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Ohio State Football Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Tackle
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — While the players themselves would disagree emphatically, if there is one question mark for the 2015 Buckeyes, it would be defensive tackle. For that reason alone, this is going to be a fascinating position to watch throughout fall camp.

The Players Involved

51 Joel Hale, rSr
Hale started 11 games at nose tackle in 2013 before moving to offensive line last year. He's back in the mix on the front four now.

52 Donovan Munger, rSo
Munger is Adolphus Washington's backup and expectations are high for him.

53 Davon Hamilton, Fr.
Just a freshman, Hamilton will need to show in camp that he's not a redshirt candidate.

57 Robert Landers, Fr.
Compares favorably to Michael Bennett, so expectations are for Landers to see the field this season.

58 Joshua Alabi, Fr.
Alabi is another freshman who will need to show that he needs to be on the field this year. Camp will give him a chance to prove himself.

77 Michael Hill, rSo.
It's time for Hill to recapture the momentum he had as a true freshman.

90 Tommy Schutt, Sr.
Schutt should begin and end camp as the starter at nose tackle. Teammates have nothing but confidence in him.

92 Adolphus Washington, Sr.
Washington is an All-Big Ten and possible All-America candidate. Third year as a starter.

93 Tracy Sprinkle, rSo.
Sprinkle is just about due to break into the rotation, and that begins in fall camp. Versatile and hard working.

How'd 2014 Go?
The Buckeyes entered the 2014 season with the expectations of having the best defensive line in the nation, but that didn't end up happening, at least not at first. Michael Bennett began the season at nose tackle and Adolphus Washington was next to him at the three technique. Things were going well enough, but it was ultimately decided that those two players needed to switch positions in order to better utilize Bennett's explosion and quickness.

There were still growing pains after the position switch, and teams like Minnesota and Indiana had a bit of success on the ground. Much of that success, however, came on the backs of just a few home run carries for a pair of talented running backs. Things certainly solidified once the postseason started, and Bennett and Washington helped to hold Wisconsin to 71 yards rushing and Oregon to just 132 yards on the ground.

The young defensive tackles didn't emerge like Urban Meyer was hoping, but they did get some good minutes from redshirt freshman Donovan Munger.

Outlook for 2015
With Washington moving back to his more natural three technique, the excitement for what he could do in 2015 is building. Washington is a strong pass rusher and has improved every year as a run stopper. He probably won't get a great deal of work in fall camp, but that won't stop him from being more than ready for the start of the season.

Senior Tommy Schutt will likely open as the starting nose tackle, and as long as he stays healthy, he should be more than capable of holding up. If he's healthy, redshirt senior Joel Hale will also mix in with the ones and twos at the nose throughout camp.

Also, whether they are ready or not, the young defensive tackles will be on the field because there are no other options. There are three senior tackles, three sophomore tackles and three freshmen tackles. The math says the youngsters need to step up and contribute like veterans.

What Are We Watching For In Camp?
The main thing we will be watching for is to see if the young players are stepping up in an adequate manner. Is Donovan Munger showing himself to be a player who would be starting on most Big Ten teams? Is Michael Hill finally realizing his potential? Has Tracy Sprinkle grown into his position after coming to Ohio State as a tweener?

We will also be watching to see how well the freshmen are playing. Will they begin pushing the sophomores? Will there be more than one rookie who emerges? Or will they all need a redshirt season? There will also be a reason to watch the seniors. Is Schutt holding up? Is Hale providing some leadership? Is Washington looking like the Washington that everyone is expecting?

There will be plenty to watch, and it will all be very key to the success of the Silver Bullets in 2015.

Pick To Surprise
If you're looking for a surprise, keep an eye on Donovan Munger. He got the most time of the redshirt freshmen last season, and that will count for something in fall camp. His ability to create an actual defensive tackle rotation will help the Buckeyes all season long. He'll continue to show that he belongs this month.

One Prediction
Freshman Robert Landers will be a popular subject among teammates and coaches during camp. Expect him to play well and display his burst and quickness up front.

Camp Preview Quarterback
Camp Preview Running Back
Camp Preview H-Back
Camp Preview Wide Receiver
Camp Preview Tight End
Camp Preview Offensive Line

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