Six Untested or Unheralded Buckeyes You'll Want to Watch on Defense in 2013
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When we talk about untested Buckeyes, that would actually describe much of the Ohio State defense. That is not to say that they didn't get valuable snaps last season, just that they didn't get very many of them.
No, none of these players made it on our Top 20 Most Important Buckeyes list, but that doesn't mean that these players should just be ignored. You will see them on the field this season, and if the defense is going to be as good as it can be, much of it will depend on these players making it happen.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Joel Hale, Defensive Tackle (Junior)
The nose tackle is always going to be unheralded, and the lack attention that Joel Hale has received to this point is indicative of that. He's still battling with Tommy Schutt for the starter's job, but all of the talk from Mike Vrabel to this point leads to Hale being the guy. He's been a leader in the weight room all offseason, and even though he doesn't have much playing time in career, he's a third-year player in a sea of second-year players. If Hale can be what Garrett Goebel was last year, then the Buckeyes will be very happy.
Jamal Marcus, Defensive End (Sophomore)
Mike Vrabel isn't a fan of too much rotation on the defensive line, but expect six to eight linemen rotating in throughout the game. As Noah Spence's backup, Jamal Marcus figures to be one of these six to eight defenders. Marcus showed himself to be an explosive pass rusher in the spring, and it doesn't seem as though things have changed much through fall camp. Noah Spence probably won't come off of the field much, so Marcus is going to have to show Vrabel that he can be productive when he is out there as well. The more productive Marcus is in his limited role, the less limited it will become.
Photo by Dan Harker
Vonn Bell, Star (Freshman)
When a coaching staff wants to get a freshman on the field, then it's time to take notice of that freshman. When Vonn Bell was installed as Tyvis Powell's backup at nickel, that meant that they didn't want Bell tinkering around at third-team safety. They meant for his role to be a specific one, and when coaches get into specifics, it's because they have a plan for that player. Even though Tyvis Powell has received nothing but positives as the team's star, Bell has too much ability to simply be an onlooker.
Doran Grant, Cornerback (Junior)
Doran Grant has been the starting cornerback opposite Bradley Roby since very early in the spring. In the season opener, however, he'll be starting opposite Armani Reeves. Last week, Reeves wasn't talking like his starting wasn't a one-week thing, and Grant wasn't taking anything for granted either. When Roby returns, whoever is opposite him is going to be a very busy pass defender. Grant would seem up for the job, and it's important for the Buckeyes that he lives up to his coaches' expectations.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Michael Hill, Defensive Tackle (Freshman)
As far as freshmen go, you don't necessarily expect them to make an impact on the interior of the defensive line. However, as far as freshmen go, Michael Hill isn't most freshmen. He has already earned the respect of the veteran Ohio State offensive line, and he's certainly in the mix to make Mike Vrabel's limited rotation. Hill has strength and explosion, and he isn't just a run stopper. From everything we've seen, he is a playmaker up front and is a name to take note of from day one.
Cameron Johnston, Punter (Freshman)
A freshman punter is always a little scary for a college football team, but at least this freshman punter is a little bit older than most. Cameron Johnston has been in training for this opportunity for a while now, and that training has honed specific skills which Urban Meyer and Kerry Coombs are very excited to put to use. The expectation is for a few more rugby style kicks and things of that nature, which makes football fans irate when they go awry. If Johnston can be a weapon for the Buckeyes, it will be one heck of a story considering where they were in the spring with Drew Basil handling both kicking and punting duties.
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