Ohio State goes into the 2018 season having to replace defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Jalyn Holmes, along with their last two starting nose tackles — Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill.
There is always a plan in motion when it comes to replacing one player, but things can get a little dicey when so many bills come due at once.
All five departed defensive linemen ended up either drafted or signed as free agents, which gives you an idea of the level of talent that the Buckeyes are attempting to replace this season.
More than talent, however, was the experience that those five Buckeyes possessed.
“Well, what we had was some really experienced guys, and there’s never a substitute for experience,” OSU defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said this spring. “We still have some experienced guys, but not quite as much.”
For the most part, talent can be replaced. Experience, however, needs to be cultivated and can’t really be rushed.
The hope, then, is that the talent that is in place is good enough to overcome what the players don’t yet know they don’t yet know.
“We have some talented guys, some young guys that I think as they continue to grow in our program will really become great players,” Schiano said. “So when you lose experience like that, you’d like to think you can make up for it, but there’s going to be a little bit [of a drop off].”
A drop off for an Ohio State defensive line is a relative term. There could be a drop and the Buckeyes would still possess one of the best defensive lines in the country.
When you look at who remains, specifically All-American defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, there are tangible reasons to be excited.
Sophomore Chase Young and juniors Jonathon Cooper and Jashon Cornell only got a taste of meaningful playing time last season, but now they will be counted upon heavily. Freshmen will also be given an opportunity to contribute in order to find the best combination of defensive ends in the Buckeyes’ arsenal.
Inside, the situation at defensive tackle remains very promising. Even though Sprinkle and Hill are gone, the talent level may be at its highest point ever. There are young players waiting in the wings — including three talented 2018 signees, but fourth-year juniors Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, and Davon Hamilton provide the kind of experience that Schiano and defensive line coach Larry Johnson need.
When Schiano looks over the defensive line roster, he sees what has been recruited of late, and he imagines those players mixing with the veterans who have only begun to show what they can do.
The results should be something to watch.
“I think what we have is really good young players,” Schiano said. “And our plan is for this thing to go [in an upward trajectory] at the defensive line.”