“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth…” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
Ohio State began spring football practice on March 8th. Heading into the 2016 college football season, Ohio State will have 44 players on its roster designated as either a redshirt freshman (21 of the 25 players signed in February 2015), or a true freshman. For a roster that can have only 85 scholarship players, Ohio State will have around 52% of its roster with no playing time experience. As former Ohio State Head Coach John Cooper used to say, “If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup.”.
For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 16th, 2016. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.
3rd – Defensive Tackle
Players Lost – Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, Joel Hale. Say what you want about how it ended, but Ohio State lost a great deal of experience and dependability when Washington, Schutt, and Hale all exhausted their eligibility as Buckeyes.
Returning Players/Incoming Players – Malik Barrow (Freshman), Jashon Cornell (Redshirt Freshman), Michael Hill (Redshirt Junior), Dre’Mont Jones (Redshirt Freshman), Donovan Munger (Redshirt Junior), Tracy Sprinkle (Redshirt Junior), Dylan Thompson (Redshirt Sophomore), Joshua Alabi (Redshirt Freshman), Davon Hamilton (Redshirt Freshman), Robert Landers (Redshirt Freshman).
A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…
· The 2016 Fiesta Bowl actually gave Ohio State coaches and the fans a glimpse at what the 2016 season would be like, without the aforementioned Washington, Schutt, and Hale. Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, and Tracy Sprinkle all seem poised to rotate at these interior defensive line spots. With teams such as Oklahoma and Wisconsin on the schedule in 2016, teams that can and have run the ball effectively between the tackles, having a strong interior defensive line is a must for the Buckeyes. Nothing can be more discouraging for a defense than to have the opposing team be able to run the ball at will, killing the clock, while maintaining possession. Hill, Munger, and Sprinkle will all need to rise to the occasion for the Buckeyes this season. The lack of experienced depth at this position is why I have ranked defensive tackle third in my concerns of most pressing questions for the Buckeyes this spring.
· If there is a player along the interior defensive line I am most anxious to see in the upcoming spring game on April 16th, it is Robert Landers. Landers was a later addition to the 2015 recruiting class, and did not play at all in 2015. Landers nearly played in 2015, but was able to be withheld from game action.
· Ohio State has moved Dre’Mont Jones and Jashon Cornell from defensive end to the interior defensive line positions this spring. Just like Robert Landers, neither Jones or Cornell played in 2015. Jones redshirted due to a knee injury sustained in high school basketball, so it will bear watching to see how much, if any, that he plays in the upcoming spring game on April 16th.
· Malik Barrow is an early enrollee at defensive line, participating in spring practices. Barrow sustained a knee injury in high school that may impact how much, if any, that he will play in the spring game on April 16th.
· Davon Hamilton seems to have caught the eye of Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, in a positive light ~
I asked Meyer which young players stood out at scrimmage "Davon Hamilton, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Austin Mack, Michael Jordan." #Buckeyes— Dave Biddle (@davebiddle) March 29, 2016
· If there is a player who seems to be in the doghouse of the coaches, Dylan Thompson may qualify. Thompson redshirted his freshman season in 2014, due to a knee injury. Thompson did not play in 2015, and seems to be in the now or never mode of making a move on the depth chart. When asked about Thompson, Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer stated his desire of Thompson as spring practices began was “do something. Underline that, do something.”. That does not sound like an endorsement bathed in warmth and love from the head coach.
These questions, among others, have been on my mind, as Ohio State resumed spring practice on March 22nd.