Washington and Spence ready to ring bells

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Last updated: 04/15/2013 3:51 AM

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Football
Washington and Spence Ready to ‘Ring the Bell’ in the Big Ten
By Brandon Castel

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Braxton Miller thought his coaches had a quick whistle on Saturday whenever he tried to use his athleticism to evade defenders who had stormed the gates of the Scarlet backfield.

The only thing that would have saved Braxton Miller during Ohio State’s spring game is the fact that, well, he’s Braxton Miller. His ability to escape pressure and make something – often big – out of nothing made him a Heisman Trophy candidate last season.

His 1,200+ rushing yards nearly earned him a trip to New York, but most quarterbacks would have found themselves firmly planted into the ground on Saturday. Black jersey or not, Miller was under constant pressure from the Gray’s defensive line, which consisted of mostly projected starters from Ohio State’s 2013 defense.

“38 or something?” OSU head coach Urban Meyer joked about the number of sacks allowed.

These weren’t head-on, slam-the-quarterback-to-the-turf type sacks. These weren’t even wrap up and stop moment sacks, though many of them were close. It wasn’t so much the big number – Gray’s defensive front seven combined for nine sacks – that stood out during Ohio State’s spring game as it was the amount of time Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence spent in the backfield together.

Urban Meyer
Photo by Jim Davidson

“I’m very pleased with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington,” Meyer said after the staged game inside Paul Brown Stadium.

“Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play. He's legitimate as far as a starter at Ohio State.”

In high school, Washington wasn’t just  bigger, faster and stronger than everyone else he played against. He was better, too.

Now, in his second year at Ohio State, Washington is quickly starting to emerge as a player who could be capable of showing that same type of dominance at the college level as well.

“You saw him today just have his way with our offensive line at times,” Meyer continued.

“He could be a very good player.”

Adolphus Washington
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adolphus Washington

Exactly how good is something Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell –  the interim coach at Ohio State when Washington committed to play for the Buckeyes – won’t know until he is beating someone in a different color jersey this fall.

His four sacks from Saturday won’t carry over to the 2013 season, but the experience he has gained over the last year certainly will.

“Just learning how to compete at a higher level,” Washington said of what he has gained at Ohio State.

“Just going out there and playing hard every play because in college everybody plays hard every play, so I'm still learning that.”

It helps for Washington to look over on the opposite end of the defensive line and see a guy in Noah Spence who doesn’t know how to do it any other way.

Noah Spence
Photo by Jim Davidson
Noah Spence

“He's got an innate ability to play really hard. He's got a great motor,” said OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year at Ohio State in the mid 1990s.  

“Noah's got a lot of ability. A lot of God-given athletic ability. You blend all of those together and you've got a pretty good product.”

Spence and Washington aren’t just close on the field, where they combined for seven sacks in four 10-minute quarters on Saturday. The two five-star ends from the class of 2012 also share the same dorm room.

After every big play they made Saturday, the dynamic duo would reach up and signal with their hand to rack up yet another victim of the sack machine.

“It's a thing that the defensive line does,” Washington explained, “it's called ‘Ringing a bell.’ That's what we do.”

Their big day was facilitated by the fact Miller’s Scarlet offensive line was without center Corey Linsley (foot) and left tackle Jack Mewhort, arguably the team’s best pass blocker and the leader of the offensive line.

Even his presence may not have been enough to keep the talented young defensive line from terrorizing Ohio State’s quarterbacks during a pass-heavy spring game on Saturday.  

“I get frustrated sometimes in practice and get down on myself (whenever I get beat by those guys),” Mewhort said, “but then I say, ‘you know what, those guys are going to be wreaking havoc on a lot of other tackles.’ ”

Spence has always had a quick first step, which is part of the reason he was the top-rated defensive end in his entire recruiting class. Mewhort believes the difference this year is that he’s playing with confidence and swagger because he knows how good he can be. The same could be said for Washington, though it has taken him a little longer to get to that point.

“Adolphus is a young guy. He obviously has all the physical tools. He’s blessed,” Mewhort said of the sophomore out of Cincinnati Taft.

“I see him coming along every day. If he keeps going, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in this conference.”

And together, he and Spence will likely be ringing a lot more bells along the way.

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