Mike checks back in with part two of his post-spring look at the Ohio State football team, getting defensive this time:
When asked to write about the Silver Bullets, I cannot express to you the level of excitement and overall outlook for our beloved Buckeyes that got me pumped for the passing of summer. This will be an improved and potentially dominating defense that will make us proud as fans.
As far as I am concerned it started with the addition of Chris Ash (DC) and Larry Johnson (DL). These coaches are difference makers at practice, game time and recruiting. The impact is already present as witnessed by over 61,000 Buckeye Fans at the Spring Game.
The scheme employed by Ash will be simple, yet aggressive in the back end of the defense. He will allow the players to use their instincts and athletic ability to make plays on a consistent basis. This will mean more press coverage and much less of the “Bend Don’t Break” mentality we have witnessed in the past.
With that being said I would like to highlight a few players that stand out to me in the secondary heading into fall:
- Doran Grant gets forgotten about at times with all the talented youth waiting in the wings. We need to remember this is a former 5 star recruit who is suited to be more physical at the line of scrimmage using his hands and size. I really think he has a big year and finally shows he is the player we recruited. He will also be counted on to be more of a leader this year as we have a lot of youth on the depth chart.
- Eli Apple/Gareon Conley will both play a lot this year, though it will be a dog fight to see who gets the starting nod if they can beat out (Armani Reeves), which I think happens by mid-season at the latest. Both players are taller cornerbacks (6’1) that are rangy with speed and good hips. One play during the Spring Game I seen Apple “lay the wood” to Corey Smith as he attempted to catch a pass over the middle making me realize what a good hitter he is as well. Conley covered very well and had his hands involved frequently. In a nut shell, if they both stay healthy and out of the dog house, the sky is the limit for both these young men!
- Vonn Bell if healthy is penciled in as one starter at Safety. He missed most of the spring with a torn MCL, and it’s being said he “should” be ready for fall camp which we need. He is fast, athletic, a strong tackler but most impressive is his Ball Hawking ability. He will be fun to watch.
- Cam Burrows is a 6’0 converted Cornerback that I think will be the other starting safety. He has good coverage skills and will also be able to be an enforcer up in the box when asked. I am really excited about his potential and cannot wait to see him live in action. The only area of concern right now is depth (especially with the Thompson transfer) but once the rest of this recruiting class arrives, we improve right away in that area. Erik Smith is the one kid who I think will be in the 2 deep almost as soon as he walks on campus and contribute!
I am very confident in our young players and Coach Ash’s ability to scheme and motivate. Once healthy, this unit is going to wreak havoc on opposing offenses in the passing game as well as run support. We will be a young secondary from day one but very solid and a group that will improve vastly as the season progresses.
The Linebacker group is the most concerning to me as a whole. I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Hopefully with less responsibility, Luke Fickell can get this group headed in the right direction and of course that starts with:
‘Kwon The Destroyer
Raekwon McMillian!!! I believe he will be the starting Mike LB when the season opens. He is physical specimen that I can only compare to a “Grown Man”! He plays with an attitude, very agile for his size AND a student of the game. He is already a better player than Curtis Grant in my opinion. I know Grant was as a 5 star recruit but he has underperformed as I see it and this change will only bolster the LB core.
- Darron Lee has been the surprise of the spring. Look for him to man either the Will or Sam position as a starter when the season opens. He had to work for his offer to begin with and now he is showing the coaches they made the right decision. He played his butt off during the Spring Game and impressed a lot of people. I am excited for this young man as he has continued to fight and not take no for an answer.
- Joshua Perry will start at the other Outside LB spot. He will be the veteran of the group on the field in regards to LB’s so I would expect him to step up as a leader and perform the task at hand. To me, he is not a great player but a good player that better keep an eye open as Chris Worley who is impressing coaches every day and they are really high on this converted HS Safety.
I’m really of the belief that with the players we have and the kids yet to hit campus (Booker, Hubbard and Berger) this will be a position of great improvement by mid-season. If players like Johnson and Bogard (injury) can step up and contribute this year all the better. P.S. I would not be surprised to see at least one transfer from the LB position before fall camp begins as attrition is part of college football, like it or not.
The Defensive Line will be the strength of our defense. First, Larry Johnson is coaching the position (arguably 1 of the top 5 DL coaches/recruiters in the country) and secondly, we are Deep, Strong and Fast. Coach Johnson is going to “coach up” these young men so much more and will rotate 7-8 players during each game in order to keep them fresh and take advantage of mismatches. I will touch on a few players that I think will be a force outside of Bosa, Washington and Spence.
- Tyquan Lewis is going to be a flat out BEAST! I personally watched him play at Tarboro HS, NC his senior year, against top notch competition and I could not believe he was not a 5 star as he dominated week in, week out. Great burst off the ball, big motor and a LT’s nightmare. He had two sacks during the Spring Game. He is going to be a future first round draft pick in my opinion.
- Michael Hill showed up to the Spring Game with an attitude. After watching that performance I can see no way he is not in the 2 deep right now. He probably would have played some last year if not for injury; yes I think he is that good.
- Tracy Sprinkle is another Grown Man who has impressed the coaches from day one. He is a very strong young man with a high motor and great work ethic. Not sure if he will be in the 2 deep or not but he is certainly under consideration.
- Rashad Frazier is my “Sleeper” within this group. Was involved in a lot of plays during the Spring Game and the staff loves this transfers game. It would not surprise me at all to see him getting meaningful reps early season.
I know I left some names off the list but trust me, they are not forgotten. This is a year to be excited about our defense as a whole and where it can help take us. Remember “You win championships with Defense”. I think we have the defense to do just that.
Thanks to BBC for giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts and opinions on their website and to everyone who read this, thank you. GO BUCKS!!