2013 Ohio State Preview – Defense

Posted Jul 10, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Ohio State Buckeye Defense

Ohio State Buckeyes

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Ohio State Preview | 2013 Ohio State Offense
- 2013 Ohio State Defense | 2013 Ohio State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know:
The defense will be more than fine. Inconsistent last year, it has to undergo a major overhaul losing six starters in the front seven, but Ohio State being Ohio State has more than enough top talents waiting in the wings. However, the real stars are in the recruiting class with linebacker Mike Mitchell, end Joey Bosa and safety Vonn Bell among the best in the nation in their respective positions. Ryan Shazier is a special linebacker who'll earn all-star honors, and the safety combination of C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant will be fine helping out top corner Bradley Roby, but the line has to perform with the spotlight on and Curtis Grant has to finally pay off at middle linebacker.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Ryan Shazier, 115
Sacks: Ryan Shazier, 5
Interceptions: C.J. Barnett, Bradley Roby, 2

Star of the defense: Junior LB Ryan Shazier
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior LB Curtis Grant
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Noah Spence
Best pro prospect: Shazier
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Shazier, 2) CB Bradley Roby, 3) S Christian Bryant
Strength of the defense: Defensive Back, Young Talent
Weakness of the defense: Defensive Line, Consistency

Defensive Line

The entire front four has to be replaced, but the loss of John Simon and Nathan Williams might not be all that painful if sophomores Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are as good as they looked throughout the offseason. The 6-3, 292-pound Washington is built like a 3-4 end but will work on the outside in the 4-3 with excellent athleticism for his size and good pass rushing skills either inside or out making nine tackles with three sacks in his limited time. A Parade All-American, he was a top recruit for the program with the athleticism to be a star basketball player as well as a factor on the football field. The 6-3, 247-pound Spence is a speed rusher who should be a blur off the edge now that he's getting more of a chance. He made 12 tackles with a sack as part of the rotation, but the potential is there to blow up.

Finding new ends won't be as hard as it might be to come up with tough tackles including Johnathan Hankins. There will be a rotation on both the nose and defensive tackle, starting with 6-3, 285-pound junior Michael Bennett needs to be a star in the interior with more experience than the other tackle options making 11 tackles with a sack. He has the quickness to be a good pass rusher, but it'll mostly be his job do hold up against the run. Also looking for a starting spot is junior Joel Hale, a versatile tackle with the strength to hold up on the nose and the experience to hold his own at either spot. He made just six tackles last season, but he has paid his dues.

6-2, 303-pound sophomore Tommy Schutt was a typical top recruit for the Buckeye line with extreme quickness and disruptive ability. One of the first recruits in Meyer's tenure, the five-star prospect came up with four tackles with a quarterback hurry, and now he should be a major factor up front for the next three years.

Adding even more size on the nose is the massive Chris Carter, a 6-4, 341-pound interior presence who has been around for the last few seasons, but he hasn't done much yet working mostly on special teams. The former offensive lineman is too big and too strong to not gum up the works once in a while on the inside.

Watch Out For … Joey Bosa. While Michael Hill, Billy Price and Donovan Munger are phenomenal prospects for the interior, and Tyquan Lewis was a great get for the outside, Bosa was the really, really big get. The 6-5, 270-pound Florida native is a dream 3-4 end who brings the high-energy motor on every play and should be a dangerous pass rusher whenever he gets his chance. The prototype, he'll be making NFL money in the very near future.
Strength: Upside. It's Ohio State. There are always more superstar defensive linemen waiting to show what they can do. It's not out of line to think that the line could be even better despite the loss of four starters. This might be a more talented group, but it could take some time because of the lack of …
Weakness: Experience. There's a world of talent and lots and lots of promise and potential, but now the front four has to actually do it, especially at tackle. Washington and Spence saw a little time, and Bennett knows what he's doing, but they have to go from great to fantastic if the Buckeyes want to be in the national title hunt.
Outlook: After finishing 14th in the nation against the run and cranking up 30 sacks, the defense has a lot of work to do up front. Fortunately, the new guys can play. Everything will turn out to be fine sooner than later; it's not like the Buckeyes are dragging bodies out of a geology class.
Unit Rating: 7.5


