While Ohio State‘s offense enters 2013 spring practice in perfectly good shape with nine starters returning under offensive mastermind Urban Meyer, many giant questions linger on the other side of the ball, particularly up front. The Buckeyes boasted one of the best defensive lines in the country in 2012 but replace all four starters this offseason.
Replacing draft-bound defensive tackles Garrett Goebel and Johnathan Hankins along with ends Nathan Williams and John Simon will prove perhaps the Buckeyes’ most daunting task this spring. Simon and Hankins are both headed for the early stages in the NFL draft this April after complementing each other incredibly well in 2012. After Hankins cut down his weight and Simon was moved to more of a pass-rush end role, Simon averaged the most sacks per game in the conference en route to Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Hankins seems a likely first-round selection.
OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel has his work cut out for him but also has an incredible amount of young talent to work with. Steve Miller should replace Simon and Michael Bennett gained experience in backing up Hankins last season, while Adolphus Washington is expected to factor in as well. ESPN’s Big Ten Blog spoke to an Ohio State teammate who’s completely sold on sophomore to-be Noah Spence, who recorded 12 stops in 11 games last season shortly after coming to Columbus as a five-star recruit.
“Ohio State LT Jack Mewhort told me he’d be surprised if Noah Spence doesn’t lead Big Ten in sacks,” tweeted @ESPN_BigTen. “Spence looks great this spring.”