COLUMBUS, Ohio — In most instances, when a college football coach is asked how deep his defensive line will go, he likes to rattle off the numbers "eight, nine, ten."
How Deep Will This Ohio State Defensive Line Go?
By Tony Gerdeman
But the further he goes the more he ends up sounding like he's the one asking the question.
The reason the answer becomes a question is because a defensive line will only go 10 deep in an ideal world, and in college football there is almost no such thing.
Plus, even if a defensive line is capable of going 10 players deep, they rarely do it. For one, if you're that talented, then you must be REALLY talented in the top seven or eight, and the tendency will be to play those guys as much as possible.
Just a few of the defensive linemen in the rotation.
This spring the Buckeyes appear to be living in one of those ideal situations that don't really exist. There are 13 players rotating on the defensive line right now, and when they add three incoming freshmen this summer, that number will only get larger.
Photo by Jim Davidson
While most defensive coaches would be satisfied to have a rotation of eight, Ohio State will be trying whittle down their own rotation from 16 talented options.
Depth does not appear to be an issue, but the question remains -- just how many of these 16 players will see the field?
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson says that he wants a rotation of eight or nine, and he is certainly intent on rotating, but who will those eight or nine players be?
Let's not forget that this is also a defensive line has sent two players to the offensive line in the last year. Joel Hale started 11 games last season at nose tackle, and Chase Farris started once after moving back to defense from offense.
How many defensive lines are deep enough to send a dozen starts over to the offensive line just to provide some depth for the offense?
I can think of only one at the moment.
The Ohio State defensive line will be starting three five-star prospects, and the lone four-star runt is Michael Bennett, who was the highest-rated four-star defensive tackle in the nation in 2011 per Scout.
Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Noah Spence have already lived up to their billing, as Spence was First-Team All-Big Ten last season as a sophomore, and Bosa was a Freshman All-American. Bennett was a Second-Team All-Big Ten player last season, and is expected to contend for more accolades again this season.
The one to watch, however, may be Adolphus Washington, who is finally healthy and growing ever more comfortable at defensive tackle.
Behind them are a pair of former five-star linemen in defensive end Steve Miller and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt. Miller has had a fantastic spring, and Schutt is also finally healthy and excited about his opportunities.
What about defensive end Jamal Marcus, one of the stars of the Orange Bowl this past January? You won't be able to convince a single Buckeye fan on this planet that Marcus doesn't deserve to be right in the mix of any rotation.
As a testament to the depth that the Buckeyes possess right now, however, Marcus has been behind both Miller and redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis this spring, each of whom are backups themselves.
Lewis has impressed his coaches to this point, but he was impressing them long before the spring began, because he opened the very first spring practice with the second team.
There is also redshirt freshman defensive tackle Donovan Munger, who started the spring behind the twos, and now finds himself backing up starters and ahead of linemen who saw the field a season ago.
Fellow tackle Michael Hill was a preseason star last year, but eventually succumbed to injury. He was in the rotation early in the season a year ago as a true freshman, so should we not expect him there again in 2014?
And what about veteran big man Chris Carter? Or redshirt freshman tackle Tracy Sprinkle? Sprinkle is an active defender, and Carter is able to collapse a line of scrimmage like a drunkard bumping a table and spilling every drink for three tables down.
Walk-on defensive end Rashad Frazier, a transfer from Purdue, also merits mention because he's gotten good practice reps for the last two seasons. Obviously, however, he will have trouble holding off incoming defensive ends Darius Slade, Jalyn Holmes and Dylan Thompson, which only speaks further to the options that Larry Johnson is going to have.
But that doesn't mean things are going to be easy for the Buckeyes' new defensive line coach.
Sure, from all appearances depth won't be a problem for the Ohio State defensive line, but getting the rotation down to eight or nine might be.
For a coach, the OSU defensive line is probably as close to an ideal situation as they're going to find.
How deep will it go? Eight? Nine? Ten?
Who knows, maybe this one goes to eleven.
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