Ohio State football 2013: depth charging the front 7

Ryan D. Shazier. The D is for damn. - Jamie Sabau

Depth. For good teams that aspire to do great things, depth is a critical component to sustained success. For years, that hasn't been a problem at Ohio State. The phrase ‘Ohio State doesn't rebuild, they reload' has been true for just about every season at almost every position going back almost as far as I can remember.

2012 was a phenomenal rebound year, 12-0 and all that stuff. But what made it all the more remarkable was how they did it - Luke Fickell mentioned more than once how it was always a team effort - one unit wouldn't be playing particularly well, so the other unit picked them up until they could get things figured out. It happened time and time again, more often than not on defense.

But by the time The Game rolled around, the defense was finally on a roll, and their second half performance against TTUN was a tour-de-force. It was also the last hurrah for 6 of the front 7 linemen and linebackers, including John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, and mid-season FB-to-LB Zach Boren.

Losing 6 of your starting front 7 is never a good thing, but how bad will it be? The answer is...maybe not as bad as we think.

First, let's look at what the depth chart showed at the two/three deep for the Michigan game:

LEO:

John Simon, Sr.

Noah Spence, Fr.

Steve Miller, So.

DT:

Jonathan Hankins, Jr.

Adolphus Washington, Fr.

Tommy Schutt, Fr.

NT:

Garrett Goebel, Sr.

Joel Hale, So.

DE:

Nathan Williams, Sr.

Michael Bennett, So.

J.T. Moore, So.

SAM:

Etienne Sabino, Sr

Josh Perry, Fr

MIKE:

Zach Boren, Sr.

Storm Klein, Sr.

Curtis Grant, Fr.

Will:

Ryan Damn Shazier, So.

Connor Crowell, Fr.

Camren Williams, Fr.

Okay, now let's take out who's leaving and add DE Se'Veon Pittman, who was red-shirted for 2012:

LEO:

Noah Spence, Fr.

Steve Miller, So.

DT:

Adolphus Washington, Fr.

Tommy Schutt, Fr.

NT:

Joel Hale, So.

DE:

Michael Bennett, So.

J.T. Moore, So.

Se'Von Pittman (RS) Fr.

SAM:

Josh Perry, Fr

MIKE:

Curtis Grant, Fr.

Will:

Ryan Damn Shazier, So.

Connor Crowell, Fr.

Camren Williams, Fr.

Aye caramba. That looks pretty bad. But it's not as desperate as you think. I think. We still need to add in the rest of the guys on the roster at each position. We'll place them below the remaining guys from the two deep, admittedly not having a clue about what their chances of competing for a starting spot are, exactly what position they might end up at, and what their playing time will be:

LEO:

Noah Spence, Fr.

Steve Miller, So.

Rashad Frazier, So.

J.T. Moore, So.

DT:

Adolphus Washington, Fr.

Tommy Schutt, Fr.

NT:

Joel Hale, So.

DE:

Michael Bennett, So.

J.T. Moore, So.

Se'Von Pittman (RS) Fr.

Ken Hayes, Fr.

SAM:

Josh Perry, Fr

Jamal Marcus, Fr.

David Perkins, Fr.

MIKE:

Curtis Grant, Fr.

Joe Burger, Fr.

Luke Roberts, Fr.

Will:

Ryan Damn Shazier, So.

Connor Crowell, Fr.

Camren Williams, Fr.

Well, that looks better, but we're still not finished. Lastly, let's look who the defensive line and linebacker recruits are for 2013, and plug them in Commits in italics. They might not be in the exact spot, but they will be accounted for:

LEO:

Noah Spence, Fr.

Steve Miller, So.

J.T. Moore, So.

Rashad Frazier, So.

Tyquan Lewis

DT:

Adolphus Washington, Fr.

Tommy Schutt, Fr.

Billy Price

NT:

Joel Hale, So.

Donovan Munger

Michael Hill

DE:

Michael Bennett, So.

J.T. Moore, So.

Se'Von Pittman (RS) Fr.

Ken Hayes, Fr.

Joey Bosa

Tracy Sprinkle

SAM:

Josh Perry, Fr

Jamal Marcus, Fr.

David Perkins, Fr.

MIKE:

Curtis Grant, Fr.

Joe Burger, Fr.

Luke Roberts, Fr.

Will:

Ryan Damn Shazier, So.

Connor Crowell, Fr.

Camren Williams, Fr.

Now, keep in mind that National Signing Day isn't until February 6th, there are still guys on OSU's radar, and some of these commits could change their mind and go elsewhere. But looking at that list, look at how young this group is. The starting front four will more than likely be Spence, Washington, Hale, and right now I give it to Bennett, but if Pittman comes back 100% from his knee injury, I give him the nod.

Three of those guys will be sophomores. And they're all 4 or 5 star guys, depending on which recruiting service you follow. This has the potential to be one of the best defensive lines in school history. Spence and Washington flashed some serious skills in limited playing time in 2012, and look to be the anchors of next year's unit. But Pittman might be the best of all three--seriously, the expectations I have for the defensive line going into next year are almost unrealistic.

At the linebacker position, we should feel the same way, but there's a lot more consternation with that group. Like the linemen, they were all very highly rated coming out of high school. Curtis Grant was the #1 rated linebacker in the country by Scout.com, yet the coaching staff felt he wasn't ready to play when injuries took their toll about halfway through the season, which necessitated Zach Boren making his mid-season switch.

Like the linemen, the linebackers were all highly sought after recruits with lots of talent (everyone but Roberts and Crowell were rated 4 stars or better coming out of high school), but haven't put it all together at the D-1 level yet. It's kind of unfair to ask a freshman to step in and start, though, regardless of how talented they are, and we discussed the linebacker attrition earlier this season.

But guys like A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitais, and Bobby Carpenter didn't exactly set the world on fire when they were freshman, and they seemed to turn out okay. I'm not here to say that these guys are going to be that good, but when you look at the talent they possess, maybe it's a bit premature to get all stressed out about the state of the linebackers. Let's look at it a little bit more.

Shazier is going to be the leader of the defense, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a pre-season 1st team all-conference player. After that, there are admittedly a lot of question marks. But remember, Shazier started off shaky last year, and didn't really make a name for himself until the Terrible Bowl against Florida (What's that? It was the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl? Did you watch it?)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that with spring ball and fall practice, by the time the first game rolls around the linebackers should be every bit as good as the defensive line next year. With a season to watch and learn, by the time the University of Buffalo visits the Horseshoe, the average starting player on OSU's front 7 will be a 4.3 star rated sophomore.

Tell me that doesn't excite you.

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