The defensive line for Ohio State will be one of the youngest and more talented units in the Big Ten this fall, after losing all four starters, and one of the players expected to be a big contributor is defensive end, Noah Spence who was the No. 4 player in the nation coming out of high school last year.
At 6-3 and 250 pounds, Spence didn’t get too see much action on the field as a true freshman with John Simon and Nathan Williams entrenched in their positions on the defensive line, but with their departures, Spence must fulfill that potential that made him such a prized recruit.
Spence was a coup for Urban Meyer in his first recruiting class last year and the Harrisburg, Pa native was a late addition to the Buckeyes class after Penn State was the prohibitive favorite to land the in-state player before the sexual abuse sanctions changed all of that.
In fact, Ohio State got another would-be Penn State Nittany Lion to change his mind and head to Ohio State in the wake of the allegations when defensive tackle, Tommy Schutt ditched Happy Valley for Columbus. He will be responsible for filling the big shoes of Johnathan Hankins who declared for the NFL draft and is likely to be a first-round pick in April and Garrett Goebel who exhausted his eligibility.
Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is in charge of molding the two top recruits into stalwarts along the defensive line and to develop into leaders on the young unit.
Spence only had 12 tackles and one sack as a true freshman, but should see an exponential increase in production as a sophomore and six-eight sacks is a plausible feat this season. Schutt had four tackles on the season, but will be pressed into the starting lineup and will be a key to stopping opposing run games in the physical Big Ten.
The youth will be served in Columbus this season with Spence, Schutt and fellow sophomore Adolphus Washington leading the way for the Buckeyes in 2013 and depending on how well they develop could be unsung heroes on their way to another undefeated season.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt