Most Important Buckeyes: No. 9
By Tony Gerdeman
Photo by Jim Davidson
When Adolphus Washington committed to Ohio State, he was a 250-pound defensive end who could run like a river. When he finally got to Columbus eight months later, however, he was a 290-pound freak with untapped potential and an unknown position.
Mike Vrabel started him out at defensive tackle due to his size, but it was his pass-rushing ability which eventually found him back playing his natural defensive end position. In spot duty as a freshman, Washington ended up finishing second among OSU defensive linemen with three sacks last season.
Washington was able to learn from John Simon, who was the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He has some tremendous shoes to fill, but given his size, he's probably very accustomed to large shoes.
Fellow sophomore defensive end Noah Spence has received more publicity in their short time together, but it could very well be Washington who is the next great Buckeye defensive lineman.
What Makes Him Important
The Ohio State defensive line is going to be anchored by Washington this season, so they can't afford for him to be middling. As the starting strongside defensive end, Washington will be asked to stand tall, not unlike past strongsiders Cameron Heyward and John Simon.
There will be more on his plate than ever before. He needs to be a standout player from the word 'hut', equally adept against the run as he is the pass. If an area of his game is lacking, then he can't be considered a complete player.
Last season, he showed that he was a very good pass rusher, but as a run stopper he had some room to grow. Both Vrabel and Washington knew that this day was coming, however, so they've been working towards making the transition as painless as possible for the Buckeye defense.
If Washington can't hold his ground against the run this year, then linebackers will be hitting running backs after four or five yards have already been gained. The chains will move like a conveyor belt, greased and greedy.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
Much is expected of Washington this season, and nobody is expecting more than Vrabel. He sees Washington every day in practice, so he knows exactly what the youngster is capable of. Just a sophomore, there is a lot of pressure on him to produce like John Simon, which is asking too much at this point.
He certainly has the ability to do it, but to think that Washington will match Simon's hardware from last season is a stretch. That being said, he could certainly put a dent in Simon's nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Of course, not all of Simon's numbers came from the strong side, so Washington will have to work a bit harder.
Still, there are a good many people expecting Washington to be a breakout performer this season. If he can do that at a position that doesn't normally lend itself to exciting numbers, then the Buckeyes will be very, very happy.
Don't be surprised if Washington ends up with some conference accolades after the season, but expecting it to happen might be a bit presumptuous for a kid looking for his first start.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
Mike Vrabel certainly doesn't want to think about this topic, but if the Buckeyes did lose Washington for any extended period of time, they would probably look very hard at moving Michael Bennett back outside, as well as getting freshman Joey Bosa into the mix even more than they originally intended.
J.T. Moore and Steve Miller would also provide depth, but neither have the size that Bennett and Bosa offer. Basically, Vrabel would continue to put his four best defensive linemen on the field, and then they'd simply shuffle it around to find the best fit.
What none of these players can provide, however, is Washington's ability to rush the passer. They can't replicate his athleticism and his pursuit, nor do any of the coaches want them to have to do so.
This should be a very big season for Washington, and if it isn't, you are guaranteed to have quite a few shocked people around the football program.
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