Spring Standouts: Defense

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Last updated: 05/07/2013 3:00 AM

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Football
My Spring Standouts: Defense
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spring football is in the books at Ohio State, but those 15 practices were only a precursor to what will come in the fall.

The Buckeyes should have one of the top offensive units in the country this season, but what about the defense? Luke Fickell is looking for seven new starters on the defense this offseason, including all four starters on the defensive line.

Fortunately for Fickell and head coach Urban Meyer, there were a number of players on the OSU defense who caught my attention in the spring.

DE Noah Spence (6-3, 247, So.)

Noah Spence
Photo by Jim Davidson
Noah Spence

Nobody on the defense made more of an impact this spring than Spence, a former 5-star defensive end out of Pennsylvania. We had a good idea this kid was going to be special when the Buckeyes signed him in Meyer’s first recruiting class, but we’re only starting to see just how good he might become during his career at Ohio State. Spence is the first natural Leo (pass rushing end) the Buckeyes have had really since the days of Thad Gibson. He has quickness, agility, toughness and intelligence. He is starting to learn how to use all of that to make life miserable for opposing offensive linemen, or in the case of the spring, some of the guys on his own team. He will have to improve his ability against the run, but Spence has a rare ability to pressure the quarterback.

DL Michael Bennett (6-3, 285, Jr.)

Michael Bennett
Photo by Jim Davidson
Michael Bennett

The Buckeyes are expecting a lot from Bennett this season, especially for a guy who wasn’t much of a factor on the defensive line a year ago. He was supposed to be a starter for Ohio State last year, but a nagging groin injury kept Bennett from really doing much of anything as a sophomore. Now the Centerville product is being asked to replace Johnathan Hankins at the three-technique spot on the defensive line. He still has to get tougher and play with more tenacity, but Bennett proved he can be a force inside during the spring.

DE Adolphus Washington (6-3, 292, So.)

Adolphus Washington
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adolphus Washington

It took Washington a little longer than Spence to find his bearings this spring, but there weren’t many guys on the team making more plays than big No. 92 by the end of camp. He talked about having to learn how to play with ferocity on every play, but if he figures that out, look out. Not many guys are closing in on 300 pounds with his kind of speed and quickness. We’ll see how it translates in the fall, but Washington closed on the spring with four sacks in the spring game. They weren’t exactly full-contacts sacks, but his ability to create havoc in the backfield is undeniable.

DE Jamal Marcus (6-2, 230, So.)

Jamal Marcus
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jamal Marcus

Not a lot of people would have had Marcus on their list of spring standouts. He wasn’t a guy who dominated the spring game or came out of nowhere to win a starting spot for the Buckeyes. What Marcus did this spring was show some impressive potential as a pass-rusher. It was his first real stint as a defensive end at Ohio State, and Marcus showed he has the quickness and burst to be a force on the outside. He still has to learn how to play the position and how to use his natural ability to beat the man across from him, but it appears they made a smart decision moving him from linebacker to end this offseason.

LB Curtis Grant (6-3, 241, Jr.)

Curtis Grant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Curtis Grant

I’m still not 100 percent sold that Grant is far and away the best middle linebacker on the team, but I have to admit he looked a lot better this spring than at any point during his first two seasons in Columbus. He was more aggressive, looked more comfortable playing in space and, most importantly, he was always around the football. His hips are still a little rigid for a guy who might be asked to play against a few spread offenses this fall, but I like where Grant is at heading into the fall. He’s a little bit desperate to make an impact this year, and that’s always  good motivation for a guy who came in with all the accolades a player could ever wish for.

CB Doran Grant (5-11, 191, Jr.)

Doran Grant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Doran Grant

Few players on the defense made more of a statement this spring than Grant, who solidified the starting spot opposite Bradley Roby. Grant had such a good spring that cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs called him the biggest surprise of camp because he actually exceeded their expectations. With Roby sidelined by a shoulder injury for most of the spring, Grant showed he could handle the role of No. 1 corner at Ohio State. He won’t have to play that role until next season, but it appears Grant is ready to give them a solid No. 2 for the 2013 season.

CB Tyvis Powell (6-3, 201, rFr.)

Tyvis Powell
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tyvis Powel

It seems to odd to think a kid like Powell needed a big spring after spending his first season as a redshirt, but that was exactly the case for the second-year defensive back out of Bedford. With 5-star safety Vonn Bell on his way this summer, Powell emerged as one of the true surprises of the spring for Luke Fickell and the defense. He spent the entire spring playing Star (nickel back) with the first string defense and he looked rather comfortable at the new position. As a former cornerback, Powell has a unique blend of size, speed and coverage ability that just might make him one of the best 11 players on the defense.

CB Eli Apple (6-1, 188, Fr.)

Eli Apple
Photo by Jim Davidson
Eli Apple

There were more than a few “freshman moments” for Apple and classmate Cam Burrows in the spring, but there were also some glimpses of the potential that made them such highly-coveted prospects coming out of high school. Apple, in particular, seemed to get better and better as the spring went along. He’s still very raw, as would be expected of a true freshman, but he also has some natural coverage abilities that can’t be taught. It will be interesting to watch his development over the next 2-3 years.

Related Articles:

My Spring Standouts: Offense

Projected Post-Spring Depth Chart: Defense

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