In the third and final installment of our 2006 Defensive Preview, we’ll be taking a look at OSU’s front four. Like the other two defensive corps, the 2006 D-line has a healthy mix of veterans and talented underclassmen.
Doing the research for this article left me with the impression that this line is not only above average, but should collectively be better than last year’s. This season’s starting four are (as a group) much bigger, stronger, and faster. There is some youth, but all players one- and two-deep have significant playing experience.
Overall, I expect these young men to contribute to a far superior pash rush this year. That should help immensely with countering teams that try and take advantage of our young secondary.
Instead of the two-deep discussions we presented in parts one and two of this preview, I’ll present the two fer-shure starters for each position, with a third that could back up either of them. In addition, there are four other talented young men that could be moved around and back up any of the front four.
Quinn Pitcock 6’3”, 295 lbs, Sr. – Pitcock is the senior veteran and the anchor for the 2006 defensive squad. His OSU profile says it all: “Strong as a bull, quick as a cat, and tough as they come.” He’s been starting games going back to the mid-2004 season. Last year he scrapped in the trenches, accumulating 28 tackles, and was every bit the stable, dependable tackle as Hawk was as a linebacker. He’s unquestionably the strongest player on the team, but don’t let that fool you – he has dangerous speed, as he showed against Northwestern when he tossed some offensive linemen aside and blocked a punt (that the Hawk scooped up and turned it into a TD). Expect Pitcock to be double-teamed most of the season, which may allow the other front three to work some magic.
David Patterson, 6’3”, 285 lbs., Sr. – Starting alongside the dangerous Pitcock, Patterson is rumored to be every bit as quick. He’s been moved around the past few years back and forth (from end to tackle), but when Sweater Vest formally decided on a four-man front, he found a home on the inside, and recorded two dozen tackles last year. He’s got tons of high-pressure game experience, too… starting 36 of the past 37 games. Oh, and did I mention that he loves to hit people? He dropped Chad Henne in the only sack of last November’s rivalry matchup. Whattya bet Lllloyd double-teams him this year?
Joel Penton, 6’5”, 290 lbs, Sr. – Penton is the third “veteran anchor” to the line, and could back up either Pitcock or Patterson. Expect to see two of these three on the field at any given time, unless the game is in hand and the younger players are sent in. Tressel has used Penton as a “secret weapon” of sorts, sending him in to create havoc when the opposing line starts to get a bit tired… he’s got plenty of game experience, having played in almost every game for the past three years, and tons of speed (there’s that recurring theme again!), and doesn’t tire easily. His speed makes him versatile; so it’s possible that we could see him playing some reps at defensive end. It’s always great to give a player credit for his brains, too; Penton is an OSU-Scholar Athlete and Academic All-Big Te(leve)n honoree, as is his wife.
Jay Richardson, 6’6” 276 lbs, Sr. – If Richardson can stay healthy, he can be as deadly a defensive end as any other in the country. I say, “if,” because injuries have plagued his career. He has plenty of experience, being a regular on the line going back to the 2003 season. Richardson is known for his discipline; he’s not the type to get out of position. (Perhaps that discipline comes from the time he’s had to spend in the film room with a bag of ice on his knee?) Tressel likes to use him as a “jack of all trades” type of lineman – he’s great at the pass rush, but also has enough speed to catch up with a sprinting ball carrier and bring him down. Richardson is great at breaking up passes and was able to force a fumble against the mighty Vince Young.
Lawrence Wilson, 6’6” 270 lbs, So. – So, imagine you’re on a team with veterans like Teddy Ginn, Pittman, Pitcock, Patterson, etc. Then, during the spring game, your name is the first to be drafted for your position by your teammates. Think you might impress them a bit; maybe have their respect? Welcome to the world of Wilson. The most exciting story on the defensive line, Wilson has had a buzz about him since last season. How many 270 lb. men do you know that can squat over 600 lbs., bench 300, leap 36”, and run a 4.6? (There once again is the 2006 theme: speed and strength.) He lettered last year as a true freshman, added 20 pounds since then, and has been drawing comparisons to the OSU great Will Smith.
Vernon Gholston, 6’4”, 260 lbs, So. – If Pitcock is the strongest man on the team, then Gholston isn’t far behind; he reportedly benches 455 lbs (no – that’s not a typo). Despite his bulk, he’s got a reputation for being a great pass rusher. The experts at Buckeye Commentary predict Gholston will be the starter, ahead of the talented Wilson. My best guess is that Tressel will make that decision come September. Again, however, who is a “starter” for the defensive line tends to be academic on an OSU team… often, the backups play just as much time as starters do on other teams around the country. It will be exciting to occasionally see Gholston and Wilson on opposite ends of the line while Richardson catches his breath. If offensive coordinators are double-teaming Pitcock and Patterson, then they’ll have to choose between Gholston and Wilson; and both are scary enough to wreak all sorts of havoc in the minds of most Big Te(leve)n QBs.
Players to keep an eye on
Alex Barrow, 6’5″, 275, So. – Barrow will likely rotate in and out behind Richardson at the end position. He’s a third-year player out of OSU’s “other” farm team: Dublin Coffman. Barrow has had a great spring, adding 20 pounds to his bulk and increasing his strength under new coach Eric Lichter.
Doug Worthington, 6’7″, 274, Fr. – A former Parade All American, Worthington was rated the #2 prospect overall in the state of New York, and considered one of the greatest defensive line prospects in the nation. His size and speed make him absolutely dangerous at the end spot. Worthington hurt his knee during bowl practice last season, and had surgery earlier this year. We’ll know more about his status by the time fall camp starts.
Ryan Williams, 6’6″, 245, Fr. – Williams redshirted last season, and like Worthington, injured his knee during bowl practice with the scout team. Coaches like what they see in him, and – if his knee permits it – will use him extensively as a backup at the end position. Expect to see him used on special teams, as well.
Nader Abdallah, 6’5″, 310, So. – Fast enough to play end, but big enough to play tackle, Abdallah is expected to be a physical presence on the line. He’s in his third year with the program, and played in four games last year. Abdallah has had to endure quite a bit of drama in his young life; his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and his entire family had to move to Columbus to live with him. Abdallah’s “portable” nature should serve him well as a lineman backup, on special teams, and on short-yardage or goal-line situations.
Most of the country considers the OSU defense a weak point – the folks in Texas even go so far as to call OSU “defenseless.” But after analyzing the three defensive corps, it seems clear that Tressel has things well-in-hand for an “above-average” to “pretty-darn-good” defense this season. I think this group of men is a year or two away from peaking, but there should be moments of greatness this season, and that’s all the Buckeyes need to complement what should be the highest-powered offense in the country.