The linebacking corps doesn't have as many question marks as the defensive front, mainly because it has a superstar in leading tackler Ryan Shazier returning. The 6-1, 222-pound junior came to Ohio State as a safety but moved to linebacker immediately and turned into a nice playmaker making 57 tackles with three sacks in his first season and followed it up with 115 tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles and 17 tackles for loss getting all over the field doing a little bit of everything. Not just great against the run and not just fantastic at flying into the backfield, he uses his defensive back athleticism to come up with big plays against the pass breaking up 11 passes with a pick. With unlimited range, he's a guided missile from his weakside position and should be in the mix for All-America honors.

While Shazier lived up to expectations, the Buckeyes are still waiting for junior Curtis Grant to shine in the middle. The 6-3, 241-pounder was considered the nation's top interior prospect a few years ago and was a gigantic get for the program, but he didn't see too much time early on and made just eight tackles last year. It's his job now, but he has to prove he can actually play or he'll get shoved aside by sophomore Camren Williams, a special teamer as a true freshman who saw a little time on defense. Very fast and very tough, he's a sure tackler with great range.

6-4, 243-pound sophomore Joshua Perry instantly signed on in 2012 and saw time as a true freshman special teamer and part-time defender making five tackles. Big and extremely athletic, he was an all-star Ohio high school long jumper and excellent hurdler, and while he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps, he's perfect for the strongside with his physical style. He'll be backed up by sophomore Craig Fada, a 6-0, 226-pound walk-on who'll see most of his time as a special teamer.

Watch Out For … Mike Mitchell. 6-2, 220-pound Trey Johnson is already considered a key part of the rotation on the outside with his tremendous tackling ability – he came up with 456 tackles for his high school in Georgia – but it's the 6-4, 225-pound Mitchell who's the special recruit with the limitless upside. Arguably the nation's top middle linebacker prospect, the 6-4, 225-pound Texas native came up with 186 tackles as a senior with 11 sacks. A huge hitter, he forced seven fumbles.
Strength: Size. Shazier is the best linebacker on the lot and he might be the smallest one in the equation. Grant is big, Perry is bigger, and there's enough size among the reserves to hold up against the run.
Weakness: Sure things. There might be plenty of terrific prospects and lots of stars next to their prep résumés, but there's a prove-it part to the equation. Will Grant play up to the hype? Can the freshmen shine right away? All of a sudden, this could look like a very, very thin group.
Outlook: Shazier is a superstar to work everything around, but the key will be Grant. Perry will be fine, and Mitchell and Johnson could be thrown to the wolves right away, but Grant has to be fantastic in the middle in place of Zach Boren.
Unit Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

The pass defense was a slight problem at times last season, but if the pass rush is solid the secondary could quickly turn into a strength helped by the return of star corner Bradley Roby, a 5-11, 192-pound junior who finished third on the team with 63 tackles with two picks and a whopping 17 broken up passes. He came from out of nowhere to be the team's best corner two years ago and now he's a lockdown all-star with great range, quickness and hitting ability. He might not necessarily be a next-level talent, but he's purely a good football player. However, he is in hot water after reportedly being arrested after an incident in a bar.

Roby will work the boundary side while 5-11, 191-pound junior Doran Grant will take over at the field position. A terrific prospect, he became a bigger part of the secondary mix last season making 19 tackles with a sack and a pick. Now the job is his and he has the tools and talent to grow into a force. An Ohio state champion sprinter and hurdler, speed isn't an issue but he'll have to prove he can be consistent. Behind him will be sophomore Armani Reeves, a 5-10, 197-pound athlete with great range, but he suffered a knee injury that set him back as a true freshman after making just two tackles in his limited time.

