COLUMBUS, Ohio — Talent isn't usually a problem for the Ohio State football program, but sometimes the results can still be a bit tricky.
Chris Ash Sees Defensive Talent All Over the Place for the Buckeyes
By Tony Gerdeman
After giving up 20 points per game for a third-consecutive season a year ago, you might think that the talent on hand in the Ohio State defense would cause some defensive coaches to wish they were working on the other side of the ball.
For new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, however, the grass in Columbus is greener than it has been anywhere else he has coached. A year ago at this time Ash was the defensive coordinator at Arkansas, working with a roster that would end up going winless in SEC play.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Now he's immersed in an Ohio State defense, and the talent that he has seen was immediately noticeable, albeit young.
"The thing that jumps out at me is that we're young on defense, but I think we're very talented," Ash said.
"People want to say that you're inexperienced, but that will only last for so long. By the time we get through 15 spring practices, summer, fall training camp, there's no room for inexperience anymore. It's go time and we'll be ready to go by the time that we play. I think we're very talented at some positions even though we're young."
Any coach that comes to a new team and finds an entire defensive line returning will generally have to take something for his perma-grin. Considering how important the line of scrimmage is, it has to be good to know that there is talent and experience at the point of attack.
While watching the defensive line for the first time early this spring, it didn't take long for Ash to notice a pair of Buckeye defensive ends who stood out quite a bit.
"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," Ash said.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"There's several others, obviously. Joey Bosa is a good player. There's just a lot of competition up there with those guys. 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."
Ash has been the defensive coordinator at both Wisconsin and Arkansas, so it's no surprise that he would find the most defensive line depth of his career in Columbus. It's not just the defensive line that has stood out to him, however.
Along with a more aggressive coverage scheme, Ash's defense has switched the linebackers around, as the Buckeyes are now utilizing a "walk-out" linebacker. Considering it's a new position, things have gone well according to Ash.
"The linebacker position, Darron Lee and Chris Worley both have really stood out," he said, echoing just about every other defensive coach on the OSU staff regarding the Buckeyes' two redshirt freshman 'backers.
"They're out there at new positions doing a great job. Raekwon McMillan, the freshman that's here, he should be in high school, looks like he's got a chance to be an outstanding player at the linebacker position, but there's several guys there."
Linebacker has been a question mark for the Buckeyes over the last few years, and Urban Meyer is hoping that Ash has finally brought some answers to the position. If he can find the proper bridge between the defensive line and secondary, the defense could finally be as complete as Meyer has been coveting.
But the youth that Ash speaks about isn't just contained to the front seven, as the Buckeyes will be starting a pair of sophomore safeties in 2014. One in particular grabbed Ash's attention throughout the spring.
"In the secondary, it would be Tyvis Powell," he said.
Photo by Dan Harker
"He's really stood out and he looks like he's got a chance to be a real guy. I'm excited about him. Doran Grant has been giving superb effort here through the whole offseason since I've been here. I've been very impressed with him."
There is talent on all three levels of the defense this year, but that's nothing new. Ohio State will always have talent on defense. Last season, it's fair to say that that talent on defense matched the results on the field. For better results this coming season, the same will have to happen again.
Overall, there is enough talent on hand for the Buckeyes to continue their winning ways in 2014. The real question, however, is whether there's enough talent to do even more.
Ash is hoping that there is, and from what he's seen, that hope could soon become reality.
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