Spring Practice Update: Defense Two Deep Predictions

Before reading this I think we all need to take a deep sigh of relief and remind ourselves that last year’s secondary will not be returning. Yes, losing Bradley Roby does not help, but inheriting Chris Ash should off-set Roby’s loss. With some of Ash’s new schemes, he has caused a bit of a shake-up in the linebackers room and a new name has emerged as a starter. Continuing the trend from back to front I’m going to take a look at some of the depth and rotation new d-line coach Larry Johnson Sr. is creating. Don’t worry Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, and Joey Bosa will still have the green light to reek havoc with offensive lines across the Big Ten. However, Johnson is focusing on creating depth this spring. Let’s take a look at all of these position changes and battles.

As the Buckeyes took the field this spring the only true returning starter in the secondary was going to be Doran Grant. However, as the practices have gone by the unit has taken shape very quickly. Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Armani Reeves, Cam Burrows, and Gareon Conley have all been names that have cracked the rotation at their respective positions. Vonn Bell was lost early in the spring due to injury, but coaches have liked what they have seen out of Cam Burrows at safety in the past few practices. The way the safeties in Ash’s defense are asked to cover receivers it’s not surprising that Burrows has made the position change from corner to safety with some ease. Bell should re-take the starting spot once he returns from injury, but Burrows will not be completely excluded from the defensive rotation with the quality of spring he has had.

Armani Reeves is the starter opposite of Doran Grant. As much as it hurts me to say that, that seems to be where the coaching staff is going at least in the base defense. When going to nickel, Reeves moves over to the nickel corner and either Eli Apple or Gareon Conley come in as the opposite corner. Speaking of Conley and Apple, that battle for the #3 corner has turned in to the hottest position battle the past couple of practices. Both Apple and Conley had themselves excellent scrimmages last Saturday. Apple caught a lot of headlines losing his black stripe finally, but Conley had an equally excellent practice.

Judging from Reeves performances last season, I believe in Reeves to be a very solid nickel corner, and Apple or Conley should be competing for the #2 outside corner. However, being the mere blogger that I am, I can only suggest and dream.

The big story line coming in to spring was whether or not Raekwon McMillan would challenge Curtis Grant for the starting middle linebacker spot. Whether that was a legitimate opportunity or not, it has motivated Curtis Grant and according to Meyer the senior linebacker is having his best spring as a Buckeye. McMillan is still battling to get any reps with the ones. Cam Williams split some reps with Grant with the ones and McMillan was limited to just playing with the twos this past Saturday. It seems like the new scheme Chris Ash has brought in has actually helped Grant. Grant does not have to play in coverage too often and is able to play downhill like he prefers. His leadership has improved and I believe he will be the starting middle linebacker. The McMillan hype seems to be dying down and now he is in a battle for the number two linebacker with Cam Williams.

The story that has surfaced out of spring practice from the linebacker room has been of Darron Lee. Yes, Darron Lee the 3 star recruit who played quarterback, safety, and wide receiver in high school, is your new outside linebacker at Ohio State. Why? Lee’s versatility, athleticism, and more importantly his relentless effort have coaches raving about the kid. He goes from point A to point B as fast as he can even though according to Coach Meyer “he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.” The kid has played fast, hard, and will be filling a similar role that Ryan Shazier had last season. Lee has become the unheralded star of spring practice and the more reps he earns, the more Lee will find his way to the spotlight.

Defensive Line
The starting defensive line for Ohio State is set in stone. Even though Noah Spence will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, he along with Joey Bosa should man the edges with Bennett and Washington plugging up the middle. It is the depth where there is constant battle and rotation. Larry Johnson Sr. would like to rotate 8 to 9 players on the defensive line. However, good luck picking between Steve Miller, Tommy Schutt, Donovan Munger, Michael Hill, Tyquan Lewis, Chris Carter, Tracy Sprinkle, and Rashad Frazier. Something has happened with Jamaal Marcus where he did not practice Saturday and has somewhat disappeared in the rotation after a stellar Orange Bowl performance. Tyquan Lewis seems to have impressed coaches enough to overtake Marcus as Lewis started the spring with the number two’s.

Needless to say, LJ Sr. has a ton of talent to work with and his dream of having defensive line shifts could easily become a reality this fall.

Predicted Two Deep Post Spring Practice
LE- Noah Spence
Steve Miller

DT- Adolphus Washington
Tommy Schutt/Michael Hill/Tracy Sprinkle

DT- Michael Bennett
Donovan Munger or Chris Carter

RE- Joey Bosa
Tyquan Lewis

SAM-Darron Lee
Chris Worley

MIKE-Curtis Grant
Camren Williams

WILL-Joshua Perry
Trey Johnson

CB-Armani Reeves
Eli Apple

CB-Doran Grant
Gareon Conley

FS-Vonn Bell
Cam Burrows

SS- Tyvis Powell
Ron Tanner

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