Senior C.J. Barnett is a 6-1, 203-pound veteran who led the team in tackles two years ago making 75, and followed it up with 56 stops with a pick and six broken up passes in just nine games. A huge hitter, he earned all-star honors in each of the last two seasons despite missing time with an ankle injury last year and hurting his knee a few seasons ago. Big enough and versatile enough to play either safety spot, he's a solid leader to work around. He'll likely play at strong safety while 5-10, 192-pound senior Christian Bryant will handle the free safety gig after finishing second on the team with 71 tackles with a pick and 17 broken up passes. A whopper of a hitter for his size, he's been fine in nickel packages as well as a playmaker at both safety spots with uncanny instincts and natural range. With 139 tackles over the last two seasons, he has been one of the team's steadiest performers.

Getting a shot early on in nickel packages is redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell, a 6-3, 201-pound all-around defensive back with track speed and corner ability. Smart, tough and athletic, he can do a little of everything and could be a statistical superstar in the role.

Watch Out For … the true freshmen. The Buckeyes loaded up with tremendous prospects with three top ten caliber corners in Eli Apple, Cameron Burrows and Gareon Conley, who'll all likely see time right away. However, the team's best recruit in a class full of great recruits is safety Vonn Bell, a next-level playmaker out of Georgia with 4.4 speed, smooth-as-silk cutting skills and 6-1, 190-pound size. A sure tackler, he made 146 tackles while also seeing plenty of time on offense. At corner, the 6-0, 184-pound Apple got to school early and will likely back up Roby on the boundary side right away. While he's a good tackler, he's a factor when the ball is in the air.
Strength: Experience. With Roby locking down one spot and with Bryant and Barnett back at safety, the Buckeyes have three excellent veterans to form a nice base. The freshmen will fill in the blanks around them adding more talent.
Weakness: Consistency. It's not like OSU shut down anyone's passing game. It got better late with Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan all failing to hit 200 yards after giving up more than 200 in each of the last nine games, but the Badgers ran the ball without a problem and the Illini did nothing all year offensively.
Outlook: The potential is there to be phenomenal. The safeties should be among the league's best and Roby is fantastic, but the real excitement comes with the loaded recruiting class that's big-time even by OSU's standards.
Unit Rating: 8

Special Teams

Senior kicker Drew Basil has a big leg and showed it off a bit with a 52-yard bomb against Michigan, but he missed from 39 yards out against the Wolverines and from 35 yards away against Indiana. He didn't get too many chances with a mere six field goal attempts before season finale. Experienced and solid, he should be relied on more often. He'll also handle the punting duties with Ben Buchanan gone after averaging 41 yards per try. Basil has the leg, but he needs the experience. If he's not the man, sophomore Jake Russell should take over with a huge leg and enough practice time to get a shot.

Corey Brown turned in a nice year on punt returns averaging 12.3 yards per try with two touchdowns including a 76-yarder against Nebraska and a key score against Wisconsin. Rod Smith averaged 23.3 yards per kickoff, but he only saw time in five games.

Watch Out For … Basil to be used far, far more. It wouldn't be a bad thing if he spent most of his time on the bench waiting for extra points again, but it's asking a lot for the offense to be that efficient and effective at scoring touchdowns again. Basil will get more than 11 field goal attempts.
Strength: Speedy returners. Brown and Smith can both fly and they can change games around with one big return. It's not like the team needs the field position advantage, but it'll get it.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The punt coverage team allowed a mere 6.4 yards per punt return, but it gave up two scores. The kickoff coverage gave up 20.8 yards per attempt with a score.
Outlook: Up-and-down over the last few years, the Buckeye special teams should be terrific is Basil can handle the punting duties without a problem. He'll be great on field goals and the returners should be excellent.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2013 Ohio State Preview | 2013 Ohio State Offense
- 2013 Ohio State Defense | 2013 Ohio State Depth Chart