OSU Spring Forecast: Defensive End
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's been a hectic month or two for the Ohio State defensive line, as they they lose Mike Vrabel as a coach, and then eventually gain Larry Johnson.
In terms of replacements, Urban Meyer couldn't have done any better than he did, and there should be no drop off from a very productive group of defensive ends.
Larry Johnson hasn't yet gotten to see what his new players are capable of, so there will be a bit of a blank slate approach as spring practice gets under way. The spring is a time for rebirth, and with a new coach on hand, that's the case this spring more than ever.
Who's Coming Back?
The only defensive end who doesn't return for the Buckeyes is Mike Vrabel, and his eligibility has been up for quite a while. Starters Noah Spence and Joey Bosa return, giving Ohio State one of the top pass-rushing duos in the nation.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Spence's back-up, Jamal Marcus, is also back, and he will likely start the first two games of the season as Spence serves the rest of his three-game suspension. Marcus was very disruptive in the Orange Bowl, which should serve as a pretty good idea of what to expect from him this season as well.
Back-ups Steve Miller and Adolphus Washington return as well, though Washington may find most of his snaps happening at defensive tackle. Redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis will get his first good look at Viper, while fellow redshirt freshman Tracy Sprinkle may see some reps between strongside defensive end and defensive tackle.
A pair of freshman defensive ends (Jalyn Holmes and Dylan Thompson) will enter the mix when they enroll in the fall, but they will not be participating in spring practice.
Expectations Heading Into Spring
There may be a bit of a learning curve throughout the spring as the players get used to Larry Johnson's style and coaching technique. What he asks them to do may be quite different than what Mike Vrabel wanted.
Once that learning curve is straightened out, however, it would be a bit of a shock if the defensive ends didn't have a fair amount of success when matched up against the Ohio State offensive line.
That type of success isn't unusual, because it's something that Noah Spence has become accustomed to. The sheer amount of success the defensive ends have, however, will likely concern Urban Meyer a great deal.
Best Case Scenario
What Larry Johnson and the Ohio State defensive coaches will be hoping to see is much of what they saw last year, except improved. Noah Spence was an All-Big Ten performer last season, and if he comes into camp looking even better, then he will have done his job.
Avoiding a sophomore slump will be key for Joey Bosa, though not many people are expecting such a thing. If Adolphus Washington can transition back and forth between end and tackle, then that would be greatly welcomed.
Johnson is also no doubt hoping that there is virtually no difference between Spence and Jamal Marcus, because Marcus is going to need to produce in 2014. A little bit of flash from the redshirt freshmen would also be agreeable.
One to Watch For
The easy answer here is junior Jamal Marcus. His responsibilities are about to take a giant step forward. In the Orange Bowl, Marcus looked very much like a starting defensive end of a BCS Bowl team, and he certainly wasn't a weak link for the Buckeyes.
Marcus has always been tenacious pass rusher, but he showed against Clemson that he can also defend the run. The future could be very exciting for Marcus, especially if he proves himself to be too valuable to leave off the field once Spence returns.
Mike Vrabel was never a fan of freely rotating his defensive linemen, but Larry Johnson should be more forgiving if Marcus shows that he can handle whatever is put in front of him.
Trending Up or Down
Considering that there is only one senior defensive end on the roster, this position is absolutely trending up. Joey Bosa having at least two years left as a Buckeye would trend them up alone.
As long as nobody leaves early (Noah Spence), then the Buckeyes will have 8-10 defensive linemen on the roster in 2015, each of whom was heavily recruited by some of the top programs in the nation.
The future is incredibly bright at defensive end for Ohio State, but so is the present. Few teams can match the youth and production that the Buckeyes are returning at defensive end.
With Spence, Bosa and Marcus, the Ohio State offensive tackles should get quite a workout this spring, which is exactly what they'll need.
Overall, the Buckeyes have two potential All-Americans at defensive end, which is an incredible luxury to have. With all of the issues this team had defending the pass last season, a consistent pass rush will only help matters.
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