Few things in life produce a harsher reaction from Ohio State fans than referencing the back-to-back National Championship Game losses following the 2006 and 2007 seasons. In addition, fewer things will get under the skin of Ohio State fans faster than SEC fans clamoring, "Herp, derp, the difference was SEC SPEED!" What’s almost impossible for Ohio State fans to admit is that those frustratingly loud people are // gulp // kind of, sort of, right.
Anyone still holding on to the "If Ted Ginn hadn’t been injured it would’ve been a whole lot different" argument, kindly let yourself out and go back to generating other crazy ideas for Les Miles’ brain to subconsciously capture via the shear power of its gravitational pull. Jerry Rice and Randy Moss could have lined up for the Buckeyes that night and it wouldn’t have stopped Troy Smith from begging his slightly-heavier-than-usual frame to remember its fleet-footed former self.
The difference in those two National Championship losses was speed, namely on the defensive line. It’s the reason visual evidence, although largely unnecessary, has become a meme for SEC fans everywhere. Ask Urban Meyer yourself and he’ll tell you the same thing. During his press conference at the Big Ten Media Days, he was asked about it and had this to say:
"The defensive front seven in that conference, in the SEC, is the difference-maker..."
Jim Tressel knew this as well. If you go back to his only National Championship team in ‘02, the defensive front on the team was so loaded that nearly all of them landed on an NFL roster. His best team since those championship game debacles was in 2010, a squad that had a d-line that finally flipped the script on a favored SEC team.
Look at every BCS National Champion over the last decade and you’ll see that every team had a very good to dominant defensive line. Actually, if you take away Vince Young and the ‘05 Texas Longhorns, no team that claimed a National Championship since 2002 would’ve done so without the stellar performance from their big guys up front.
Fortunately for Buckeye fans, Urban Meyer knows this. He inherited a dominant defensive line at Florida that won him a title in ‘06, and he built another one that got him a second title two years later.
Building a strong d-line has become an absolute necessity for teams vying for a BCS title, and Meyer is already after it at Ohio State. The defensive line was Ohio State’s strongest position before Meyer took over the team, but that didn’t stop him from hitting the recruiting trail to add talent.
In three months, Urban added the top ranked defensive end (Noah Spence), the No. 2 defensive end (Adolphus Washington), the No. 8 defensive end (Se’von Pittman) and the No. 6 ranked defensive tackle (Tommy Schutt). That in itself is an absurd amount of talent, but Meyer kept his foot on the pedal by getting commitments from the No. 4 ranked defensive end (Joey Bosa), the No. 5 ranked defensive tackle (Michael Hill), the No. 12 defensive tackle (Billy Price), and the No. 29 ranked defensive end (Tracy Sprinkle) in this year’s class.
Allow your mind to skip this year and think ahead to 2013. The names listed above will have to fight for playing time with guys like Michael Bennet (one of Ohio State’s best four lineman right now as a sophomore), Jonathan Hankins (if he stays his senior season), Steve Miller (Se’von Pittman’s former high school teammate and four star DE recruit) and a host of others.
If you allow your mind to go one year further, every name listed above could and very well should be on Ohio State’s roster aside from Hankins.
People can complain about Meyer not landing enough "Percy Harvin" types (although I wouldn’t scoff at the playmakers coming Columbus’ way this year), but the most important position group is being recruited with the kind of success that is required if you want to compete for National Championships.
Ohio State fans should get excited about the future of this team because Urban Meyer is building something special.