Spring Preview - A look at the defense

The Ohio State defense has a chance to be pretty good this year, but there are some questions that need to be answered. What are they? Let's take a look at that as well as the special teams.

Defensive Line - No worries here as three starters return in Will Smith, Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson along with experience in David Thompson, Kenny Peterson and Simon Fraser.  

Will Smith - Will is expected to be an All Big Ten-caliber player before his career is out. His spot is not in question; the only question is how good he will become.

Darrion Scott - Darrion has proven to be an effective, versatile lineman and he will be an important piece this year.  Unfortunately, he underwent shoulder surgery and will not be playing this spring.

Tim Anderson - Tim (left, Allsport photo) really came on as the season progressed last year, and the glimpses we saw of that make the possibilities for this year sound ever-so-tantalizing.  Expectations are higher than ever for Tim, but he appears ready to step forward and be a real force.  I can't wait to see what he can do this year.

Kenny Peterson - Kenny has never quite lived up to his blue-chip billing coming out of high school, but he hasn't exactly been a bust either, and this year, he makes the move to defensive tackle and is in a position to make his final year a big one.  The thought of him at defensive tackle is very intriguing as he has shown good speed and burst.  The guess here is that he will start eventually.

David Thompson - David was a pleasant surprise last year simply because many started to wonder if he'd ever get to show what he could do.  But he emerged as a solid player and comes into camp with a chance at a starting spot at DT.  He and Kenny Peterson will be one of the closer position battles.

Simon Fraser - Ohio's Future Stars' #1 high school player in the state in 2000 showed some good things last year and is expected to continue to develop into a force this year.  He's not listed as a starter right now, but the guess here is whether he starts or not this year, he will see plenty of time on the field.  He could be a guy who emerges this spring.

Marcus Green - Marcus' career didn't start out well as he came to school overweight, but after a redshirt season, hopefully he is ready to go.  He'll be a guy to watch.

Redgie Arden - Duane Long told us Redgie has been moved to DE.  After getting raves during his redshirt year, he is a guy everyone will want to see.  

Linebacker - There is some concern here for the first time in a while.  Joe Cooper and Courtland Bullard are gone... who's gonna step up? 

Matt Wilhelm - Matt (left, Allsport photo) is going to be sidelined after ankle surgery this spring, but that won't hurt his standing as one of the top returning players on this team.

Marco Cooper and Robert Reynolds - This is an important spring for both of these guys.  It's time to start living up to the hype.  If they don't, this might become a problem area for the Buckeyes.  Both have ability, and it's time to step forward.  

Cie Grant - It's Cie's last year, and this time, he's back at linebacker.  And even though he didn't play there last year, he still has a chance to be a starter there this year.  Anyone who has the athleticism to be a starting cornerback is a guy who you hope to see out there at LB, and the guess here is that he may very well be one of those starters this year.

Fred Pagac, Jason Bond and Pat O' Neill - A pretty important spring for these guys... they need to show they should be in the linebacker mix this year.  If not, they could be looking at a true freshman in front of them on the depth chart this fall.

Cornerback - Without question, this is the biggest question mark on this team along with quarterback.  Remember the good ole days when OSU turned out corner after corner after corner and we never had to worry about this position?  Those seem to be gone for now.  However, the situation isn't entirely hopeless.

Richard McNutt - The time might be now for Richard to show he deserves a starting spot.  He's in a great position as one spot could be his to lose.  He's struggled at times during his career, but he has a great opportunity now to become a starter.

Bobby Britton - Britton has battled injuries, but a good year from him would be a big boost for the secondary.  He'll be expected to be one of the main competitors for a starting spot.

Dustin Fox - Fox moved to corner for the Outback Bowl, and if he proves to be one of the two best options OSU has for CB, he'll stay here.  Safety is his spot, but he's a fine player that you want to see on the field, so if this is the best way to do it, so be it.

Harlen Jacobs - Let's hope this is the spring when Harlen shows he is more than just someone who can hold the football on a kickoff during a windy day. Remember that he came out of high school as a project, so expecting a lot out of him at first was a stretch.  But he's got good size and speed, and if he can continue to develop and become at least a solid backup, it would be a big plus here.

Maurice Lee - Strange... he went from supposedly starting last spring to now fighting to make it in the two-deep.  He could be an odd man out here.  

LeAndre Boone - He's still raw, but fans will be anxious to see what kind of skills he has.

Michael Roberts - Of course, Michael will be one of the more interesting players to watch this spring because he is a true freshman.  He'll get some time at CB to show what he can do.  He's got blazing speed and the confidence you like to see.  

Safety - With the Big Ten's top returning safety pair, there's no worry here!

Mike Doss - Heisman Trophy?  Nah.  That won't happen.  But the Thorpe Award?  It's very possible.  Mike (left, Allsport photo) returning for his senior year was a surprise, and now, hopefully he can make it worthwhile.  He will be a leader on defense.

Donnie Nickey - The same Donnie Nickey who was extremely maligned as a freshman is now entering his fourth year as a starter, which is not something you can say very often for an Ohio State football player.  He will contend for All Big Ten honors this year.

Will Allen - Will is a solid and experienced back-up who will continue to bring depth to the secondary.  

Thomas Matthews - We didn't see much from Thomas last year.  He is in the two-deep at safety right now, and he'll need to continue to improve to keep a spot there.       

Specialists - I remember last year's spring game... the special teams play in that game was nothing short of disastrous.  As the year progressed, the OSU special teams didn't turn out to be as bad as it was in that game (that's not saying much), but there were still some issues in the kicking game, to say the least.  Will the kickers improve?

Mike Nugent and Josh Huston - It made us feel better to hear the Nuge admit that he was nervous last season.  I can't blame him; I know I would be if I was kicking for Centerville High School in 2000 and then kicking in Columbus (and Pasadena... and Happy Valley... and Ann Arbor... and Tampa) a few months later.  The good news is that those nerves should hopefully be gone this year.  Both Nugent and Josh Huston have good leg strength; it's just a matter of straightening it out.  There have been comparisons to Dan Stultz in that Stultz was inconsistent at first too.  OSU will need to have one of these guys get a lot better though if they want to win the Big Ten.  The place-kicking battle is not over, and it won't be this spring, but hopefully we will see signs of improvement.

Andy Groom - It's hard to think of Andy Groom and not get a smile on your face... after all, how could you not be happy for the guy?  He went from walk-on to scholarship player to starter and had such a good season that he might now be an All-America candidate.  No questions at this position, at least not as far as the starter is concerned...

B.J. Sander - Plenty of fans out there want to see B.J. Sander transfer just to free up a scholarship.  While it isn't ideal to have a back-up punter on scholarship, I'd rather see Sander develop into a good punter.  Is that possible?  I don't know, but just thinking in recruiting terms (as we often do here), it would be best if OSU could use one of their scholarship spots this year on someone other than a punter (because after all, if there isn't another punter brought in, Sander appears to be the man next year).  Besides, it would be good to see him succeed.  But barring unforeseen circumstances, he'll be a backup again this year.    

Defensive Outlook: The OSU defense is not without question marks... linebacker might be a concern to those of us who like to worry too much, but cornerback is a concern to everyone and it is the position that everyone will be watching this spring. If OSU can find two solid corners, this defense could wind up being the best in the Big Ten.  But seeing as how no one stepped up from this group last year, that's a big if.

Having said all that, let's play some football!  Practice kicks off at 3:15 today!!!

For a spring practice schedule, click here.  Practices are open to the public.

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