Recruiting Rundown — So Who's Out There on Defense?
By Tony Gerdeman
Ohio State will very likely look quite different on the defensive line next year. For one, defensive end John Simon should be able to stay on his more natural strong side, and defensive tackles like Johnathan Hankins and Adam Bellamy might actually play most of their snaps on the inside, instead of rotating out to defensive end.
There will still be some versatility up front simply based on the talent that is coming back, though without a defensive coordinator on staff, we don't yet know how all of the pieces will come into place.
Ohio State brought in five defensive linemen last year. Freshman Michael Bennett immediately found himself in the rotation and contributed both inside and outside. Rush end Steve Miller got a few snaps, but will need to play a much larger role next year, especially if Nathan Williams isn't yet healthy enough to do so.
Given how little pass rush the Buckeyes had from their rush end (Leo) spot in 2011, and the uncertainty of Williams' status in 2012, it shouldn't be any surprise that Urban Meyer wants to ramp things up and bring in some dynamic speed rushers in this class.
The Buckeyes already have one of the nation's top defensive ends committed in Cincinnati's Adolphus Washington (6-5 240), whom Scout tabbed as a five-star prospect and the third-ranked defensive end in the nation.
Washington is one of those players who is supremely talented, but also never gives up on a play. He's a speed rusher, but has the size and power to hold up against the run as well. He will probably grow into a strong side defensive end before it's all over, but right now has the burst to make an instant impact.
Most notable among the other defensive ends the staff is after is Pennsylvania's Noah Spence (6-4 245), ranked as the top defensive end in the nation by Scout. Meyer called Spence on November 29th, and after speaking with the new man in charge, Spence tweeted that Ohio State was “definitely at the top of the list for now”. On Monday the news broke that Spence had finally scheduled his first official visit, which just happens to be taking place next week in Columbus.
Spence is planning on making his decision at the Under Armour All-American Game on January 5th, and if the Buckeyes are his only official visit to that point, you have to like Ohio State's chances.
There was also the recent news from Rivals that Meyer had called Darius Hamilton (6-4 245) and the Buckeyes might be in line for one of Hamilton's five official visits. Rivals has Hamilton ranked as the number two defensive end in the country and the fifth-ranked player over all. Last Friday Hamilton told Scout that he had likely settled on his five visits, none of which were Ohio State. A Saturday call from Meyer, however, may have changed everything.
Like the situation at offensive tackle, the staff is also looking at committed players, and Florida's Dante Fowler (6-3 238) is certainly on that list. Fowler is currently committed to Florida State, but he's still planning on taking visits. The fact that he has a previous history with Urban Meyer and was almost a Gator commitment could be huge here. Scout ranks him as a five-star prospect and the fifth-ranked defensive end in the nation. Of Scout's top five defensive ends, the Buckeyes are targeting four, and have already landed one. Getting a second verbal commitment from one of Spence, Hamilton or Fowler doesn't seem to be out of the realm of probability.
There is also Se'Von Pittman (6-5 245) out of Canton McKinley to keep an eye on. Pittman, the ninth-ranked defensive end in the country per Scout, is currently committed to Michigan State and has not yet scheduled a visit to Ohio State. If he does, Mark Dantonio better start getting nervous.
Because of the level of talent showing interest, the staff would likely take two commitments here, and possibly more depending on which players come knocking.
Ohio State currently has two linebackers committed in Lancaster's Luke Roberts (6-2 230) and Olentangy's Josh Perry (6-4 228), but would like to add another one or two in this class if possible. Roberts is likely slated for the middle or the weak side, while Perry is the type of athlete who thrives on the edge and can run with tight ends if need be.
The Buckeyes got a huge boost from true freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier this season, and while they likely don't want to rely on a freshman again next season, there are still spots available to be won here.
One of the more intriguing prospects to pop up on the radar in the last week has been North Carolina defensive end/linebacker Jamal Marcus (6-2 219). Marcus is listed as a three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout, but his offers would indicate that the schools think more of him than the recruiting services do. Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame, USC, South Carolina and Ohio State have all offered.
He was mainly a defensive end in high school, but his highlight reel displays the quickness, speed and change of direction that is needed at linebacker. He would certainly fit in with the “hair on fire” type of program that Meyer is going to build around here. Watching him, it is not unlike watching Ryan Shazier.
Miami's Keith Brown (6-2 230) will be another name to watch. He decommitted from his hometown Hurricanes and committed to Illinois, who offered both Brown and his brother Keith Atkins. Atkins has not been highly sought after, and when Ron Zook offered a spot for Brown's brother as well as Brown himself, they didn't hesitate to commit to the Illini.
But now with the firing of Ron Zook, Brown's status is a bit up in the air, as is Atkins'. Brown would ideally like to look around, and has told the Miami Herald that the Hurricanes were once the perfect spot for him, but they weren't willing to take his brother because of limited room.
Brown's ultimate goal in all of this is to make sure his brother gets a scholarship to play football. If another offer doesn't come Atkins' way, he admitted to the Herald that he would likely end up at Illinois. If another school does offer Atkins a spot—and Ohio, Bowling Green and Florida International have shown interest, then all bets are off for Brown. Despite all of this, however, the Herald reports that Brown may be visiting Ohio State in the very near future regardless of what Atkins does.
The Buckeyes are already in on a couple of linebackers from Indiana in the 2013 class, but on Wednesday they threw their hat in the ring on a Hoosier state linebacker in the 2012 class. David Perkins (6-2 209) has offers from all over the country, and according to Rivals, he already has all five of his visits set. Despite the recent developments, Perkins has already scheduled an official visit to Ohio State for January 13th. Based on his scheduled visits, the Buckeyes will be battling Missouri, LSU, Michigan State and Tennessee. Perkins is listed as a four-star prospect by Rivals, and is their eleventh-ranked "athlete" in the class.
There is also the curious case of Ifeadi Odenigbo (6-4 210), who attends Centerville, which has been an Ohio State-friendly school for years. In this case, however, it seems that Ohio State is on the outside looking in, and they don't appear interested in trying to fight their way past the foyer into Odenigbo's living room. This could mean that they have confidence in other prospects, or they simply know that Odenigbo will end up elsewhere. It could also mean that Meyer has simply decided to move on from a lukewarm reception.
Expect Meyer to go hard after Marcus, and given Brown's uncertainty, the staff may be okay with taking just one more linebacker in this class. Keep in mind, however, the fact that Perkins has already scheduled a visit on the same day that he received an offer can't be taken lightly.
Don't be surprised if the Buckeyes also land a defensive tackle and/or defensive back to close out the class. Foremost among that group is Illinois defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (6-3 290). Schutt, rated a five-star prospect and the fifth-ranked defensive tackle overall, is currently a Penn State commit, but things could be changing in that regard. In fact, ESPN is reporting that Schutt will be making an official visit to Ohio State this weekend.
Schutt was interested in the Buckeyes before all of the turmoil hit, so it's not a stretch to think that his days as a Nittany Lion commit are numbered given turmoil of their own.
There are still a few other offers out there and the staff is still going after a few stragglers in the secondary. It is clear, however, that a dynamic pass rusher and linebacker depth is what has Meyer concerned at the moment defensively.
Related Article: Who's Still Out There - Offense
Related Article: Where Do They Stand Now
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