One area Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will not need to spend much time worrying about is his defensive line. Meyer and his staff have built arguably the nation’s best unit that features speed on the edge, run-stuffing tackles and depth.
In fact, this unit could be Meyer’s best since his 2006 defensive line at Florida—one most Buckeye fans would like to forget. The Gators thumped Ohio State in the 2007 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game 41-14, as quarterback Troy Smith spent most of the night running for his life.
“This one, if they all perform and stay healthy, this could be at that level,” Meyer said when recently asked by Cleveland.com’s Doug Lesmerises on how this line compares to the one that starred Derrick Harvey, Jarvis Moss and Ray McDonald.
The defensive line will be led by Michael Bennett. The senior defensive tackle finished last season with seven sacks and 11.5 tackle for losses (TFLs). Bennett’s interior partner will be junior Adolphus Washington. Washington had two sacks and two TFLs as a part-time starter in 2013.
The edge duo of junior Noah Spence and sophomore Joey Bosa should keep opposing offensive coordinators awake at night. The two combined for 15.5 sacks and 28 TFLs last season. Spence will miss the first two games due to suspension.
“It’s game-changers up front,” Meyer told Lesmerises. “You don’t have to do a lot of blitzing, you don’t have to do a lot of twisting and movement, because those guys are one-on-one beaters. So if you can get a great D line like that, that frees you up with the back seven to do a lot of other stuff.”
Bennett and Bosa are on numerous preseason awards watch lists. Both are on the Bednarik (Defensive Player of the Year), Nagurski (defensive), Lombardi (linebacker/lineman), while Bennett is on the Outland (interior lineman).
Behind Bennett, Washington, Bosa and Spence is considerable depth. Seniors Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, as well as medical redshirt freshman Michael Hill and junior Tommy Schutt, will be among the many to see time in the trenches in 2014 for the Buckeyes.
The biggest change to the defensive line may be seen on the sidelines. Former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr., takes over for Mike Vrabel, who left to be the linebackers coach for the Houston Texans. Johnson, Sr. comes to Columbus with Columbus with gaudy credentials as both a recruiter and coach. He coached seven first-team All-Americans at Penn State and six first-round NFL draft picks.
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