Spring Recap: Defensive Ends

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2014 Spring Positional Recap: Defensive End
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State returns every defensive end from a season ago, and few teams in the nation can match the production coming back for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes return 20.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss at the defensive end position. The sacks alone are more than four Big Ten teams amassed a season ago.

New defensive line coach Larry Johnson will be in charge of making sure that that production doesn't take a dip. In fact, given that everybody is a year older, the damage caused by the Buckeyes on the edge should increase.

Going off of what was seen this spring, it would be a surprise if this group of ends took a step back. Given the sheer number of talented defensive ends on the roster, the rotation should be a bit more active than it was a season ago.

"The game has changed now," Johnson explained.

"You're talking about the spread offense, quick snaps, quick balls getting out of there. That number can go from 65 to 90 pretty quick. You add that times 12 games, one guy doing it, that's a lot of football. What I want to do is play fresh. I want to play eight or nine guys every time and be relentless on the football field, that way every guy can play as hard as he can on every snap, and that's how you play defense."

Returning Starters: Noah Spence (6-3 252, Jr.); Joey Bosa (6-5 285, So.)

Noah Spence (14.5) and Joey Bosa (13.5) were both in the top four of defensive lineman in tackles for loss a season ago in the Big Ten, and in the top three in sacks. No team in the conference can match their returning production.

Noah Spence
Photo by Jim Davidson
Noah Spence

Both players were given a lighter load this spring as Larry Johnson already knows what he has with each player. They each played well this spring in their limited reps, and there is no indication that 2014 is going to be anything other than a continuation of what began a year ago.

"Up front, when you talk about Noah Spence, I've heard about  Noah Spence, but I didn't see Noah really play last year other than some cut-ups that we watched when we got here, he's really stood out at the D-line position," said new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash this spring.

Spence is looking to become a more complete defensive end, and Bosa is simply looking to continue his current trajectory while becoming a more nuanced player. This spring was productive for each of them in that regard.

"I think the key is that he doesn't stay the same," Johnson said of Bosa.

"He's got to move forward. The thing that he and I talk about is that we've got to forget about last year, it's about this year. Every time you step on the field you've got to be a better player because he'll be a marked guy. They're gonna turn protection to him, they're gonna chip him. It's going to be a different game than he saw last year because they know who he is, so he's got to get prepared for that. Right now he's doing a good job of working"

Others Returning: Tyquan Lewis (6-3 260, rFr.); Jamal Marcus (6-1 243, Jr.); Steve Miller (6-3 255, Sr.); Rashad Frazier (6-4 272, rJr.)

Tyquan Lewis was one of the more pleasant surprises of the spring, showing himself to be a disruptive pass rusher, and quick enough to get involved in the running game. He is just a redshirt freshman, but after his performance this spring it would be a surprise if he doesn't move himself into the rotation.

"I don't know his past or where he came from," Johnson said of Lewis.

"He walked in the door about 225, and he's 260 or 257 right now, which is really a great weight for him. For a young player, the first spring ball, in a position to run with the twos. I think he's grown leaps and bounds as we go forward."

Steve Miller has gotten better every year as a Buckeye, but has never been able to break into the starting lineup. He provided solid depth last season, and looked leaner and more explosive this spring. With the way he has played, he'll be on the field rotating as well.

Jamal Marcus flipped back and forth between the twos and threes this spring, though technically there really is no third team. Urban Meyer shut him down towards the latter half of spring practice for academic reasons. If he can get his books in order to Meyer's liking, we've all seen what Marcus can do on the football field.

Rashad Frazier is a walk-on transfer from Purdue, but he was consistently getting good reps this spring. He flashed his ability in the Spring Game with a couple of sacks. Snaps will be difficult for him to come by this season, but that can be said of everybody.

"There's just a lot of competition up there with those guys," Ash said.

"It's probably in my opinion, of the teams I've been on, the most guys up front that can actually play. There's extreme competition. You're going to have to be pretty good to get in that rotation."

Newcomers: Jalyn Holmes (6-5 240, Fr.); Dylan Thompson (6-5 270, Fr.); Darius Slade (6-5 240, Fr.)
Just looking at the incoming freshman, you can see that the Buckeyes were targeting size and length. None of the freshmen were in spring camp this year, which will make it even more difficult for them to enter into the rotation this season.

However, if one of these three does get into the mix, then the Buckeyes would seem to have another phenom on their hands. Don't expect it, but don't be surprised by it either.

Depth Chart
Left End (Don't get too hung up on Left/Right as things are fluid.)
Noah Spence (6-3 252, Jr.)
Steve Miller (6-3 255, Sr.)
Jamal Marcus (6-1 243, Jr.)
Jalyn Holmes (6-5 240, Fr.)
Darius Slade (6-5 240, Fr.)

Right End
Joey Bosa (6-5 285, So.)
Tyquan Lewis (6-3 260, rFr.)
Rashad Frazier (6-4 272, rJr.)
Dylan Thompson (6-5 270, Fr.)

Spring Links

Bosa Looking to Change His Game by Doing What He's Always Done

Spring Football Showcased Young Talent for Buckeye Defense

Johnson Raising Bar for Defensive Linemen

Chris Ash Sees Defensive Talent All Over the Field for the Buckeyes

How Deep Will This OSU Defensive Line Go?

Larry Johnson's Style Much Different Than His Predecessor

OSU Spring Forecast: Defensive End

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