Golden Tickets: Noah Spence

Although he won't be playing in the first two games of the season, Noah Spence is still looking to match his production from a dominant 2013 season. New defensive line coach Larry Johnson plans on rotating his players more often, a strategy that he hopes will pay off with bigger plays from guys with fresher legs.

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.

Noah Spence
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6-3
Weight: 252
Hometown/HS: Harrisburg, Pa.
Previous Stats: Spence made 52 tackles as a sophomore in 2013. He led Ohio State with eight sacks for 67 yards and finished with 14.5 tackles for loss for 83 yards. He also finished with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

What They're Saying: A brilliant 2013 campaign for Noah Spence came to a crashing halt after the Big Ten title game, where the Buckeyes lost 34-24 to Michigan State and Spence tested positive for ecstasy. His family claimed that he was slipped the drug at a party, and the Big Ten's one-year suspension was reduced to three games.

The Harrisburg, Pa., native was forced to sit out of the Orange Bowl loss and will also miss Ohio State's first two games of the 2014 season – a neutral-site game against Navy in Baltimore on Aug. 30 and a home contest vs. Virginia Tech the following week. Still, it appears that is where his punishment will end. Speaking after the spring game on April 12, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer included Spence in his list of Buckeyes who have locked up starting spots this fall.

He's also made his way into the good graces of new defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Spence was heavily recruited by Penn State and has known his new position coach since his freshman year of high school. Thus far, he's put in the necessary work to make a good impression.

"No, he's working really hard," Johnson said of Spence. "He's working really hard and we're really pleased with his effort on the field and off the field. He's doing great in the classroom. I think he wants to be a great player, and great players work hard and work through adversity and that's what he's doing. I think it's been really good to see that."

Despite missing the Orange Bowl last season, Spence played significantly more snaps from scrimmage than most of the other defensive linemen last year. He racked up 799 snaps in 13 games, and only Michael Bennett (772) came within 100 snaps of his total.

That won't be the case this year, as Johnson has vowed to rest his players more often.

"The game has changed," Johnson said. "You talk about the spread offense and quick snaps, that number (of plays for defensive linemen) can go from 65 to 90 pretty quick. You have 12 games and one guy doing that, that's a lot of football. What I want to do is play fresh. I want to play eight or nine guys every time, be relentless on the football field. That way every guy can play as hard as he can every snap. That's how you play defense."

Although Spence will be on the field for far fewer snaps this spring, Johnson expects him to have a year similar or better to that of last fall, which Spence tallied eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss while also forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble.

"You can't play 70 plays full speed," Johnson said. "(Guys) like to say they can, but that's not going to happen. You can play 40 or 50 plays full speed and get (backups) to come play 20 plays full speed, and that's what we like to do."

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