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Adolphus Washington could prove the x-factor against Virginia Tech

The Buckeyes' only available returning starter on the defensive line will need to make plays against Virginia Tech.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes' defensive front line has a new look this season with the departures of do-it-all DT Michael Bennett and DE platoon-mates Rashad Frazier and Steve Miller. On top of that, you may have heard that destroyer of worlds Joey Bosa is suspended for Ohio State's opener against Virginia Tech. With those pieces all in motion, your defensive player to watch for week one is defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.

The stats

Year: Senior

Height: 6'4

Weight: 290 lbs.

Stat Line: 48 tackles (25 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble (2014 season)

Washington will be the veteran anchor of the defensive line this season. Ohio State will sorely miss Michael Bennett's presence, but if Washington can take the final step in his trajectory and become that same paragon of stability for this year's team, Bennett's departure won't mean nearly as much over the course of the season.

The game situation

Three members of Ohio State's defensive line will be making their first career starts: senior tackle Tommy Schutt, sophomore end Tyquan Lewis, and either freshman Sam Hubbard or sophomore Jalyn Holmes at the other end spot. Schutt and Lewis aren't totally green, having both made eight appearances in 2014, but Holmes only played in four games last season, while Hubbard has obviously never appeared for the Buckeyes.

That means the only proven commodity along the front four is Washington. His numbers haven't ever been eye-popping, but they've been consistent and solid in his tenure in Columbus. Besides, the role of a DT is as much to eat up offensive linemen to clear space for the DEs and linebackers as it is to get after the quarterback, and the numbers don't always reflect that.

If Washington can do just that -- gobble up blockers to make life easier for the ends and WLB Joshua Perry -- while maintaining a stout presence in the run game, he'll earn his helmet stickers against the Hokies. There's little chance that defensive line coach Larry Johnson is going to let his guys show up for Urban's revenge game unprepared, and if they are prepared, watch out: Virginia Tech's offensive line hasn't drastically changed or improved since last year, when the unit gave up 34 sacks, 99th in the country.

What to watch for

The defensive line, led by Washington, is going to need to get into the backfield and give Hokies QB Michael Brewer something to think about. Otherwise, VT's aerial attack could do some damage, particularly 6'6 tight end Bucky Hodges. Ohio State has the talent and experience at linebacker and at safety to gain the edge against multiple offensive packages, so if Brewer can't get comfortable, the Buckeyes could cruise through this one.

Washington, a preseason all-American, will also need to prop up the run defense. The Hokies didn't exactly run wild on the Buckeyes in last season's debacle -- nine ball-carriers combined for just 125 yards -- but senior VT tailback J.C. Coleman is talented, as is bruising runner Trey Edmunds. Washington will need to show up as a run-stuffer as well.

The conclusion

Things get a lot easier in week two, with Joey Bosa back and the rest of the line facing a much lighter load against an overmatched Hawaii team. But this isn't week two, and Bosa isn't walking through that door. That said, I think Adolphus Washington will prove himself a worthy successor to Michael Bennett as Ohio State's defensive stalwart. While he might not stuff the stat sheet against Frank Beamer's squad, he'll show up in a number of ways that will impact the game.

Combine Ohio State's personnel advantage with the fact that Virginia Tech was the only blemish on Urban Meyer's record last year, and there's a decent chance the Buckeyes roll out of Blacksburg as 20+ point victors. The defensive line commodities may be unproven, but they are starting for the defending national champions, which probably means that they're pretty good at the whole football thing.