Ohio State Preview 2006 - Defense
Ohio State Buckeyes
Posted Aug 5, 2006

Ohio State Buckeyes Preview 2006 - Ohio State Defense

What you need to know ... Ohio State loses a slew of superstars and top NFL draft picks from the nation's number five defense, but it's unlikely to slip much with a tremendous array of athletes ready to step in. There's no reason whatsoever to worry about the back seven that has to replace all its starters. The secondary looked fantastic at times this spring with enough 4.4 speedsters to keep the NFL scouts drooling, but it has to come up with more than the six interceptions last year's crew helped pick off. The linebacking corps has seven good options to rotate with a good mix of hard-nosed run stoppers to speedy outside defenders. The line needs to come up with a steady pass rush, but that's nitpicking; All-America tackle Quinn Pitcock and the boys will be a rock against the run.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Malcolm Jenkins, 37
Sacks: David Patterson, 4
Interceptions: Brandon Mitchell, 1

Star of the defense: Senior DT Quinn Pitcock
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Jay Richardson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Malcolm Jenkins
Best pro prospect: Pitcock
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pitcock, 2) Jenkins, 3) LB Marcus Freeman
Strength of the defense: Speed and athleticism
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rushing ends

Defensive Line
This might be a bit of a no-name front four, and there aren't any sure-fire proven pass rushers, but this should be a rock against the run. It all starts in the middle with All-America candidate Quinn Pitcock at tackle, while David Patterson will be a solid running mate moving inside after starting last year at end. There'll be a nice rotation at each spot if sophomore ends Alex Barrow and Vernon Gholston become players. Lawrence Wilson might be the end who solves the pass rushing issues.
The key to the unit: Get in the backfield from all four spots. Stopping the run won't be an issue, so there has to be plays made in the backfield on a consistent basis from anyone who's not double-teamed.
Defensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- DE Lawrence Wilson, Soph. - 2 tackles
Wilson popped up at end with David Patterson moving to tackle full-time. A tall 6-6 specimen, Wilson is the speed rusher the line desperately needs. It'll be his job to be a disruptive force in the backfield and be a big play defender.

- DT David Patterson, Sr. - 24 tackles, 4 sacks, 7.5 TFL
Part end, part tackle, the 6-3, 285-pound senior should be a strong interior pass rusher and could move around where needed. He's a strong run stopper with enough experience to be a leader of the front seven.

- DT Quinn Pitcock, Sr. - 28 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
One of only two returning starters, Pitcock should be one of the Big Ten's best defenders and an All-American candidate. He has the speed to be a dangerous end, but at 6-3, 295 pounds he's a true tackle. While he's not flashy and he isn't going to get his name called a lot, he'll require two blockers on every down.

- DE Jay Richardson, Sr. - 11 tackles, 2 sacks
A big, serviceable end, the 6-6, 276-pound senior will be decent against the run, but any sacks he comes up with will be by accident. He works hard to get into the backfield, but he's not fast and he isn't going to make sacks in waves. Even so, he's a good leader who's always going full-tilt.

Top Backups
- DE Alex Barrow, Soph. - 3 tackles
While he wasn't ever considered a high-end prospect and he still needs plenty of work, he has been good in practices and has grown into a solid combination of size and speed. At 6-4 and 255 pounds, he should be good against the run, and he should be a better pass rusher than Jay Richardson.
- DT Joel Penton, Sr. - 12 tackles, 1.5 TFL
A near-perfect backup tackle, the 6-5, 290-pound senior is strong, active, and comes into games with a major attitude. While he has added plenty of weight over the last few years, he's still quick enough to potentially be a better pass rusher.
- DE Vernon Gholston, Soph. - 1 tackle
Problems with injuries limited him last year, but the 6-4, 260-pound sophomore has a world of upside. Once healthy, he'll be a key part of the rotation as a much bigger option than Lawrence Wilson.

While you don't get better by losing A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter, the Buckeye linebacking corps might not take a huge dip in overall production with a tremendous cast of talents. Marcus Freeman, true freshman Ross Homan, and JUCO transfer Larry Grant would form one of the nation's most talented linebacking trios if it was just them, then factor in John Kerr and Mike D'Andrea in the middle, surprise starter James Laurinaitis on the strongside, and speedster Curtis Terry in a backup role, and there will be no need to shed any tears for losing an All-NFL group.
The key to the unit: Everyone has to stay healthy. Freeman and D'Andrea have to prove they can hold up, and Homan and Grant have to be at least half as good as their hype.
Linebacker Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Marcus Freeman, Soph.
The superstar recruit of a few years ago appeared ready to make a huge impact even with all the stars in last year's linebacking corps, but he suffered a knee injury and missed the season. He's 230 pounds and fast, fast, fast on the weakside. This might sound like blasphemy, but if he's 100% healthy, he might be almost, almost, as good as A.J. Hawk. He has that kind of talent.

- John Kerr, Sr. - 14 tackles
One of the Big Ten's most active tacklers making 114 stops in 2002 as an Indiana Hoosier, Kerr was lost in the shuffle as a Buckeye. He's not tall and he's not fast, but he's a tough hitter who should be great at plugging holes and amassing stats. If you want big plays, look to the other linebackers. Kerr will be a rock who simply makes plays.

