Marcus, Miller Prepared to Step In For OSU

Ohio State is going into the Orange Bowl down an All-Big Ten performer at defensive end, but a pair of players are set to step in and show what they can do against Clemson.

All week Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and others have expressed optimism they can overcome the absence of Noah Spence, a defensive end suspended for three games by the Big Ten for taking an unapproved supplement.

While any team is bound to miss an All-Big Ten performer, "Viper" defensive end might be one spot Ohio State is best equipped to deal with a personnel loss.

Entering bowl season, Spence was second in the Big Ten with eight sacks and tied for sixth with 13.5 tackles for loss, and his speed around the edge was difficult for opposing offensive tackles to deal with all season.

Though Spence is a more complete player, fellow sophomore Jamal Marcus might have him beaten for sheer pass-rushing skill, a trait that figures to come in handy against the high-flying Clemson offense Ohio State will see in the Orange Bowl Friday night.

"Jamal Marcus is going to be a disruptive guy," Meyer said Thursday morning. "He's one of the more talented guys on our team. I'm anxious to watch him play. We had a staff meeting this morning at 7:00 a.m., and Mike Vrabel made that comment to me. He's a quick-twitch guy. This is his kind of game. Very talented guy. We're anxious to see him go."

Marcus, a 6-2, 240-pounder from Durham (N.C.) Hillside who played in 12 games this season and notched 15 tackles, including a pair of sacks. Most of his time on defense came in obvious passing situations, and he displayed not only great quickness but notable power for his size working on the edge.

Also looking to pick up some playing time in Spence's absence is Steve Miller, a junior from Canton (Ohio) McKinley who came to Ohio State as a five-star recruit but has not been an impact performer so far. Miller has seen action in 10 games so far this season and logged 12 tackles, including six for loss, though most of that was in garbage time.

With Spence out of the picture for now, Miller moved back to Viper from strong-side defensive end. He played the Viper role (formerly called the "Leo") in his first three seasons in Columbus, including a redshirt year in 2011.

"He's going to have to be thrust into a situation where he's going to have to go over there and learn, and he's done it before, but he's going to have a little bit of baptism by fire here the last week to get some more reps and see what he does understand," defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. "It's going to make us maybe have to limit some of the things we do.

"As for Jamal, Jamal's been a guy that's been repping there. The thing that's tough at times is, you know, Noah's one of those guys that doesn't get tired. Sometimes you say you like to sub your D-line, you like to play guys, and you do, but there's a few guys that don't get tired. That's one of the great things about what he's done for us, but it's one of the things that hurts you in the development of the guy that might play behind him a little bit because they don't get as many reps.

With the way Ohio State has recruited -- particularly up front the past two years -- there are players available to fill in when things go wrong, but Fickell acknowledged questions loom whenever a change takes place.

"Those guys have to step up. Jamal can do it," Fickell said. "He's going to bring some aggressiveness and some twitch and some fire to the edge, I can assure you of that. But it's just, again, it's that test of time in front of 75,000 people on Friday night that you got to -- if you have a new guy out there, how do they really, truly react and respond in front of that with those lights on?"

Marcus and Miller can count on confidence from their teammates, including tackle Michael Bennett and end Joey Bosa.

"With Noah being out, Jamal has really stepped up and having a great week of practice, the best week he's had all season," Bosa said. "We're beginning to feel really comfortable and excited to see what he can do."

Added Bennett, a junior who moved inside this season after playing end last year, "Jamal and Steve are ready to go. They've been practicing all year, they've been showing up all year and when they get an opportunity in the games they had, they've just about every time capitalized. Whether it's like five plays and two or three tackles -- which is ridiculous -- they've always capitalized. They're ready to go, and they're ready to play a lot of snaps."

Twitter: @marcushartman

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