July 9, 2012

Defensive end suddenly a position of strength

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With Ohio State's fall camp a month away from kicking off, we at Buckeye Grove have decided to take a look at the roster that Urban Meyer will be working with in his first year as Ohio State's head coach. Today, we'll take a look at the current state of the Buckeyes' defensive ends. You can see yesterday's preview of the Ohio State interior offensive line by clicking here.

At times during the 2011 season, the Ohio State's defensive line's lack of depth forced the Buckeyes into a place where they often had to play four players best suited to play defensive tackle in their front four. As one would imagine, the Ohio State pass rush severely suffered, and as a result the Buckeyes only sacked opposing quarterbacks 23 times, tying them for the 69th most in the country.

But between a stellar recruiting class and some creativity in position changes, the arrival of new Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has seemingly returned a pass rush to the Ohio State roster, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

While it's possible- if not likely- that one of Meyer's blue chip recruits could crack the starting lineup by the end of 2012, their playing time won't come on the left side of the defensive line, as that spot is currently occupied by senior John Simon. Perhaps the Buckeyes' best players and one of the top defensive linemen in the country, Simon is the undisputed leader of the Buckeyes, with Meyer having already named him a captain this past offseason.

"He's revealed himself around here for many years," Meyer said. "This didn't just surface. I'm putting him in a category that, I've only coached one or two like him."

Last season, Simon was one of the few bright spots on the defensive line, recording 53 tackles and seven sacks- nearly one-third of the Buckeyes' sacks in 2011. On a team that still has question marks at many positions heading into fall camp, Meyer knows exactly what he can expect from the Youngstown, Ohio native.

Backing up Simon heading into the start of fall camp will be a pair of sophomores in Steve Miller and J.T. Moore.

At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Miller was highly-touted coming out of Canton McKinley high school, but only played in two games during his freshman season. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Moore saw quite a bit more playing time during his redshirt freshman season, but only nine tackles, one of which was for a loss of yards.

Fourth-year junior Adam Bellamy enters fall camp as the Buckeyes' starting right defensive end. A converted defensive tackle, the 6-foot-4, 292-pound native saw his first consistent playing time in 2011, appearing in 13 games while recording 25 tackles and one sack.

Bellamy's status as a starter, however, will depend on the recovery of fifth-year senior Nathan Williams, who only appeared in one game in 2011 before suffering a knee injury that required him to undergo arthroscopic surgery. In his first three seasons in Columbus, Williams proved to be one of the Buckeyes' more consistent pass rushers, but it's too early to tell if he'll be able to play consistently in 2012.

Redshirt freshman Chase Farris is listed the back-up to Bellamy and Williams on the Ohio State depth chart. The 6-foot-4, 286-pound was a four-star recruit coming out of Elyria high school in 2010.

But while the returning defensive ends certainly look more impressive on paper than they did a year ago, it's a trio of newcomers that have Buckeye fans- and Meyer- excited about the unit.

It starts with 6-foot-4, 245-pound Noah Spence, the No. 1-ranked defensive end in the 2012 class. A five-star recruit out of Bishop McDevitt high school in Harrisburg, Pa., Spence was already a candidate to crack the OSU line-up before arriving in Columbus last month.

Already on campus when Spence arrived was early-enrollee Se'von Pittman. A four-star recruit from Canton McKinley high school, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Pittman sprained his MCL in April, causing him to miss half of his first spring camp in Columbus.

In January, Meyer indicated that landing Spence and Pittman was crucial to his recruiting class in Columbus.

"They are the guys you can take anywhere in the country with you at anytime," Meyer said. "They're high-character guys that play real hard. They have different body types."

The Ohio State coach said that he "had to have" Spence and Pittman, as well as five-star recruit Adolphus Washington. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Washington was ranked as the No. 2 player in the state of Ohio in 2012 coming out of Taft high school in Cincinnati.

Other defensive ends on the Ohio State roster include 6-foot-5, 285-pound redshirt freshman Kenny Hayes and walk-ons Logan Beougher, Calvin Green, Claudius Mbemba, William McCary, and Stewart Smith.


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