If the struggles of their defense weren’t enough, they received plenty of bad news about their defense in the weeks leading up to the game. Perhaps the worst news they received was that they would not have two of their best defensive players for the Orange Bowl. Cornerback Bradley Roby would miss the game with a bruised knee he suffered against the Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten championship game. Defensive end Noah Spence was suspended three games by the Big Ten for his supposed use of an unapproved dietary supplement. He will also miss the first two games of the 2014 season.
Sophomore defensive end Jamal Marcus was to start in the place of Spence for the Orange Bowl. He was making his first career start, but you wouldn’t have guessed that by the way he was playing. Like Spence, it seemed like he was in on most plays and we heard his name quite a bit. He filled in for Spence very well, as he had six tackles and deflected a pass at a key point in the game.
Marcus deflected Tajh Boyd’s pass on third-and-five at Ohio State’s 40-yard-line with just over a minute left in the second quarter. Clemson then went for it on fourth down, but was stopped short and the Buckeyes took over. Braxton Miller drove Ohio State down the field for a touchdown that put them up 22-20 at halftime.
At least the Buckeyes know what Marcus can do now, even in big games. He stepped up and did what he needed to do to fill the void left by Spence’s suspension. Ohio State should feel confident knowing they have someone like him to fill in for Spence until his suspension is over. If Marcus continues to play at the level he did in the Orange Bowl, then he could very well earn a starting spot of his own.