Grading Ohio State’s Depth Chart: Defense

Written May 22nd, 2012 by Jim

As you may know, Ohio State was nice enough to release a post spring practice two-deep for us to over-analyze during the long summer months as we anxiously await the beginning of  fall camp.

Although I like to look at the depth chart every summer (hey, it’s something to do), this year has added significance thanks to a change in philosophy from the coaching staff.

The change can be summed up as “spring practice is for setting the depth chart, fall practice is for preparing to win football games” and it comes straight from Coach Meyer.

It is not quite that simple, obviously.

Non-enrolled incoming freshmen haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the chart yet. At least a few of them are likely to make an impact before the first game kicks off.

Although the focus will be on preparing to win games in the fall, putting your best players on the field is one of the better ways to do that. For the players not making the list in the spring for whatever reason, there is still an opportunity to move up if they can prove they belong on the field.

With those factors in mind, here is a look at the two-deep on defense, with grades for each position group at the end (skip there for the cliff notes).

Defensive End

Weak Side Defensive End (LEO)


John Simon


260 lbs.



Steve Miller


255 lbs.



J.T. Moore


250 lbs.


Strong Side Defensive End


Adam Bellamy


292 lbs.



Nathan Williams


249 lbs.



Chase Farris


286 lbs.


The biggest thing that stands out to me is John Simon (53 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 7 sacks last year) being listed at LEO and Nathan Williams inexplicably being listed on the strong side.

I have said before that I think Simon is out of position at LEO and was put there as the best option available. I’d really like to see him move back over to the strong side at the soonest opportunity.

That opportunity will come if Nathan Williams (46 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks two years ago) can successfully return this fall after a season ending injury in 2011, allowing for a swap on the two-deep.

Anticipating the switch on paper between Simon and Williams is about the only reason I can think of to list Williams on the strong side.

Both are all-Big Ten caliber players (when healthy in Williams’ case, or better in Simon’s case) and they should be one of the better defensive end pairs in the country next season.

Behind those two, incoming freshmen Noah Spence and Aldolphus Washington will challenge for time at LEO right away when they step on campus this fall, although Steve Miller was plenty hyped in his own right coming out of high school and isn’t a pushover.

J.T. Moore failed to make a splash when given the opportunity last year and will need to improve greatly to stay in contention.

Between Miller, Spence and Washington, the depth on the weak side is extremely talented, but young and unproven. They will be relied on (along with a healthy Williams) to give a much needed boost to the pass rush that was such a liability for much of last season

Assuming that Simon does move back to the strong side, Adam Bellamy is a more-than-capable backup (25 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack last year). Starter or no, Bellamy will be a heavy part of the rotation who could even slide down to the 3-technique if need be.

Chase Farris is young and unproven at strong side d-end. He will be going head-to-head against Kenny Hayes and Se’Von Pittman (the only two notable players absent from the D-Line two-deep) to stay on the depth chart in the fall.

Defensive Tackle

Defensive Tackle (3-technique)


Johnathan Hankins


317 lbs.



Michael Bennett


277 lbs.


Nose Tackle (1-technique)


Garrett Goebel


285 lbs.



Joel Hale


295 lbs.



Chris Carter


358 lbs.


Things are pretty straight forward at the 3-technique tackle.

Johnathan Hankins is one of the top players in college football (67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks last year) and is a projected first round draft pick despite only being a junior next season.

Enjoy watching him on the field this year- it could be the last time you can in Columbus.

Providing depth is Michael Bennett, who played very well as a true freshman last year (17 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) and may be on the path to an early entry into the draft himself.

I consider Hankins and Bennett as the best one-two punch on the team.

At nose tackle, Garrett Goebel is a solid and highly experienced multi-year starter (33 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack last year). Expect another solid, if less than spectacular final season from him.

Providing depth is sophomore Joel Hale, who gained experience but not many stats (4 tackles) last year. He was highly regarded out of high school and could grow into more of an impact player with hard work.

The most interesting and potentially exciting addition to the chart is Chris Carter, who spent last season on the offensive line.

After only a few short weeks at nose tackle this spring, simply being listed is a big step in the right direction for Carter.

Although conditioning remains a concern, you can’t teach someone to be as big as Carter, which presents a serious match up problem for offensive linemen.

At the very least, he should be very good at taking up space and keeping the linebackers clean- which is the primary function of nose tackles in the first place.

Freshman Tommy Schutt could be a factor at either tackle position in the fall as well.


Weak Side Linebacker


Ryan Shazier


226 lbs.



Luke Roberts


226 lbs.



Connor Crowell


233 lbs.


Middle Linebacker


Curtis Grant


235 lbs.



Storm Klein


242 lbs.


Strong Side Linebacker


Etienne Sabino


237 lbs.



Stewart Smith


230 lbs.



Joshua Perry


231 lbs.


Ryan Shazier was the surprise of the year last season and is clearly the best linebacker on the team right now.

