Spring Recap: Defensive ends

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Football
2013 Spring Recap - The Defensive Ends
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Losing John Simon to graduation is no way to improve the Buckeyes' situation at defensive end. However, you might just want to hold off on that pity party you have scheduled for Ohio State's pass rush.

Noah Spence
Photo by Jim Davidson
Noah Spence

Because of how well they performed, defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington were two of the bigger stories of spring football, and they have fans and coaches excited for what might happen.

Both are just sophomores, but they showed in the Spring Game that youth can serve just fine. They harassed every quarterback on the field in that game, combining for seven sacks (most of the two-hand touch variety).

While that was an impressive Saturday, it wasn't as impressive as they had been in previous Saturday scrimmages.

"Yeah, I think probably more productive [in other scrimmages] because you saw more consistent plays in the run game," defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said last month.

"The runs that we're going to see, some of those guys in that first group didn't see a whole bunch of runs, but I think throughout the scrimmages on Saturdays, they were productive. That's when most of their grading in my evaluation came down."

Depth behind Spence and Washington is a concern, which is why three defensive ends were signed in the 2013 recruiting class. Vrabel isn't always a fan of rotating players in and out, and if they can't find productive depth, then he won't have to worry about a rotation.

Returning Starters: None.

Others Returning: LEO Noah Spence (So.), SDE Adolphus Washington (So.), SDE J.T. Moore (rJr.), SDE Steve Miller (Jr.), LEO Jamal Marcus (So.)

Noah Spence certainly looked the part of a former five-star pass rusher this spring, proving unblockable in most cases. The only offensive lineman who had any luck against him was left tackle Jack Mewhort. Everyone else was overmatched.

The first thing you'll notice about Spence is how quickly he shoots across the line of scrimmage, which immediately gets blockers on their heels. But he also possesses a devastating inside move that gives him a free run to the quarterback.

Last season he was a pass-rush specialist who only came away with one sack. He really had no idea what he was doing. This spring, however, he showed that he is a much more complete player.

Mike Vrabel
Photo by Jim Davidson

"Every day he works and learns and he learns something new, every day," Vrabel said. "There's not a day we come out to practice that Noah doesn't get better or he doesn't learn a new technique or doesn't see another play. He was young and did it with effort last year. Hopefully he's going to be more experienced and do it with effort, technique and fundamentals this year."

When Adolphus Washington got to Columbus, he surprised some folks by showing up weighing around 292 pounds. Because of his weight, he split time between defensive tackle and defensive end. However, he was still nimble and proved himself to be one of the team's better pass rushers.

This spring, Vrabel wanted to take advantage of Washington's natural abilities, and put him back out on the edge, and it was the exact right move. Washington is probably a little lighter this spring, but he's also quicker and stronger. For all of the attention that Spence received this spring, just as much should have fallen on Washington.

Adolphus Washington
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adolpus Washington

"He weighs 285 pounds, or whatever he weighs, which he could play inside, but his natural skills are really well-suited outside," Vrabel said. "He's got great length, he's a great basketball player, so he's a great athlete, he's everything that you could ask for."

Steve Miller and J.T. Moore are the veterans of a very young unit. Both had their moments in the spring, but that is nothing new. They have produced in practice before. It is time for them now to produce on the field.

"We've got guys who care," Vrabel said. "Steve Miller cares. Steve Miller has learned this defense and he goes and he's a great kid. I love coaching him. I would hope that Steve Miller wants to go out there and find a spot."

One player who certainly wants to find a spot, and made some noise displaying that desire this spring, is sophomore defensive end Jamal Marcus. Marcus was a linebacker last year before working at defensive end for the scout team. He was effective enough that they decided to move him permanently, and there were times this spring when Marcus didn't look much different than Noah Spence. He is still raw, but he knows how to rush the passer, and he has the speed and athleticism to make life difficult for a left or right tackle.

"Jamal is such an explosive player that we have to find a way to get him in the game and find a way to use him and get him going," Vrabel said, explaining the decision to move him to leo. "We've got to put our best playmakers out on the field, and allow them to go make plays for us. That's what the thought was for Jamal."

Newcomers: LEO Tyquan Lewis (Fr.), DL Tracy Sprinkle (Fr.), SDE Joey Bosa (Fr.)

Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle both enrolled early, so both took part in spring practice. Lewis certainly showed his athleticism at leo, but for the most part the Ohio State offensive tackles were ready for him. He still has fundamental work to do, and still has a ways to go in terms of the nuances that he'll learn along the way.

Sprinkle moved back and forth between strongside defensive end and tackle, and had moments at both spots. He could be on the same path as Adolphus Washington, though he isn't nearly as advanced. If he is ultimately going to be a defensive tackle, a redshirt is probably a good idea.

Joey Bosa already looks the part of a strongside defensive end, and he is expected to work his way onto the field this season. If Steve Miller and J.T. Moore aren't productive, Bosa could get quite a few snaps in their place.

Depth Chart
STRONGSIDE DEFENSIVE END
Adolphus Washington (6-3 292, So.)
Steve Miller (6-3 252, Jr.)
J.T. Moore (6-3 262, rJr.)
Joey Bosa (6-5 270, Fr.)

WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END (LEO)
Noah Spence (6-3 247, So.)
Jamal Marcus (6-2 230, So.)
Tyquan Lewis (6-3 237, Fr.)

Spring Links
My Spring Standouts: Defense

Washington and Spence Ready to ‘Ring the Bell’ in the Big Ten

Thinking Out Loud on Spence, Washington, Battle at Right Tackle

Two-Minute Drill: Inside Ohio State’s Spring Game Locker Room

Adolphus Washington Attempting to Replace the Irreplaceable

Former 5-Star DE Noah Spence on the Verge of Stardom

Spring Practice Insider: Defense Makes Plays in Defeat

Spring Thoughts on the Defense at the Midway Point

Spring Practice Insider: Defense Coming Together

Two Minute Drill: OL and DL Updates After Practice

Former 4-Star DE Transferring from Ohio State

10 Questions Facing the OSU Defense Heading Into Spring Practice

Spring Forecast: Defensive End

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