The Breakdown: Defensive Ends

Ohio State's defensive line was dominant in 2009, and a stalwart end who has returned for his senior season hopes to continue that in '10. Cameron Heyward is a preseason All-American who projects to have a dominant season, but what about the other side of the line? The Breakdown takes a look at the defensive end depth chart.

97 – Cameron Heyward
6-5, 288
Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge
Career: Ohio State fans hoped the Buckeyes had scored a coup when they lured the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward to Columbus in the class of 2007, and that turned out to be the case. Heyward immediately stepped into a starting role as a true freshman thanks to injuries and picked up 30 tackles, nine for loss. He continued to play a major role in 2008, picking up 36 tackles and three sacks, and then came into his own a season ago, leading OSU defensive linemen with 46 tackles and 6½ sacks.

Standout Performances: Made five tackles at Penn State in 2007, earning the team's attack force player of the week and Jack Tatum hit of the week honors. … Ended 2008 on a high note, making six tackles vs. Penn State, forcing a fumble vs. Northwestern, making seven tackles at Illinois and racking up six stops against Michigan. … Continued dominating the Nittany Lions in 2009, making 11 tackles and two sacks in Happy Valley to earn the Big Ten defensive player of the week honor. … Recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter of the win at Michigan. … Made four tackles, including a sack, and was on an OSU defensive line that heavily disrupted Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl victory.

Honors And Accomplishments: 2007 freshman All-America from numerous sources. … Named OSU's outstanding first-year defensive player that season. … Second-team All-Big Ten in 2009. … Won the Jack Stephenson Award from the Ohio State coaches in 2009 as the team's best D-lineman.

Outlook: Heyward is projected as a major star in 2010, and there's no reason to expect anything less than domination from the senior. He again excelled in the late-season a year ago, giving him a springboard into 2010 as a part of just about every watch list and preseason All-America team there is. Capable of playing both at end and tackle, Heyward is the key to Jim Heacock's line.

Player Comment: "I want to be better (than Ndamukong Suh). He's a great player and (Oklahoma's) Gerald McCoy was too. But the main thing I want to do is dominate. Looking back, they dominated games. I think if I do what's right, just keep working hard, I can be at that level. The main thing is I just have to take care of my work. You don't want to be just as good as someone, you want to be better. I think that's a big challenge but I'm up for it."

43 – Nathan Williams
6-3, 260
Washington Court House (Ohio) Miami Trace
Career: Williams was an intriguing prospect when he committed and has used his speed and tenacity to become a contributor his first two seasons. As a true freshman, he continuously earned more playing time at the Leo spot, ending the year with 18 tackles. A year ago, Williams had 26 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3½ sacks.

Standout Performances: Two sacks on back-to-back plays as a freshman at Northwestern in 2008 to knock the Wildcats out of field-goal range. … Five tackles and a sack in 2009 as the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin. … Two sacks at Purdue. … Forced a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown vs. New Mexico State.

Honors And Accomplishments: Was named the team's best first-year defensive player by the OSU coaches in 2008.

Outlook: Williams has shown the ability to rack up big plays in limited action, but now he must prove he can handle the every-down grind after spending two years as an apprentice to Thaddeus Gibson. Williams is counted on to be a starter and has the tools, but his play against the run and in the nuances of the game must improve as he moves into a bigger role.

98 – Solomon Thomas
6-5, 226
West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West
Career: Thomas has been a backup pass rusher since arriving, redshirting in 2007 before making three tackles in '08 and six in seven games a year ago. He's also been a bit of a spring and camp hero, once making seven sacks in the team's jersey scrimmage.

Outlook: Thomas figures to be the primary backup to Williams and get the chance to rush the passer in certain situations. He has shown an ability to get to the passer in practice sessions during his first three years, and now as an upperclassman his playing time should increase.

Coach Comment: "Both (Thomas and Williams) had really good offseasons. Thaddeus is gone, so they see an opportunity and they're giving good effort and there's good competition there. If one lets down, we can always put the other one at the other end spot." – Heacock

91 – Melvin Fellows
6-5, 249
Garfield Heights, Ohio
Career: Fellows was a five-star prospect in the class of 2009 but suffered an early injury last year and took a redshirt. He looked all the way back come spring, popping up on the second unit.

Outlook: The Buckeyes like the ends ahead of him on the depth chart, but Fellows might be so good he's hard to keep off the field. He should get a few looks this year considering he his strong spring.

50 – J.T. Moore
6-1, 246
Youngstown (Ohio) Boardman
Career: Scout ranked Moore the No. 36 defensive end in the nation coming out of high school. As a senior, Moore recorded 110 tackles including nine tackles for loss and seven sacks while earning first-team all-state honors, and he played in both the Ohio North-South All-Star Game and Big 33 Classic.

Outlook: Moore has good size but is still expected to be an off-the-edge pass rusher in the mold of Gibson. He combines good speed with his bulk and has potential, but this could be a redshirt year if those ahead of him stay healthy and play well.

Coach Comment: "He's an outstanding athlete. He's a basketball player. Talking to our defensive coaches he could be a Thaddeus-type of player who can rush or drop. Good student." – offensive line coach Jim Bollman

85 – Darryl Baldwin
6-4, 267
Solon, Ohio
Career: Baldwin was only a three-star prospect coming out of high school but boasts good size and looks like a future playmaker at either end or tackle. He was chosen All-Ohio and his league's player of the year after making 25 tackles and nine sacks as a senior. Like Moore, he played in the North-South Game and the Big 33 contest.

Outlook: While Moore projects more as a pass rusher, Baldwin looks more like the big end such as Heyward the Buckeyes like to use. He might also play some tackle in his career, but he's much like Moore in that 2010 could be a learning year depending on circumstances.

Coach Comment: "Look for him to put on some weight and be a nice (strongside defensive end) like Cameron (Heyward), Doug Worthington, that type of guy for us." – Heacock

52 Stewart Smith (6-3, 227): A Leo end from nearby Gahanna Lincoln, Smith, a sophomore, showed bursts of ability in his first season at OSU and figures to be a guy who will stick around for a while.

Committed for 2011Steve Miller, Canton (Ohio) McKinley, 6-4, 230 pounds; Scout's No. 4 DE in 2011. Miller looks like a can't-miss prospect, a five-star player with size and quickness who can play on either the strong or weak side.

Ken Hayes, Toledo Whitmer, 6-5, 255 pounds; Scout's No. 10 DE in 2011. Hayes might be as good as Miller, giving the Buckeyes an unbelievable haul for DEs in the class. Already boasting a mature body, Hayes is bigger than Miller and figures to be a player in the mold of Heyward at OSU.

2011 Prospects – None.

Top 2012 Prospects Greg McMullen, 6-5, 260, Akron Hoban; Se'Von Pittman, 6-4, 225, Canton McKinley; Chris Wormley, 6-5, 250, Toledo Whitmer.

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