Murray (5-9, 178, Fr.)
7 Travis Howard (6-1, 196, rSr.)
12 Doran Grant (5-11, 188, So.)
23 Tyvis Powell (6-3, 196, Fr.)
2 Christian Bryant (5-10, 190, Jr.)
19 Orhian Johnson (6-3, 210, rSr.)
16 Zach Domicone (6-2, 216, Sr.)
4 C.J. Barnett (6-1, 202, rJr.)
3 Corey Brown (6-1, 197, rJr.)
21 Jamie Wood (6-1, 207, rJr.)
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