5 To Watch: Ohio State Defense

BuckeyeSports.com presents five players on Ohio State's defense Michigan State fans should know going into Saturday's Big Ten opener.

#1 – DE: John Simon (6-2, 263 Sr.)

Simon might be Meyer's favorite player on the team thanks to a freakish work ethic and a humble streak that makes everything more about the team than Simon. The senior is the defense's emotional leader and has a knack for coming up when they need him to. On the field, he has the potential to be a dominating end. He isn't a classic speed rusher but holds down the edge strong in the run game and has the ability to beat opposing offensive linemen one-on-one in the passing game. He has been nursing a shoulder injury, though, that has limited him at times.

#2 – DT: Johnathan Hankins (6-3, 322 Jr.)

Simply put, "Big Hank" is a joy to watch for those who like football. The Detroit native possesses unnatural quickness for a player his size, and he excels shedding blocks and going side-to-side to track down opposing ball carriers. Of course, with his frame, he's also pretty good at simply going through an offensive lineman to get into the backfield to blow up plays that way as well. Hankins is also starting to develop the ability to get to the passer in obvious throwing situations. He's projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft if he chooses to go, and Hankins is coming off consecutive dominating games.

#3 – WLB: Ryan Shazier (6-2, 230 Soph.)

The Florida native has all the tools to be the next in line when it comes to Ohio State's outstanding linebacker tradition. He has a knack for making big plays, but Shazier still needs to step up his consistency, as he can still be seen overrunning a play or missing a tackle during games. There's not much doubt he has the most upside of the OSU linebackers, though, and he's shown signs of filling gaps and making hits when opposing defenses have run at Ohio State this year. Meyer has called this a big test for Shazier.

#4 – CB: Bradley Roby (5-11, 190 Soph.)

Roby was set to play wide receiver at Vanderbilt before Ohio State plucked him up late in the 2010 class, and the Georgia native has been a fantastic get for the Buckeyes ever since. Roby has the physical talent to be one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, and confidence is never in short supply for the third-year sophomore. A second-year starter, Roby has been turning heads at OSU since arrival and can be a star if he just tightens up a few things and plays with some more consistency.

#5 – S: Christian Bryant (5-10, 192 Jr.) Some players have an "it" factor to them, and Bryant is starting to develop that. He's not the biggest safety in the world but he loves to stick his nose into the play, and Bryant is starting to develop a reputation as a big hitter. He's also perhaps the most vocal talker on the team once the lights go on. The Cleveland native has put together solid back-to-back games for Ohio State. He'll still miss a few tackles, but it looks like the light is starting to come on for Bryant in his second year as a starter.

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