That could be exciting considering he has so much potential so early in his career- or it could be scary if he isn’t able to build on his solid freshman campaign (57 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) considering the lack of depth behind him.

I always like to err on the side of optimism in the preseason, so I will go with predicting an all-Big Ten caliber season from Shazier.

Etienne Sabino had a strong season last year as well (62 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks). If he can duplicate that solid performance, great. If he can improve upon it to become a true impact player he will make a lot of money for himself heading into the draft.

I will, of course, be rooting for the latter, but you can only have so many impact players at one time.

Then there is Curtis Grant in the middle. He has all the potential you could hope for but really struggled to adjust to the college level last season. Cross your fingers and think happy thoughts that he can show why he was such a highly regarded player out of high school this time around.

Storm Klein is solid as the back up in the middle, but he may be a liability against offenses good enough to isolate him in space.

The rest of the depth are walk-ons and freshmen. I expect it to be an ongoing shuffle sorting out the depth chart for most of the season, especially after the rest of the freshmen LBs arrive on campus in the fall.




Bradley Roby


190 lbs.



Adam Griffin


180 lbs.




Travis Howard


196 lbs.



Doran Grant


188 lbs.


I actually like this group- outside of the historically atrocious depth, that is.

Roby is a lock down corner and another candidate to be an early entry into the draft… for our sake let’s just hope he waits until after next season to make the jump.

Whoever wins the battle between Howard and Grant for the other spot will be plenty solid as well.

Howard was targeted by offenses at times last season, but he is no scrub. If Grant beats him head-to-head for the starting spot he will have earned it.

The best case scenario for Adam Griffin would be an Antonio Smith-like impact. Given his pedigree (son of Archie) it could happen, but it seems unlikely.

I expect Armani Reeves and Najee Murray to jump into the mix when they arrive in the fall. Given the numbers, they will be forced to no matter how well they actually perform.


Strong Safety


Christian Bryant


190 lbs.



Corey Brown


197 lbs.


Free Safety


C.J. Barnett


202 lbs.



Orhian Johnson


210 lbs.


Last year, I thought the safety duo of C.J. Barnett and Orhian Johnson could be the best that Ohio State had fielded in a long time.

A year later it is not hard to conclude that I was a bit off on the prediction, although numerous injuries and a bad pass rush were large factors that didn’t help matters.

In better circumstances, I still think this group has the potential to be one of the best in the Big Ten.

C.J. Bryant led the team in tackles last year with 75 and Christian Bryant was third on the team with 68.

Not too shabby- but it would be better to see the defense make a few more stops in front of the safeties this time around- we didn’t blitz with the safeties that much last season (actually, I don’t think we did at all).

Orhian Johnson rivals Adam Bellamy when it comes to providing the best depth on the D. Corey Brown was a 5-star player out of high school that finally looks to be living up to some of that potential.

Overall I think this group is solid, but it would be nice to see them forcing some turnovers and making big plays rather than focusing all of there energy on leading the team in tackles.


Defensive End: A-

John Simon sets the bar high as an All-American caliber player, and if you could guarantee me today that Nathan Williams will be back at 100% and a freshman will make an impact (I’m looking at your, Noah Spence) I could easily bump this up to an A or better.

Defensive Tackle: A

Once again, the headliner sets the bar high.

Hankins is a star and a true impact player,  Goebel is a workhorse who has been in the trenches for years, Bennett is an up-and-coming star that will be a nightmare for defenses off the bench, and Joel Hale has tons of potential in only his second year.

If Chris Carter continues to grow in the system and is able to see the field consistently, I would strongly consider bumping this up to an A+.

The possibility of seeing Hankins and Carter in the middle of the defense at the same is something to look forward to.

Linebacker: B-

Simply based on the starting three I might consider moving this grade up, but the depth is atrocious and there are some big question marks even amongst the starters.

Shazier will have to stay healthy while Sabino will have to finally take his game to the next level on a consistent basis.

Grant has all the potential in the world but needs to prove it on the field.

We will just have to wait and see on the depth.

Some freshmen will likely step up, but it is hard to not see growing pains- especially if the injury bug hits.

Cornerback: B-

Roby bumps the unit up as a true lock-down corner.

Just like the linebackers, the starting unit (whether it is Roby with Howard or Grant) is better than a B-, but the depth is a major problem.

It helps to have two capable players fighting for the other starting spot, but relying on freshman and underdogs to fill out the depth chart it clearly less than ideal.

Safety: B+

Barnett and Bryant have the potential to be extremely good, but they need to stay healthy and minimize the mistakes to truly be elite.

The depth is better than average.

Overall: B+

The line will carry the defense and hopefully mask some of the growing pains and/or lack of depth at linebacker and in the secondary. If everything goes as planned (no injuries, living up to potential etc.), this could be an above average to very good unit.

It will almost certainly be an improvement over last season. The key will be whether the front can get a consistent pass rush and pressure the QB.

An offense that can stay on the field wouldn’t hurt either.

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