Ohio State defense looking good despite key losses
Ohio State’s offense hasn’t had a great spring.
How much of that is the doing of the defense?
One thing’s for certain: The Buckeyes on the other side of the
ball believe the defense is for real.
”Definitely there’s stuff we could get better at,” tight end
Jake Stoneburner said of the offense, which has had a so-so spring
because of injuries and a shortage of linemen. ”But also, we’re
going against one of the best defenses around. They know what
they’re doing over there, they’re known for having great defense.
So if we have an awful day, it’s our fault but you also have to
look at who we’re going against.”
The thing is, this isn’t supposed to be a vintage year for the
The unit was devastated by graduation, losing starting linemen
Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore, linebackers Ross Homan and
Brian Rolle, and four mainstays in the secondary in corners Chimdi
Chekwa and Devon Torrence, safety Aaron Gant and Jermale Hines, who
plays the linebacker/safety hybrid position of ”star.”
But instead of limping along, the unit has been terrific most of
Defensive end John Simon said it’s all in the attitude.
”A lot of people go through spring ball and figure they won’t
work hard – ‘We’re just here to practice’ or whatever,” he said.
”But this team, we really get excited every day.”
Holdover Nathan Williams teams with Simon at the ends, with
Garrett Goebel, Darryl Baldwin and freshman Joel Hale fighting for
the one tackle spot. At nose tackle, a slimmed-down Johnathan
Hankins – if you can be slimmed down at 6-foot-3 and 335 pounds –
has been a terror. Melvin Fellows and Solomon Thomas are also
battling for playing time up front, although Thomas must sit out
the first five games as part of NCAA sanctions for accepting
Williams knows what needs to be done.
”We’re depending on the younger guys to fill in. We’ve lost
seven starters so they have to step up and play for us,” he said.
”It’s definitely a huge challenge to replace guys on the defense.
I know the coaching staff and myself look forward to the challenge
it’s going to be replacing those guys.”
Andrew Sweat, the lone returning starter at linebacker, will
likely be joined by Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein, with Dorian
Bell and Jordan Whiting backing them up.
A year ago, Sweat was just an afterthought. Now he’s one of the
”It’s kind of surreal. It seems like I just got here,” the
senior said. ”You’re familiar with the defensive concept so it’s
kind of neat mentoring the younger guys and seeing them
Similarly, the one returnee in the backfield is Orhian Johnson,
who had a fine year at free safety. Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke
are battling for one cornerback spot opposite Travis Howard and
Dionte Allen. Christian Bryant, who saw some action a year ago as a
freshman at the star position, will duel with Tyler Moeller, who
was a starter before a torn chest muscle ended his season. Nate
Oliver and Jamie Wood, along with a freshman or two, will probably
add some insurance in the secondary.
The competition at so many positions has turned up the heat on
what has been a cool spring.
”(We’re) extremely fired up. We were having a good time,”
Simon said. ”That’s the way defense should be – just let loose and