Spence Wants To See Improvement As Sophomore

Ohio State defensive lineman Noah Spence by most accounts had a good 2012 season. He played in all but one game and saw increased action as the season progressed. Even so, Spence was not happy with his performance and wants to see improvement this fall.

One would think it would be difficult to find someone who was unsatisfied with the performance of freshman defensive lineman Noah Spence last season.

After all, Spence shows flashes of the potential that made him a five-star prospect in the class of 2012. The Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt product appeared in all but one game last season and recorded 12 tackles with one sack in a reserve role behind defensive line stalwarts John Simon, Garrett Goebel, Johnathan Hankins and Nathan Williams. Spence saw more of the field as the season went on, as well, getting into the game when Ohio State wanted to utilize an aggressive attack on passing downs.

But while the numbers were solid, Spence wasn't pleased with his efforts.

"I didn't like what I did at all," Spence said. "I did a couple of little things (well), but I know I could try to be a better player."

Spence enters his first spring at Ohio State with an eagerness to take that next proverbial step. In order to do that, Spence will have to continue to gain a better grasp of Ohio State's defense. He said much of his play last season was instinctual.

That should not come as a complete surprise. Most freshmen get to the college level and find early tough sledding when it comes to mastering a playbook. Now a sophomore in his second year as a Buckeye, Spence knows expectations are higher for him. Through the early part of spring, Spence has been primarily working with the first defensive unit – working as the top Leo defensive end.

"(This spring is) real important because I have to learn everything," Spence said. "I can't be like last year where I partially knew what I was doing because I had older people in front of me. I don't have the same amount of older guys in front of me, so I have to learn everything just like they did."

Spence is not only working on learning the playbook at a more intermediate level, but he is also working on his technique with OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel. He is making an effort to not just be a rush end but a player that can get to the quarterback in other ways.

"I'm still learning and Coach Vrabes is teaching us every day," Vrabel said. "I'm learning different techniques, how to use different things like speed and strength. I'm learning different counters instead of just using speed all the time."

That thought has to keep opposing offensive coaches up at night. But it is the next step in Spence's evolution as a college football player.

He's also getting bigger. Spence gained 15 pounds during the offseason and is listed at 6-3, 247 pounds this spring.

"I got a little stronger over the offseason and I think that's helped a lot," he said.

Spence should be a starter when Ohio State opens the 2013 season Aug. 31 vs. Buffalo at Ohio State, but he is not taking anything for granted. He describes himself as a hardworking player who wants to scrap for everything he can on the field.

"I just feel like it's a blessing," Spence said of the expectations people have of him for the upcoming season. "I don't take it as anything bigger than that. I just want to go out and work hard every day and earn any playing time I get."

Until he can suit up and battle the Bulls, Spence wants to practice and continue to "go hard every play like it's my last play."

Vrabel has been impressed with Spence's motor and energy.

"He has an innate ability to play really hard," Vrabel said. "He has a great motor, and when he can learn how to play within our defense with that motor and his ability, he can be really good. But if he doesn't know where he's going sometimes, we feel like he's going to let the defense down just because he doesn't know where he's supposed to be.

"Every day he works and learns something new. There's not a day we come into practice that Noah doesn't get better or he doesn't learn a different technique or doesn't see another play. He was young and did it with effort last year. Hopefully, he's going to be more experienced and do it with effort, fundamentals and technique this year."

Spence's efforts have not been unnoticed by people on the other side of the football, either.

"I'm glad he's on our team, that's all I can say," OSU offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. "His speed off the edge is amazing. He'll make us better because he gives us something every day to work on, which is hard to coach and recruit on, which is speed.

"He can change the game on the edge."

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