2014 Spring Positional Recap: Defensive Tackle
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State returns both starting defensive tackles from last season, though one of them -- Joel Hale -- has chosen to move to the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. Hale's decision to move to offense, as well as the coaches allowing it to happen, should tell you all you need to know about the current state of the depth of the defensive line.
In Hale's place will be Adolphus Washington, who played both defensive end and defensive tackle last season. This year, however, he will be on the inside full time. With Michael Bennett up front with Washington, this should be a position of strength, but both players could be considered a bit undersized for the position.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson's aggressive style will see his defensive tackles attacking upfield, as opposed to waiting for the fight to be brought to them. The hope is that their speed and quickness will offset any lack of size that they may have.
"We want to be a factor in the passing game, no question about that," Johnson said. "So we'll stop the run and run right through the run to the pass, so that's the style."
Returning Starters: Michael Bennett (6-2 288, Sr.)
Michael Bennett returns following a junior season where he finally emerged as the player he had shown flashes of becoming in his first two seasons. He finished with 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks, which should be the benchmark to shoot for this season.
Photo by Dan Harker
Bennett has always used to his quickness to beat double teams, and Johnson's style should suit him very well moving forward. He is a definite All-Big Ten candidate and nothing he did this spring will change that. He made life difficult for the interior of the offensive line throughout practice, and he should do the same for OSU's opponents in the fall.
He is one of the unquestioned leaders of this team, and Johnson will lean on him for that reason.
"I think he's a great leader," Johnson said.
"I think our players respect him as a leader. He's played a lot of football. I think when he opens his mouth, guys are listening to him right now, and that's the kind of leadership you want. So I've been very impressed with Mike and his leadership style on the field and off the field. He's a great student. I'm looking for great things from him. He's a senior. He knows he's the guy that's gotta move it forward. We talk about moving the yard stick and I think Mike's doing a great job of moving forward and moving my group forward."
Others Returning: Adolphus Washington (6-4 288, Jr.); Tommy Schutt (6-2 300, Jr.); Tracy Sprinkle (6-3 283, rFr.); Donovan Munger (6-4 306, rFr.); Michael Hill (6-2 315, So.); Chris Carter (6-4 342, rJr.)
Adolphus Washington has always been a productive player despite limited opportunities. Those opportunities are going to ramp up this coming season, even though the current plan includes a healthy dose of rotation. Washington was everything his coach could have hoped for this spring. He was disruptive against the run, and still showed the pass rush ability that he has been known for since he was a true freshman.
"He's really worked hard," Johnson said of Washington. "He's had a really good spring, he really has. We moved him to the inside because of the pass rush ability. He's playing the run really nice and he's done a great job for us."
Tommy Schutt was finally healthy and showed some of the quickness that he has lost due to injuries in the past. He wasn't in the backfield probably as much as Johnson would have liked, but he is an upperclassman now and should be able to give the Buckeyes a fair amount of snaps.
One of the stories of the spring was the emergence of the second-year defensive tackles. While Tracy Sprinkle is probably still a year away, both Donovan Munger and Michael Hill showed that they could very well be on the field this year.
Munger was one of the more impressive linemen, frequently getting into the backfield, as well as standing tall against the run. Hill finished well and got better as the spring went on. He was impressive early as a freshman last season, and has the ability to get upfield.
With just one senior on the defensive tackle depth chart, this is a relatively unproven group. With Bennett and Washington, however, the foundation is extremely solid. The performances of Munger, Hill and Schutt this spring also gives confidence that this group will be able to fill out the type of rotation that Larry Johnson is shooting for.
"I'm really impressed with some of the young players," Johnson said this spring. "Donovan Munger is one of the guys who has stepped up. Mike Hill has done a really good job. Tommy Schutt, who was hurt most of last season, he's really having a good spring for us."
Perhaps the most intriguing tackle on the defense is Chris Carter, who was in the rotation a bit last season. He is a massive run stopper, but has to be able to give the defense enough high-quality snaps to make it worth their time to put him in.
It's still a learning process for Carter, as well as for Johnson to see how much he can handle. That's a lot of what this spring was about for the both of them.
"It's day by day, baby steps," Johnson said early this spring.
"Teaching him how to play and teaching him how to play hard. You've got to limit his reps. 'Hey Chris, five plays here', 'Hey Chris, seven plays here', and see if he continues to develop. That's our approach going into the spring. So it will be interesting as we go through the spring and get into the spring game, let's see if he's ready to play. That's our goal in my evaluation of Chris."
Michael Bennett (6-2 288, Sr.)
Tommy Schutt (6-2 300, Jr.)
Chris Carter (6-4 342, rJr.)
Adolphus Washington (6-4 288, Jr.)
Donovan Munger (6-4 306, rFr.)
Michael Hill (6-2 315, So.)
Tracy Sprinkle (6-3 283, rFr.)
Spring Football Showcased Young Talent for Buckeye Defense
Johnson Raising the Bar for Defensive Linemen
How Deep Will This Defensive Line Go
Adolphus Washington Finally at Home on the Inside
Larry Johnson's Style Much Different Than His Predecessor
Best Under-the-Radar Position Battles So Far This Spring
OSU Spring Forecast: Defensive Tackle
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