Looking at Ohio State's Defensive End Depth Chart
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes finished third in the nation in sacks last season, thanks largely to the 20-plus sacks credited to the Ohio State defensive ends. The good news for the Buckeyes and their fans is that every single defensive lineman on the team is back for 2014, and there will be some new names added to the mix as well.
Ohio State's depth at defensive end was put to the test several times in 2013, and each time that challenge was met with production. When Adolphus Washington went down with an injury, Joey Bosa stepped in and turned out to be one of the best players on the defense. When Noah Spence was suspended for the Orange Bowl, Jamal Marcus took his place, and produced as much havoc as we have seen all season from the Viper spot.
There are some tremendous playmakers up front for the Buckeyes, and considering how productive they were this past season, their ceiling is exceptionally high in 2014. Given the experience returning, they should take to new defensive line coach Larry Johnson's coaching rapidly. If anything, the learning curve will fall on Johnson, rather than his players.
Viper (Or whatever Larry Johnson is going to call it)
Noah Spence (Jr. 6-3 252)
It will be interesting to see where Spence is slated in the spring and summer, given that he will begin the season with a two-game suspension. Regardless of where he lands on the official depth chart, the production he had in 2013 – second in the league in sacks with 8.0 – means that he will be heavily involved in the defense when he gets back. Larry Johnson has had a fine history of turning out productive defensive ends, and Spence should fall right in line with that history.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jamal Marcus (Jr. 6-2 240)
Marcus got the start in the Orange Bowl due to Spence's suspension, and he didn't look out of place in the starting lineup. While Marcus is seen as a pass rusher, it was his ability to stop the run that was questioned throughout the season. He handled that aspect pretty well against Clemson and gave a glimpse at what he could become moving forward. Marcus has a pretty high ceiling, and he will likely start the first two games at Viper. Whether he starts more than that, however, will depend on him.
Steve Miller (Sr. 6-3 255)
Before the 2013 season started, Miller was thought to be caught in between positions – not fast enough to play Viper and not big enough to play the strong side. Yet whenever he was on the field, he found a way to get involved. He finished with six tackles for loss and three sacks. Both of those numbers were good for fifth on the team, despite limited playing time. He'll be a senior in 2014 and should have the best year of his career. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him providing depth at either end spot next year.
Tyquan Lewis (rFr. 6-3 255)
Lewis is a very athletic defensive prospect who redshirted in 2013. He can move as well as a linebacker, and his speed off the edge is what you would expect from the Viper position at Ohio State. Given Spence's suspension, Lewis should see quite a bit of time early in the season. If he performs well, it will be difficult for Larry Johnson to ignore him as the season goes on. He has the versatility to drop into coverage as well.
Strong Side Defensive End
Joey Bosa (So. 6-6 275)
Bosa was expected to contribute as a freshman, but nobody could have projected the impact that he had in 2013. His 7.5 sacks were second on the team and his 13.5 tackles for loss were third. He even supplanted Adolphus Washington in the starting lineup when Washington was expected to contend for All-Conference accolades. Bosa should be one of the top defensive linemen in the Big Ten, if not the nation. Expect to see Bosa's name on several preseason All-Conference and All-America lists.
Adolphus Washington (Jr. 6-4 295)
There were some very high expectations for Washington, but an injury derailed everything. He eventually got healthy, but Bosa was simply too good not to have in the lineup as much as possible. While Washington is listed with the defensive ends, he played defensive tackle later in the season, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him back there again in an attempt to get their four best defensive linemen on the field together. Of course, the new defensive line coach will have to determine who those best four are.
Tracy Sprinkle (rFr. 6-2 275)
Sprinkle, who will be a redshirt freshman, may ultimately end up at defensive tackle, which is where he played in many practices last year. He is still getting bigger, and he came to Ohio State a little bit raw, but the effort and tenacity were always apparent. How much he plays this season may depend on whether or not he is even at his ultimate position yet. Bosa is going to need a backup, and with the Buckeyes having so many tweeners, the job is up for grabs.
Jalyn Holmes (Fr. 6-5 235)
At the moment, Holmes could probably play either defensive end spot. He had a very impressive Army All-American Bowl, and was frequently creating trouble with his edge rush. He is a tall pass rusher with a very disruptive reach. He is one of those players who is only going to get bigger, and it makes you think he will eventually grow into a solid strong side defensive end. He also played tight end in high school and has pretty good hands for a defensive lineman.
Dylan Thompson (Fr. 6-5 280)
Thompson is a lot like the other guys listed as strong side defensive ends in that he could end up at defensive tackle. Heck, he is so big right now that he could even start out at tackle. He's being mentioned here because there is always a need for a big defensive end who can move, which describes Thompson. While he wasn't a highly-ranked recruit, he was a very early offer by the Buckeyes, which tells you how much Urban Meyer and his staff wanted him. Thompson is the kind of player that Larry Johnson will have some success with.
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