2012 Buckeye Rewind - Defensive Tackles
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2012 Buckeyes were in the enviable position of returning both of their starting defensive tackles from the year before. More than just starters, however, Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel were productive, combining for 100 tackles in 2011.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Both veterans were pivotal elements in the Buckeyes' run defense for a second consecutive year, combining for 97 tackles in 2012. However, it takes more than just two defensive tackles to stand tall for an entire season, and Ohio State was fortunate to have a couple of freshmen emerge as well.
Expectations Coming Into The Season
It was very well understood that Hankins and Goebel would play their parts well. As far as the question marks on the defense were concerned, they weren't among them.
Hankins entered the season as an All-American candidate thanks not just to his stout run defense, but also to his mobility and ability to make plays down the line of scrimmage.
Expectations for Goebel, as they are for most nose tackles, is never sexy. His job is to occupy blockers and snag a ball carrier every now and again, and he came into 2012 with a solid history of doing just that.
The depth behind those two, however, was a concern. Initially, there was a thought that Adam Bellamy would slide inside, but he left the team before that ever bore fruit.
Other than Bellamy, the rest of the depth was expected to consist of Michael Bennett, Joel Hale and true freshman Tommy Schutt. Bennett came into the season with heightened expectations because of his production in limited minutes as a freshman. Schutt and Hale didn't have those same expectations, but they still needed to be able to occupy minutes.
How the Season Played Out
Hankins and Goebel played their parts well. Goebel was named a captain prior to the season, and Hankins played well enough to be able to leave early for the NFL.
Hankins was named a First Team All-Big Ten selection by the conference's coaches, so they certainly respected his performance. However, he was actually more productive as a sophomore where he had 15 more tackles, seven more tackles for loss and three more sacks.
Photo by Dan Harker
Goebel's numbers were virtually identical to his 2011 season, though he did finish with nine more tackles in 2012. He did what he was asked every single week and gained the opposing offense's attention each time out.
Bennett's injury hampered the defensive tackle rotation, as he would have certainly been in the mix. Without him, there was a heavier reliance on freshmen Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt. Washington wasn't quite ready to live the life of a run-stopping defensive tackle, but Schutt certainly had a few moments when called upon.
What Should We Expect in 2013
With Washington's late surge at defensive end, we can probably pencil him in at the strongside defensive end spot, leaving Bennett to take Hankins' spot. Bennett's quickness and ability to play low gives him a tremendous advantage against slower interior offensive linemen. He should prove to be a solid pass rusher in 2013.
Schutt will likely take over for Goebel at nose tackle, and will never look glamorous doing it. It's a dirty job, but Schutt seems very suited to it. He is a large body with quick feet who is able to provide a presence against the run.
Joel Hale will bring depth and could play either tackle spot. He will need to play more than he has in his first two seasons. The Buckeyes will also bring in a few freshmen defensive linemen, with Michael Hill (6-3 315) bearing a striking physical resemblance to that of Hankins. However, it's too early to say if any freshman can be counted on as they were in 2012.
There is also the wildcard of redshirt sophomore Chris Carter. Though Urban Meyer has said that Carter needs to cut considerable weight before he sees the field in any meaningful manner.
The tackle tandem of Hankins and Goebel was about as productive as a coach could hope for. Hankins was a playmaker and Goebel was the stalwart against the run, and they had them together for two years, which is a rarity.
Next season, Bennett should emerge as a legitimate playmaker up front. His time is now, and there's no longer anybody in his way but himself. He is a player who could be among the team leaders in sacks as a defensive tackle, which isn't easy.
There will be a handful of high school All-Americans playing defensive tackle for Ohio State next season, so the potential is there. However, if the Buckeyes are going to be as good as they would like to be next year, now is the time for that potential to be realized.
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