Expectations for that group were sky high entering the season, and though Spence failed a second drug test and is suspended for at least the rest of this season, the defensive line is thought of as a strength of the Buckeyes defense. Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier have gotten a bulk of the snaps that would have gone to Spence while the staff is working to increase the number of players involved in the line’s rotation.
“I just looked at it that I had to step up and be ready for my brothers,” Miller said of learning Spence would not return this season. “I didn’t want to let my brothers down, so I knew I had to play a big part this season to help my brothers out.”
Through five games this season defensive lineman have accounted for 17 of the teams 32 tackles for loss and seven of Ohio State’s 12 sacks. Bosa has led the way in both categories with seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
“Joey’s a great player,” Miller said. “On pass rush, I feel like he’s got good moves and can get there quickly. He’s a big help for us.
“If two people are blocking Joey, somebody’s got to be free or one-on-one to make that play.”
Coach Urban Meyer said the defensive line had their best game in the 52-24 win over Maryland. Bosa, Bennett and Frazier each notched a sack in that game while consistent pressure had a big impact on the four interceptions the defense recorded.
Miller, who didn’t have a sack but did have two tackles against the Terps, played his best last week, Meyer said.
“He’s played ok this year, I won’t say great, but (Miller) played his best game, no question, against Maryland,” he said. “He has to. He didn’t have to play his best game before because he didn’t play much. I really like Steve and everyone likes him academically because he’s a grinder, a worker a good kid.”
The 2014 unit is slightly underperforming the 2013 defensive line. Through five games last season down lineman had recorded 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
Losing Spence has certainly hurt this unit and Meyer expects to see continued improvement and is working on getting freshman Jalyn Holmes and junior Chris Carter more reps this week to prepare them to contribute in the rotation.
As an entire unit, Miller said there is plenty of room for improvement.
“We’re doing well, but I feel like we can do way better,” he said. “It’s just a lot of mental stuff that we mess up on.”
With Spence out the defensive line has not had the personnel they were expected to utilize this season. As the unit continues to improve, maybe they will reach their expected production levels.