Bennett Fighting Way To Starting Role

On a defensive line that boasts plenty of talent, sophomore Michael Bennett has emerged as solid contributor for the Buckeyes. A taekwondo black belt, Bennett has shown plenty of flexibility in his time at Ohio State.

The Ohio State defensive line boasts plenty of talent. One of those players, sophomore Michael Bennett, has a unique talent all his own.

Bennett earned a black belt in taekwondo, a martial art that originated in Korea, as a teenager. It has been nearly a decade since Bennett has practiced it, but junior center Corey Linsley said he knows Bennett gained something from his efforts those years ago.

"I think that's what separates him from a lot of guys," Linsley said. "You can see it on film and you can definitely see it on the field that his hands are a lot faster. They're faster and he strikes (with) them. He's not just flailing his hands out there. He knows where to put them. … He's a very flexible guy.

"He's a great player, and if you don't consider him that yet, he's definitely going to be."

Bennett downplayed his taekwondo efforts, saying he last practiced the martial art when he was 14, but he does know it did help him in his football development.

"I think the biggest thing it did was give me a little bit more discipline and a little bit more body control," he said. "It was a long time ago, but at that age you're kind of a little bit more awkward. So martial arts gives you more body control and more discipline."

Bennett was one of Ohio State's top freshmen last season, seeing action in all 13 games. The Centerville, Ohio, product recorded 17 tackles, including 13 solo stops, to go with five tackles for a loss. His 27 TFL yards was second best on the team, trailing only John Simon's 58, despite Bennett's limited playing time.

The 6-3, 277-pound sophomore played primarily at defensive tackle in 2011 but has been one of Ohio State's defensive ends with the No. 1 defensive units. Simon has played the Leo end position, with senior Garrett Goebel and junior Johnathan Hankins manning the inside spots.

While he is currently on the end, Bennett isn't against showing off the flexibility Linsley mentioned. Ohio State defensive linemen are taught to play all spots on the line.

"I'm willing to play where the coaches put me," Bennett said. "I know the three (technique) and I know the end. Right now they have me at end, but it's the beginning of camp, so you never know."

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said Bennett's versatility will help the Buckeyes.

"Michael's really showed a lot," Fickell said. "He performed pretty well for us last year as a true freshman. He was one of those guys that are a very intelligent, so he picks things up pretty quick. He's going to probably have to play more than one position. When you have versatility, we've got a chance to use you a lot more."

Bennett has been impressed with the rest of the players in his unit, especially the incoming freshmen. The sophomore said that group might already be better than he was as a freshman. That's good for the Buckeyes, of course, but it also makes holds on starting positions tenuous.

"That's what you really want," Bennett said. "It's stressful if you're a starter and you've got guys coming for your position, and it means you can't take a snap off. You have to go every play hard or else you might get replaced. That just makes the team better."

That depth allows Bennett to have very high expectations for the OSU defensive line this fall.

"We aim to be the best in the country," he said. "I think every D-line says that, but I think honestly we can reach that. We have a lot of guys that already can play and we've got younger guys that are really coming up. You can see the potential that they have."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories