Ohio State's Young Defensive Tackles Are Getting Ready To Play A Big Role Against Notre Dame

With Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington out, young Ohio State defensive tackles like Michael Hill and Donovan Munger are getting ready to play a big Role in the Fiesta Bowl.

Tommy Schutt won’t play a roll on the field in the Fiesta Bowl, but he’s still had a chance to help make sure Ohio State is ready for Notre Dame.

Schutt, who started seven games as a senior during the regular season, will miss Friday’s matchup with a broken foot, ending his collegiate career earlier than he would’ve liked. So instead of taking the practice field with his teammates, Schutt said he’s done what he can to help the younger Buckeyes get ready to play.

“I just want to be out there with my guys one last time but I looked at it just as an opportunity to help those guys and kind of take more of a coaching role and offer advice and I’ve tried to fix mistakes and stuff like that,” Schutt said. “They’ve done a great job of preparing themselves and it’s gonna be exciting to watch them go on Friday.”

Schutt’s fellow senior defensive tackle Adolphus Washington will miss the game as well through a suspensions, leaving five players all listed as potential starters on Ohio State’s official Fiesta Bowl depth chart. Of those five players, only senior Joel Hale has started multiple games while Michael Hill made his first career start against Michigan in the regular-season finale. The other two players – Donovan Munger and Tracy Sprinkle – have never started a collegiate game, and neither saw extensive playing time in the rotation this year.

With depth a potential issue against the Fighting Irish, one more option for Ohio State could be to slide All-American defensive end Joey Bosa inside – a package the Buckeyes have used some throughout the year. Bosa said he’s worked inside in practice, but he expects that to be a last resort against Notre Dame.

As the most experienced defensive tackle set to take the field for Ohio State on Friday, Hale said he kept his advice simple for the younger players.

“Just do them, don’t overthink it,” he said. “The less you think, the faster you play.”

Hill expanded on what Hale’s advice has meant for him, saying he hopes to stay focused on his task rather than looking to make plays out of his position.

“Do your job first and let the play come to you,” Hill said. “You don’t have to go out there and jump out your gap because the ball is over there. Do your job and the game is gonna control itself.”

Munger agreed with Hill’s assessment, saying that all he can control is whether or not his job gets done.

“Just play my game,” Munger said. “Don’t try to e nobody I’m not. I’m Donovan Munger, that’s the only person I can be.”

Hill noted that he was shocked to get the start against Michigan, but he added that he has a lot more confidence with his first start already in the rearview mirror. 

Despite starting just that one game, Hill will be the only available Ohio State defensive tackle heading into the game who has recorded a tackle for loss this season. In total he had 10 tackles during the regular season while Hale tallied 12 and Sprinkle added three. Munger didn’t record a statistic despite seeing spots of playing time throughout the year.

Even though the position is something of a question mark for the Fiesta Bowl, Hale said Ohio State doesn’t have any concern about what will happen once the game kicks off.

“It’s just next guy up,” Hale said. “We’re not really worried about them being young, we’re not really thinking about that. We’re just thinking about them going out there and playing to the best of their ability to help this team win.”

For his part, Munger said preparing for extended playing time hasn’t been a huge change, though he noted that he’s spent some extra time watching film. He said trust in the coaching staff and communication with his teammates will be key against the Fighting Irish, in addition to keeping hold of his focus – which he noted is at a higher level than previous weeks.

While players like Hale and Schutt are doing their part to make sure Munger, Hill, Sprinkle and the rest of Ohio State’s young players are ready to go against Notre Dame, Munger said his own personal goal is focused on the older players.

“Just help my team win, it’s the main focus,” he said. “The main focus is get these seniors out on a win and just do my job.”

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