- James Laurinaitis, Soph. - 9 tackles
Laurinaitis came from out of nowhere to grow into a contributor as last season went on. While he's not nearly the athlete many of the other Buckeye linebackers are, and he could have major problems holding off Larry Grant, he has good toughness on the strongside.

Top Backups
- Mike D'Andrea, Sr.
One of the most team's most heralded recruits over the last several years, D'Andrea has never had any luck staying healthy. He has the talent, the 6-3, 248-pound size, and speed, but he hasn't progressed as much as he should've. While he has a high-octane motor and he certainly doesn't lack for effort, he needs to have a big season or his career will go down as a major disappointment.
- Curtis Terry, Jr. - 2 tackles
A speedster on the outside. he's more like a big defensive back at 6-2 and 220 pounds playing behind James Laurinaitis on the strongside. While he should be fantastic in pass coverage and good as a pass rusher, he has to prove he can hold up against the run.
- Ross Homan, Fr.
The team's top defensive recruit this year is expected to find a spot somewhere. He's big enough to play in the middle, and fast enough to be a huge weakside linebacker. At 6-2 and 242 pounds, he's an imposing figure with unlimited range.
- Larry Grant, Jr.
Originally a running back coming out of his school, the 225-pound JUCO All-American has 4.4 speed and should make a big impact on the outside. He was unstoppable for City College of San Francisco and should add an instant dash of attitude and athleticism to the corps.

Defensive Backs
Everyone is focusing on replacing all the star linebackers, but all four starting defensive backs are also gone. This is Ohio State, so there are tall, 4.4 speed defenders to burn. In one of the surprises of spring ball, the group looked like it was full of seasoned veterans instead of a green group of newcomers. Corner Malcolm Jenkins is the best looking new starter with size and lock-down speed, but he's not the only big-time athlete ready to shine. Sophomores Nick Patterson and Jamario O'Neal would be the fastest corners on most teams, but they're safeties at Ohio State. Expect good competition this fall for every job but Jenkins' spot at left corner.
The key to the unit: Don't try to be unbelievable right away. The Buckeye secondary should be able to get by on its athleticism against just about everyone, so as long as there's not a lot of gambling going on and everyone can do what they can to develop, everything should be fine.
Secondary Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- CB Malcolm Jenkins, Soph. - 37 tackles, 2 broken up passes
The team's new star defensive back, the 6-1, 180-pound Jenkins has excellent speed and is a tough one-on-one defender taking over for Tyler Everett. He has 4.4 speed winning the New Jersey state title in the 200 and 400 meter dash. Now he should pull it all together and quickly grow into an All-Big Ten talent.

- FS Nick Patterson, Soph. - 6 tackles
Patterson is locked in a battle with Brandon Mitchell for the starting free safety spot. At 6-2 ad 210 pounds, he has great size with 4.4 speed and athleticism. He ended up seeing a little bit of time as a redshirt freshman on special teams and has been a big hitter in practices.

- SS Jamario O'Neal, Soph. - 2 tackles
O'Neal got on the field as a true freshman as a special teamer, and now he has to replace Donte Whitner. He's fast enough to see a little time as a kick returner and could be moved to corner if needed. He is a physical tackler who has all the tools to grow into the job over the next few years.

- CB Antonio Smith, Sr. - 6 tackles, 1 broken up pass
While he's not that big, the 5-9, 195-pound senior is tough enough to have seen time at strong safety and quick enough to grow into a role at right corner. He's going to have to battle hard to keep the starting job coming out of spring ball, but he should put up some good numbers with teams staying away from Malcolm Jenkins.

Top Backups
- FS Brandon Mitchell, Sr. - 12 tackles, 1 interception
Mitchell is neck-and-neck with Nick Patterson for the starting free safety job. He's one of the team's most experienced defensive backs with eight career starts and plenty of time as a reserve. He's 6-3 and 205 pounds with excellent speed, but he's not as physical as Patterson.
- SS Anderson Russell, RFr.
Yet another speedy Ohio State defensive back, Russell is a physical hitter who'll be a major part of the mix after having a great spring. While he doesn't have the combination of skills that Jamario O'Neal has, he's good enough to grow into a starter.
- CB Donald Washington, RFr.
A very smart, very athletic corner, he's a taller option than Antonio Smith on the right side than Antonio Smith with better speed and leaping ability. All he needs it a little bit of experience.

Special Teams
As long as Ryan Pretorius and Aaron Pettrey can be adequate field goal kickers, the OSU special teams will be excellent. A.J. Trapasso is on the verge of being an all-star punter once he becomes a bit more consistent. Ted Ginn Jr. is one of the elite kick returners in college football averaging 29.6 yards per kickoff return and 10 yards per punt return last season. The coverage units are great.
The key to the unit: One of the young placekickers doesn't have to be Mike Nugent or Josh Huston, but being reliable within 40 yards will be a must.
Special Teams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK Ryan Pretorius, Soph.
It'll be a battle all fall between Pretorius and Aaron Pettrey to try to replace the steady Josh Huston. While Pettrey has a the better leg and could be used on the bombs, Pretorius was the steadier of the two this spring.
- P A.J. Trapasso, Soph. - 43 punts, 1,738 yds, 40.4 yards per kick, 19 inside the 20
Trapasso had a tremendous first season considering he was a freshman. He showed he could air it out with a 76-yard blast, but he also showed he could consistently hang it up in the air and place it inside the 20. He wasn't always on, but that will change after a year of experience.

Related Stories
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Ohio State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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