Golden Tickets: Michael Bennett

The Ohio State defense has plenty of question marks it needs to answer heading into the 2014 season, but Michael Bennett is not one of them. The senior emerged as one of the Buckeyes' best defensive players last season and will likely be a leader this fall.

After Ohio State's April 12 spring game, head coach Urban Meyer pointed to seven players as having spots sewn up on his defense as the team heads into summer workouts. Those seven players earned what we're calling Golden Tickets to start on a defense that has its sights set on returning the Buckeye stop troops to Silver Bullet status. We're profiling each of those seven players as well as taking a look at the remaining position battles in a series this week.

Michael Bennett
Position: Defensive lineman
Height: 6-2
Weight: 288
Hometown/HS: Centerville, Ohio
Previous Stats: Bennett made 42 tackles last season, including 11½ for loss with seven sacks. He the seventh leading tackler among returnees and wreck1ed havoc on quarterbacks last season. Bennett forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles.

What They're Saying: Bennett will be looked upon for leadership during his senior campaign. That much is certain.

If you need proof, every Big Ten team had one player represent their school on a teleconference this spring, and Urban Meyer chose to have Bennett speak for his teammates. Bennett started every game last season and is tied with fellow seniors Curtis Grant and Doran Grant for the most career starts among defensive Buckeyes with 15.

Bennett and the rest of the D-linemen have a new position coach in Larry Johnson Sr., and Bennett has already made a good impression on the former Penn State assistant.

"He's a great leader," Johnson said this spring. "I think my players respect him. He's played a lot of football, and I think when he opens his mouth guys are listening to him right now. That's the type of leadership you want. I've been very impressed with Mike. His leadership on the field and off the field.

"He's a great student, and we're looking for great things from him. He's a senior and he knows he's a guy who's got to move them forward. We've been talking about moving the yardstick, and I think Mike's doing a great job of moving it forward for the group."

Bennett, who is ranked the top defensive tackle in the 2015 NFL draft by CBS Sports, could benefit by Johnson's plan to utilize a deeper rotation on the line. Bennett's number of snaps per game could lessen but that could result in more production.

Bennett, for one, thinks that's the case.

"You think, ‘I'm only getting 40 snaps rather than 95, I'm not going to be as productive," Bennett said. "But then you think, ‘I'm going to be at 40 snaps at 100 percent and not tired at all,' so you have to be less selfish and you've got to know the guy in there is going to make plays, too."

Bennett worked primarily at nose guard during the spring, and Johnson said he wanted the Centerville, Ohio, product there to provide some much-needed quickness.

"It's not how big you are, it's quickness," Johnson said. "Some of the things we do, we want to be able to penetrate and attack off the ball. … Guys say he's only 295 (pounds). Well, that's big enough. You have a 320-pound guy get caught on a 50-play drive, that's pretty tough.

"I like to play with quickness, and that's what Mike brings to the table. That's why he's a great fit for us at that spot."

Speed and leadership have been important terms during the first three years of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State, and this fall Bennett will be looked upon for both.

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