Projecting The 2015 Depth Chart: Defense

Ohio State's defense returns enough talent to give opposing offenses some trouble in 2015. Here's a look at how the depth chart on that side of the ball might shake out.

It’s never too early to project what the 2015 Ohio State defensive depth chart might look like. The Silver Bullets don’t have too many holes to fill, but three of the departures were senior captains. BuckeyeSports.com takes a look at which players could step up and either earn a starting job or a place on the two-deep.

DEFENSIVE END

Bosa’s spot is the safest on the team as a returning unanimous All-American, and he’ll surely spend his final season in Columbus terrorizing opposing offensive linemen once again. After speaking to teammates about him, I’m projecting Hubbard to be the backup at this spot even though he’s never played a snap and this is his third position. He goes behind Bosa in practice reps and players and coaches have both raved about his ability to take what he sees from Bosa and repeat it almost immediately.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Ohio State got a late Christmas present when Washington decided to return for his senior season, as it was expected that he could reach as high as the second round of the NFL Draft. His presence is especially critical given the lack of depth OSU currently has on the interior of the defensive line. Munger only played in a handful of games in 2014 after redshirting the previous season, so this is his opportunity to prove he can step up and give Washington a rotation partner.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Schutt has been plagued by injury troubles at times, but when he’s been healthy he’s proven he can provide an impact in the trenches. He and Hill combined for 12 tackles in 2014, but obviously either one will see an increase in playing time with the departure of senior captain Michael Bennett.

DEFENSIVE END

I really, really like Holmes as a guy who’s going to have a good career at Ohio State, but for now I’m willing to give a slight experience edge to Lewis. He had a pretty solid finish to 2014, while Holmes didn’t see much action in the postseason.

SAM LINEBACKER

What else is there to say about Lee? Everyone worried about his ability to go out and replace first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier, but he handled that task just fine. He gave the Buckeyes a big threat as a blitzer as well as someone who can defend running backs and wide receivers in space. This job is all his.

MIKE LINEBACKER

McMillan spent 2014 training under senior captain Curtis Grant, and those lessons will pay off during his sophomore campaign. McMillan should be scary once he makes the second-year jump that so many players seem to experience. His true freshman season was vastly more productive than key contributors like Lee and Eli Apple, both of whom sat out their first year in Columbus. Williams’ will be expected to raise his level of play enough for coaches to count on him when needed. Incoming freshman Nick Conner is an early enrollee who will take part in spring practice and could find a way to crack the depth chart.

WILL LINEBACKER

All Perry did in 2014 was lead the team in tackles by a whopping margin, so it’s safe to say that he’ll be back in his spot for his senior season. Booker is a guy who could force his way into some reps, as the talented former Mr. Football contributed on special teams and in spot duty his freshman year despite some early nagging injuries.

BOUNDARY CORNERBACK

The man who caught the final pass of the 2014 season will resume his role at cornerback in 2014, although he’ll likely slide over to Doran Grant’s boundary corner spot this fall. Even though he missed 2014 because of a season-ending injury sustained in camp, I like Lattimore’s upside as a future boundary corner.

FIELD CORNERBACK

This spot is a toss up to me, but for now I’m willing to give Conley the experience edge. Webb did see some snaps as a true freshman, though, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him step up this spring and claim the job opposite Apple.

NICKEL BACK

Reeves has been described by cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs as one of the hardest workers on the team, and he should retain this spot next season despite some health problems.

STRONG SAFETY

Powell has been criticized at times for his bad angles, but it’s hard to imagine a guy with a knack for game-saving interceptions and a CFP National Championship Defensive MVP trophy in his case losing his job. Smith is very, very good though. He’ll find his way onto the field in some capacity this fall.

FREE SAFETY

Vonn Bell Academy will be back in session next fall. After leading the team in interceptions, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Bell lining up opposite Powell next season. Burrows will have to continue to develop in order to see some playing time.

PUNTER

As long as he survives a summer in the land of crocodiles and every poisonous snake known to man, Johnston will be back and ready to make a run at the Ray Guy Award. An Australian trained at Pro Kick Australia – his home base – has taken home the award in each of the past two seasons. Nuernberger hit a reporter with a punt during practice in Dallas, so he’s an emergency option here.

KICKER

  • Sean Nuernberger

Nuernberger went through some self-admitted struggles in 2014 but also noted in January that he had worked through those problems. His instructors at One On One Kicking said he can get up to 65 yards when he’s got a pure swing, and they expect him to be much improved in his sophomore campaign.

LONG SNAPPER

Haynes is a proven commodity, but there’s always a chance he’s pushed by an incoming freshman who is ranked as the best long snapper in the country.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories