Urban Meyer's first Ohio State recruiting class, back in 2012, will probably long be remembered for the high quality and quantity of defensive linemen that came to Columbus. Jamal Marcus, Noah Spence,Tommy Schutt, Se'Von Pittman, and Adolphus Washington were all top prospects, and all looked to have bright futures. Unfortunately, there's already been some attrition, as Pittman left the team several weeks back, but Washington and Spence all look to be significant contributors this year.
During the Spring Game, Washington and Spence were forces of nature coming off the edge, and gave us an enticing preview of things to come this fall. Yes, spring game results can be dubious, but there were some things that jumped out to me about both Spence and Washington that make us think they'll both be dominant come the fall.
Both guys have a tremendous first step and speed coming off the edge, and that could be a hard thing for Big Ten tackles to get used to. Quick, name a top pass rusher in the conference. That's because everyone you'd name – John Simon, Eric Martin, Vernon Gholston, maybe D.L. Wilhite – are gone. And I'd argue that most of those guys weren't really ‘speed' rushers in any sense. Speed wasn't their primary weapon to get past their guy – it was a combination of things. They were all very good in their own right, but you don't really look at those names and go ‘man those guys were fast coming off the edge', with maybe the exception of Gholston's sophomore year.
But Spence (and to a lesser extent Washington) have speed at the center of their games, and it was difficult for the tackles on OSU to get used to. Washington and Spence created havoc in the first half, as almost all oftheir ‘sacks' (there was no tackling allowed on the quarterbacks, except Cardale Jones) almost all camefrom a ridiculous first step that saw them smoking past Taylor Decker and Chase Ferris. With that kind of ‘get off' at the snap, it makes it next to impossible for the tackle to use his hands to move the DE out of the play; his only real options left are to hold or yell ‘look out' at the quarterback. Once the DE is past the tackle, it's a highlight GIF waiting to happen.
And I don't think this combination of speed and strength is something the Big Ten has seen in a while, either. That's not to say that there haven't been phenomenal defensive ends roll through the conference, but there hasn't been one, much less two on the same team, with the unique kind of speed and size that both Washington and Spence possess. And with the current crop of tackles used to facing more of a brute force/bull rush kind of opponent, I see the two sophomores posing a lot of matchup problems for teams in 2013.
Now, that's not to say teams and players can't or won't adjust. As a matter of fact, the Scarlet tackles adjusted at halftime of the spring game, and both Spence and Washington were more neutralized inthe second half. They can't use their raw physical abilities as a one trick pony, because if the tackle can adjust, get in position and get his hands up to block, they can use that speed to their advantage and just guide the player out of the play.
No, they both need to work on their moves and their technique, but Washington and Spence are about to open the eyes of everyone in the Big Ten this year. And Ohio State will be the beneficiaries.