If last Saturday's jersey scrimmage is any indication, it would appear nothing has changed with the Buckeye defense, because this unit looked great, even missing a few key starters.
Who stood out during scrimmage action, and which players may now be in line for extended playing time?
Cameron Heyward Everything starts with the returning All-American up front, and the big guy did not disappoint on Saturday. He wreaked havoc along the defensive front, before being removed after a minor injury. Heyward seemed quicker off the football, and should be ready to build on a great junior season.
Adam Bellamy Filled in for Heyward and was extremely active, and showed himself capable of getting time on the line in 2010. Bellamy has gotten stronger, but has retained the quick feet that were his claim to fame as a high school player. One to watch in 2010 if injuries mount.
Johnathan Hankins Looked great physically, and never seemed to tire in three hours of action, putting to rest questions about his hard work and dedication. Hard to see a role for him in 2010, but then again, it's hard not seeing him being able to compete if called upon. Possibly the steal of the 2010 recruiting class.
Garrett Goebel In my opinion, the most impressive defensive lineman on the field Saturday. Goebel was EVERYWHERE, stopping ball-carriers, and pressuring the quarterback. He is definitely capable of playing at this level, and will provide quality relief to Simon and Larimore.
Johnny Simon You liked him last year in a reserve role, and I think he's ready to take on a more expanded role in this defense. The only question is can he take the pounding inside over 60 minutes? If Saturday's scrimmage is any indication, it would seem the answer is Yes.
Solomon Thomas Was OK, but didn't really stand out like he has in the past. Thomas should be fine in a backup role to Nathan Williams, and should benefit from another year's experience and maturity. Melvin Fellows also showed flashes Saturday, and could be ready to contribute minutes. J.T. Moore and Darryl Baldwin also saw time Saturday.
Jordan Whiting Whiting looked the best he's been since arriving at Ohio State a year ago, and was stout in the middle as a run-stopper. I don't look at statistics, but Whiting was all around the football and made a lot of plays. Took advantage of Storm Klein being out, and impressed. Dorian Bell and Scott McVey also were out of action.
Andrew Sweat Appears to have grabbed the starting SAM LB spot away from Etienne Sabino. Sweat was active, fast and aggressive, making an acrobatic fumble recovery that wowed onlookers. Showed no signs of having any problems with his surgically-repaired knee, and certainly looks the past of the starter at linebacker.
Etienne Sabino Played really well, both with the two's, and in Ross Homan's spot at WIL LB. Doesn't look like Sabino did anything poorly to lose his spot, rather that Sweat just out-played him to this point. Sabino was active attacking the run, and quick in his drops in coverage. It's apparent that Ohio State has four capable starters at linebacker, adding Brian Rolle and Homan to Sweat and Sabino. The rich get richer.
David Durham Took advantage of several players being out, and did a nice Bobby Carpenter impression. Probably more suited for Nathan Williams' LEO spot, but Durham is listed as a linebacker. I don't see him playing linebacker at Ohio State, because he's going to get bigger and seems to better suited playing closer to the line of scrimmage. He showed aggressive play and was definitely not intimidated by being a true freshman.
Corey Brown Second year in the program, and the year's growth really paid off, as Brown was excellent alongside Travis Howard, starting on the corners. With Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa sitting out, the young cornerbacks certainly filled in admirably. Brown is very similar to Howard, as both are long-armed, physical defensive backs. Playing wide receiver in high school gives him an advantage in knowing what receivers are trying to do to him, and he looked excellent, both in coverage and run support.
Travis Howard Third year in the program, and Howard is more than ready to step in at cornerback and start. He was money on Saturday, matching up with all the wide receivers and covering them solidly. Howard only needs to stay healthy to get playing time in 2010, because he's ready to go.
Dominic Clarke Didn't get reps with the first team, but was glue for most of the time he was out there. Had the best pass break-up of the day when he was covering Chris Fields on a deep ball. Fields appeared to have a step, but Clark outran the football, making a leaping deflection at the last second. Big-time play. Clark can push Howard and Brown for backup minutes.
Bradley Roby Needs to get stronger and needs more reps at defensive back, but the skill set is definitely there to succeed at this level. Roby has the hips to play corner, and is not afraid of contact. Another year in the weight room will benefit him greatly.
C.J. Barnett Took advantage of the absence of Orhian Johnson and started at safety. Barnett will push Johnson for playing time if OJ isn't on top of his game. Barnett isn't flashy, but seems to be in the right spot every time to make plays. I liked what I saw Saturday.
Christian Bryant I don't believe Bryant will be redshirting in 2010, although there is a lot of talent ahead of him at cornerback. Will back up Tyler Moeller at the STAR, and might jump ahead of Nate Oliver, who missed yesterday's action. Bryant appears to be physically ready to compete right now, so don't be surprised to see him jump Oliver.
Tyler Moeller Saved the best for last. It was just great to see #26 out there, not so much to see him hit people, but to see him get hit. He didn't seem to be the player he was before the injury, but he's been away from contact for a long while. My guess is that the intensity and adrenaline will be boiling by the Marshall kickoff, and the Tasmanian Devil will once again be lighting people up. His talent is evident. With game action, Taz will be Taz very soon. No worries here.
Seeing a lot of returning starters not participating was a good thing for both Jim Heacock and Jim Tressel. The depth on defense is staggering, and I believe several unproven players have now moved themselves into the "ready" position.
This is still a young defense, even with so many senior starters, so this team is built to be able to withstand injuries, and 95% of college football cannot do that.