Continuing with where we left off regarding the 2015 Ohio State Spring Game, we will focus upon some of the players who caught my eye on the defensive side of the ball. As I stated in part one, no spring game is going to be truly informative scheme-wise; why would any coach, especially one as smart as Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, ever show off formations or packages in a spring game, especially one that will be televised and repeatedly shown by The Big Ten Network?
Most of these players, as was the case when I reviewed the offense, are players who have not played extensively, or in some circumstances, not at all (redshirted in 2014). A few have played considerably, and made some key plays during the spring game...
Defensive Ends: Sam Hubbard, Darius Slade, Jashon Cornell, Jalyn Holmes - remember how I listed defensive end as a concern leading up to the spring game? Let us just say that I am going to revisit my position concern rankings after the spring game. All played, and all were disruptive. Hubbard was redshirted last season, but showed glimpses of why Coach Meyer was lamenting and second-guessing his decision from last season. Hubbard was credited with two sacks, and was also batting passes down along the line of scrimmage. Darius Slade, Jashon Cornell, and Jalyn Holmes did not make any sacks, but they each made their respective presences known to the opposing quarterbacks. Even though Tyquan Lewis is penciled in as the starter at defensive end opposite of Joey Bosa, look for these players to be continually rotated in throughout the season.
Defensive Tackles: Tracy Sprinkle, Donovan Munger, and Adolphus Washington all caught my eye. As my colleague Shannon Sommers has mentioned, it is always good to see players from our native Lorain County playing well ~ Sprinkle had off the field issues last season, so it is a step in the positive direction to see and hear him playing on the field well. Munger and Washington were both credited with a sack. Tommy Schutt has been penciled in as the starter, but I would suspect these players, along with Michael Hill, may also be continually rotated at the position.
Linebacker: There was one linebacker who seemed to be everywhere, and that was true freshman Nick Conner. Credited with an interception and a forced fumble, Conner seized the spring game opportunity to showcase himself to Coach Meyer and the coaching staff. It will be a surprise if Conner does not earn a chance on special teams coverage this season, barring injury.
Secondary: Erick Smith, Gareon Conley, Damon Webb, and Tyvis Powell all played extensively. Smith served notice to the coaching staff and the fans in attendance that he is more than a consistent tackler, with two interceptions. Tyvis Powell had an interception off roommate Cardale Jones that resulted in a sideline thumping by Jones, followed by a "selfie" that delighted the crowd. Conley played the ball in coverage very well, defending passes that may have been completions a season ago. Webb was credited with three solo tackles and three assists, so the prognostication that Webb may be battling Conley for the starting position opposite Eli Apple seems legitimate.
The defense, which had been considered a liability prior to the 2014 season, has truly turned the corner. There is talent in every position group, and the competitive atmosphere that Coach Meyer has long advocated has taken root. Look for these players, among others, to become very familiar to Ohio State fans this coming season.
My defensive player of the spring game? It is a close call between Sam Hubbard, Nick Conner, and Erick Smith, but I will give it to Conner, as Conner was a true freshman playing in Ohio Stadium for the first time. Plus, who wouldn't want to be able to back to their high school senior prom, as Conner did the evening of April 18th, bragging about how they spent their afternoon?