On March 10th, Ohio State began spring practice, and had fifteen spring football practices available before the conclusion of spring practice on April 18th in Ohio Stadium. Over the past few weeks, I have ranked the top ten questions facing Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff as the Buckeyes retake the football field after concluding the 2014 season as the national champions.
These articles have been submitted from areas of lowest concern to highest concern. While Ohio State returns the overwhelming majority of its 2014 team, and welcomes in a highly-touted recruiting class, it will be important for Coach Meyer to convey to his team that complacency within the player ranks could derail any hopes of the Buckeyes repeating as national champions in 2015.
Thirteen practices in, with two practices remaining, including the April 18th spring game. Opportunities to make positive impressions upon the coaching staff regarding the depth chart are becoming scarce.
Earlier in the series, my questions and focus was upon emerging players at backup positions, a clear testament to Ohio State’s depth across the board. The final articles will focus upon position areas where Ohio State has lost a player(s) to graduation or eligibility, which is why I have ranked these position groups higher in terms of importance.
1. Defensive Tackle
Key Players/Contributors Lost: Michael Bennett (eligibility)
Key Players/Contributors Returning: Adolphus Washington (Senior), Donovan Munger (Redshirt Sophomore), Joel Hale (Redshirt Senior), Tommy Schutt (Senior), Michael Hill (Redshirt Sophomore), Dylan Thompson (Redshirt Freshman), Tracy Sprinkle (Redshirt Sophomore)
Before proceeding too far into this article, some words of thanks and best wishes to Michael Bennett. Bennett was a key contributor to Ohio State’s national championship run in 2014, and will be missed along the defensive line this coming season. Best wishes to Mr. Bennett as he prepares for a hopefully lengthy NFL career.
Now that we have thanked Mr. Bennett, the next person to thank? Adolphus Washington. Why? Because if Mr. Washington had declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, the Ohio State interior defensive line would be completely bereft of any notable experience.
Do you think I am being overly critical? Why not ask Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer his thoughts on the topic – Coach Meyer has used the phrase “very disappointed” when talking about the backup defensive linemen within the program, thanks to the linked article from the April 1st edition of The Columbus Dispatch.
Who has emerged, or can emerge as a starter to take over for Michael Bennett?
Tommy Schutt is the first name listed by Coach Meyer, but Schutt does not have a lock on the starting job for the fall. According to Coach Meyer, Schutt would start, “As of right now, he and Adolphus would be starting inside — as of now. I’m not ready to say he’s the guy yet.”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, in my estimation.
Joel Hale, in a manner comparable to Chase Faris, has switched back from offensive line to defensive line, for his final season of eligibility in 2015. Unfortunately, Hale suffered a torn calf muscle this spring, and will be out four to five weeks.
Others in the mix could include Donovan Munger, Tracy Sprinkle, Michael Hill, and Dylan Thompson. Thompson was redshirted last season, due to a broken kneecap. Munger, Sprinkle, and Hill could all fall under that “very disappointed” category, as stated by Coach Meyer.
Help is on the way, with recruits arriving this summer. The issue with that is two-fold in 1)are these players physically prepared and capable of contributing as true freshmen, and 2)what does that say about the aforementioned “very disappointed” category if true freshmen are emerging over returning upperclassmen?
Are my concerns about defensive tackle overly alarming for Buckeye fans? Perhaps. After all, the 2015 season opener at Virginia Tech is not until the evening of September 7th, and the crucial summer conditioning months and fall camp will take place between then. Until then, I will hold onto the defensive tackle position as the biggest concern for the Buckeyes until toe meets leather the night of September 7th in Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.