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Urban Meyer 'very disappointed' in development of young players on Ohio State defensive line
By James Vogel
Will Schutt (90) and others improve well enough to join Bosa and Washington on the defensive line?
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer knows a thing or two about the importance of depth for a football team.

Just look at last season: Meyer and the Buckeyes used their second and third-string quarterbacks to win the first ever national championship in the College Football Playoff era. Two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller sat and watched with an injured shoulder, so J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones took over the reins and led the Buckeyes to a 14-1 season that included wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon at the end of the season.

While Meyer knows having more than one competent quarterback is about as essential as anything throughout the course of a season, he’s also knows depth at every position is vital to build a winner. Most notably on the defensive line, which has caught his eye of concern this spring.

That’s why when Meyer sat down at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last July, he wasn’t shy about speaking to the potential of the 2014 defensive line in the same breath as the one he had at Florida in 2006. That group ate Troy Smith’s lunch in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, when Meyer freely rotated the likes of Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss with other members to keep them fresh to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Ohio State’s defensive line wasn’t as dominant as that group was — “game-changers up front” as Meyer called them — in 2014 but they were still awfully good by season’s end. It helps when you have a consensus All-American like Joey Bosa and veteran starters at defensive tackle, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett.

Bosa, Washington as well as key backups Tommy Schutt, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Joel Hale are back for 2015, but the loss of Bennett and Steve Miller will hurt Ohio State.

The development of those possible replacements, however, has Meyer concerned the line won’t be at the same level it was last season — even with Bosa and Washington back again.

“I think the defensive line, I’m very disappointed in the young defensive linemen we’ve brought in here,” Meyer said Tuesday. “Not with what kind of people they are, just the performance.”

That’s a fair assessment, considering guys like Schutt, Lewis, Holmes and others haven’t exactly answered the bell yet in their careers. Holmes, Lewis, Donovan Munger and Michael Hill are entering just their second years with the program, but Schutt's 17 career tackles (1.5 for loss) in three injury-plagued seasons leave something to be desired.

“Then your interior guys, your Mike Hill and Donovan Munger, Tommy Schutt — very disappointed,” Meyer said. “Once again, not who they are, but you have to play. When Mike Bennett leaves and you’re not as good as Mike Bennett, our team’s not as good.”

That could be seen as asking a lot, but Meyer’s desire for perfection is a big reason why he’s won three national titles as a head coach. He pushes everyone in order to achieve great depth, so when injuries happen, there isn’t much of a drop off — regardless the position.

With that in mind, Meyer did say he’s looking forward to watching how the younger players develop in spring practice, especially at defensive end with Holmes and Sam Hubbard. Hubbard, you might remember, is the guy Meyer’s often lamented about getting on the field last season but chose not to in order to keep a his redshirt.

“You got Jalyn Holmes, you got Sam Hubbard who I almost pulled his redshirt last year because he came on so hard,” Meyer said. “That’s a position to really watch.”

Senior outside linebacker and defensive leader Joshua Perry agreed.

“On defense, we’ve got that whole, young D-line so Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard,” Perry said. “Then you have Mike Hill and Donovan Munger. Tommy Schutt's an older guy who’s been really good in the past in flashes so we’re hoping for consistency with him.”

Consistent production is always what coaches strive for from their players. So it’s not like Meyer wants the defensive tackles and ends to be just like they were last season or like the one he had in 2006, he just wants to see improvement.

“Those are two positions that I’m watching really closely that have to get better,” Meyer said.


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