Most Important: No. 13

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Last updated: 01/02/2013 11:06 AM
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Football
Most Important Buckeyes: No. 13
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn't until he actually stepped onto the field for the first time in 2012 that it was certain that our 13th-most important Buckeye was even going to see action this year.

Nathan Willams
Photo by Jim Davidson
Nathan Williams

Having missed all but the season opener the year before, and recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee for the past 12 months, defensive end Nathan Williams was the ultimate question mark this season.

As it would turn out, he answered those questions immediately, seeing action in the season opener against Miami (OH), playing far more snaps than anybody expected, and making a pair of tackles to boot.

As an indicator that he wasn't quite as back as he would have liked to be, he missed the next game against UCF recovering from the higher-than-expected number of snaps that he got against the RedHawks.

What Made Him Important?

Williams was always seen as a luxury heading into the 2012 season. If the Buckeyes had him, that would be great, but he was certainly never counted on. When asked about him during the preseason, Urban Meyer was always cautious when speaking about Williams, almost afraid to jinx the progress that was being made daily.

Having Williams on the field allowed John Simon to play defensive end without worrying about dropping back and covering the flats as he had to the year before. That resulted in him being named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year.

Williams provided experience, intelligence and explosion where the Buckeyes needed it. Ohio State didn't have a great pass rush at times, but Williams was always one of the most effective disruptors. He only recorded two sacks this season, but led the team in hurries and was frequently forcing quarterbacks out of the pocket and into the waiting arms of Silver Bullet doom.

His versatility also helped the Buckeyes. When linebacker Etienne Sabino went down with a broken leg, Williams was able to take some snaps at strongside linebacker. It was a patchwork defense for most of the season, and Williams was in the middle of much of the patching..

What Would The Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?

Williams didn't get his first start until the fourth week of the season. Defensive end J.T. Moore started twice while Williams got his feet under him and freshman defensive tackle Tommy Schutt got the start against UCF while Williams recovered from his play the week before.

Moore, albeit in limited minutes, only recorded one tackle in 2012. Had Williams not been able to play this season, Moore would have apparently gotten the first look. It wouldn't have been long, however, before he gave way to both Steve Miller and freshman Noah Spence.

While both have promise, neither Miller or Spence are Nathan Williams at this point.

Had Michael Bennett not battled injuries this season he would have likely been the bookend with Simon, and things probably wouldn't have been too bad. Williams' ability to play this season became even more important as Bennett dealt with a season-long groin injury.

How Does It Compare to Our Preseason Expectations?

Williams didn't even make our initial Top 20 list because, quite honestly, nobody really counted on him being able to play this season.

Had Williams been healthy heading into this season, there would be no doubt that he would have been on our initial list, and likely somewhere in the Top 10.

The fact that he finished #13 on this list speaks to his resiliency and ability to overcome a devastating injury. It's also clear that he wasn't ever really 100%, or else he would have been more productive, and subsequently higher on this list.

No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton

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