"Most definitely I think as a defense we made a big step toward where we want to be in the fall," said Rolle. "Everybody can speculate and think about how good we are now, but I think we made a step to where we want to be. We're not where we should be in the fall, but we're getting there."
"Guys are stepping up and gelling together as a defense," added Homan. "I think that's going to be the biggest thing we came away with this spring."
With two of three starters back, the linebacking corps qualifies as the most stable of the three units of the Ohio State defense.
Up front, John Simon replaced Doug Worthington inside this spring while Nathan Williams ascended to the top of the depth chart at end as expected when Thaddeus Gibson declared his intention to enter the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining.
Both of the new guys were handfuls for the offensive line, leading many observers to conclude the defensive front will not miss a beat this year.
"They've done a great job for us all spring," Homan said. "We'll only be as good as them."
In the secondary, both safeties will be new this fall, and the people who filled the spots vacated by seniors Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell might not necessarily be in the starting lineup when the team reconvenes in August.
Orhian Johnson and Jermale Hines took most of the reps with the No. 1 unit in spring, but safeties coach Paul Haynes said not to put much stock in that. That seemingly leaves the door open for youngsters Zach Domicone, C.J. Barnett, Nate Oliver or Jamie Wood to earn a spot, not to mention Aaron Gant or Tyler Moeller, two veterans coming off injuries but hoping to be fully healthy later this year.
"We lose some great guys with Kurt and Anderson, but we've got guys who will step in," Rolle said. "Our front seven does a great job to where the guys in the back may not get as many interceptions as you think they should have because you've got guys like Cameron Heyward in the backfield every play. I just think the guys we have now are going to do a great job of taking in the role that Anderson and Kurt left behind."
"The Sam spot is probably the toughest of the linebackers to adjust to," Homan said. "You're really a hybrid. Sometimes you're a safety and sometimes you're a D-lineman. You've got to be athletic but at the same time strong and able to take on tight ends and O-linemen. I think he's done a great job of that and I think he's going to really improve for next year."
Rolle stressed that throughout the rest of the spring and into the summer, the seniors would be sure to do what they could to prevent complacency from creeping in.
"I feel like we made a tremendous step. People are going to tell us we're great, but we know we've got a lot of work to do," he said. "Throughout the 15 practices we did a great job of taking care of taking steps toward where we need to be in the fall."