Ohio State Spring Game Review: Defense

Ohio State held their spring game Saturday before a record crowd. Who stood out for the Buckeyes on the defensive side of the football?

Understand that there is no reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from a spring game for the most part, and a split squad contest with several starters not performing is tough to evaluate. I'm not looking to give performance reviews in this piece, unlike a regular game, but rather I want to point out who flashed throughout the day. 

- Everything starts and ends defensively with the defensive line, and Ohio State needs to replace Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt. While most people are comfortable with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes on the outside, there is real concern with the defensive tackles. Understand that this type of scrimmage is a killer for the offensive line, with units being spread out and two starters not playing. It's easier for defensive linemen to stick out in this type of environment than any other, but a few defensive tackles made plays consistently. The player I had in my notes the most was DaVon Hamilton, and he was very active. He went against Brady Taylor for the most part, not some walkon. He was able to pressure the QB from his inside spot, and was too quick for Taylor. Also making plays were Jashon Cornell and Dre'Mont Jones. Seeing Jones get a lot of playing time was encouraging with him coming off a serious leg injury the previous year. He played exclusively at tackle and looked impressive off the ball. 

- The linebackers are led by Raekwon McMillan, and he's an All-American in my book. He has nothing to prove, and he does everything Ohio State needs from the middle linebacker. He was flanked by Dante Booker and Chris Worley, and while it's just a scrimmage, these two did not remind anyone of Josh Perry and/or Darron Lee. Worley took some bad angles and missed a few tackles that he has to make, although he has speed and was active. Booker had no chance covering Marcus Baugh, and will need to tighten up his pass coverage going forward. Jerome Baker was extremely impressive, and had the absolute play of the day with a one-handed interception. He also flashed all over the field, and made a lot of tackles. I want to see more of Baker in the fall, but he looked like he could challenge Worley for time or at least be a contributor based on Saturday's showing. 

- For the cornerbacks, there is no worry with Gareon Conley, but they need to find another corner and nickelback. Damon Webb had some good moments Saturday, and he is in the mix to retake that nickel spot. Marshon Lattimore is healthy, and got a lot of reps with the first unit. The most impressive cornerback to me was Denzel Ward, and the raw speed is so obvious. What was surprising was seeing how physical he played, and he really laid the wood on a few occasions. Ward is going to battle both Webb and Lattimore for playing time next fall, and he was a favorite of departed defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Damon Arnette and Josh Norwood also played a lot, and both had good and bad moments.

- It's going to be tough replacing both Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, and the experience lost hurts as much as the talent loss. Malik Hooker showed off his amazing athleticism Saturday, and while he made mistakes, the pure talent is there. He is bigger than he when he started at Ohio State, and the athletic ability is off the charts. He has a chance to be really special, and a future NFL draft pick. Eric Glover-Williams and Cam Burrows were both out there, and looked alright. The star of this group was clearly Hooker. 

- All in all the defense looked solid in a lot of ways, but playing the patchwork offense is not like facing Oklahoma in Norman. I believe this unit could struggle early, and Ohio State might need to outscore their opponents at the start of the season until the defense gains experience. I would guess Greg Schiano was satisfied with what he saw out of his troops Saturday, especially the overall talent. They just lack playing time, and there's only one way to get that. 


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