Ohio State's defense was tasked with replacing three starting defensive backs and a middle linebacker who will all be selected in this year's NFL draft. Spring practice shed some light on how the Buckeyes might replace Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, Malik Hooker and Raekwon McMillan, so we took the chance to project the depth chart as it currently stands.
This projection does not include players who have yet to enroll, but guys like five-star defensive end Chase Young could factor in once fall camp rolls around. For the offensive depth chart, posted yesterday, click here.
Defensive End 1
Starter: Tyquan Lewis
Backups (in order): Jalyn Holmes, Jonathon Cooper
Thoughts: Lewis was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year last season, so his spot is solidified. Holmes, while listed as a backup, will play about the same number of snaps, though, as the Buckeyes rotate heavily along the defensive front. Cooper had a solid spring after bouncing back from a hamstring injury, so he'll at least get a few shots on the field in the fall.
Defensive End 2
Starter: Sam Hubbard
Backups (in order): Nick Bosa, Rashod Berry
Thoughts: Like Lewis and Holmes, Hubbard and Bosa will rotate plenty this year as well, and all four top defensive ends will be on the field together on a regular basis. Berry is probably the sixth option out of the six ends I have listed, but he has a lot of talent and athletic ability. Young might push him for playing time when he arrives, though.
Starter: Dre'Mont Jones
Backups (in order): Tracy Sprinkle, Malik Barrow, Davon Hamilton
Thoughts: Jones is the most improved player of the spring in my book, so this is a no brainer. Sprinkle should factor into the rotation after recovering from a season-ending injury last year. Barrow is finally healthy and extremely talented while Hamilton suffered a broken foot this spring.
Starter: Michael Hill
Backups (in order): Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell
Thoughts: Hill is the incumbent here, but he seemed to be getting pushed by Landers throughout the spring. I would expect some heavy rotation at defensive tackle, just like the Buckeyes will have at defensive end.
Starter: Dante Booker
Backups (in order): Baron Browning, Keandre Jones
Thoughts: Booker has this spot locked up, but guys like Baron Browning and Malik Harrison (who is listed below) could push him in the fall. Jones has a lot of talent, he just might be buried on the two-deep this season.
Starter: Chris Worley
Backups (in order): Justin Hilliard, Nick Conner
Thoughts: Worley will hold this spot down for a year, but Hilliard is finally healthy and looks like he could slide into this spot and play at a high level in 2018.
Starter: Jerome Baker
Backups (in order): Malik Harrison, Tuf Borland
Thoughts: Baker could be set for an All-American season while Harrison – once he recovers from shoulder surgery – will be hard to keep off the field.
Starter: Damon Webb
Backups (in order): Erick Smith, Jahsen Wint
Thoughts: Webb took a big step forward this spring while Smith can play at a high level as well. If he stays healthy, I'd expect him to rotate into the lineup. Wint has shown flashes but will struggle to push these guys for playing time.
Starter: Jordan Fuller
Backups (in order): Isaiah Pryor, Wayne Davis
Thoughts: By the end of the spring, Fuller was getting many of the first team reps, and his athleticism could help him be ready to start right away as a true sophomore. Pryor was one of the standouts of the spring in my eyes, which has him ahead of Davis, who moved over after playing cornerback during his redshirt year.
Starter: Denzel Ward
Backups (in order): Kendall Sheffield, Marcus Williamson
Thoughts: Ward is the No. 1 corner and could have a similar season to what Lattimore and Conley did last year. Sheffield is a stud who will be in the rotation, and Williamson looked solid as an early enrollee.
Starter: Damon Arnette
Backups (in order): Shaun Wade, Jeff Okudah
Thoughts: Arnette might've been the most impressive player of the spring, he seemed to take a huge step forward. Wade and Okudah are freaks for true freshmen and both will be on the field when the regular season rolls around.
Starter: Drue Chrisman
Thoughts: He's the guy, and there's not really anyone to push him.
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