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2015 OSU Spring Positional Recap: Defensive Tackle
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State defensive tackles have been a popular topic of conversation this spring because of the departure of captain Michael Bennett, as well as the amount of youth that is now being counted on to step up and be solid and consistent contributors for the Buckeyes.

Fortunately for Ohio State, even with the need for younger players to step up, there are three experienced seniors whom they will be able to rely on. How well the young meshes with the old will tell the story of the Buckeye defensive tackles this season. The spring provided a considerable amount of hope, however.

Returning Starters: Adolphus Washington (6-4 290, Sr)
Adolphus Washington started out last season as the team's three-technique defensive tackle, which allows for more one-on-one pass rushes. He eventually switched to nose tackle to allow Michael Bennett those same advantages. Now Washington moves back to the three technique and the expectations are high for a good amount of production. He still needs to get back into the mode of a three-technique tackle, however.

"He really needs to understand how to rush from the three technique position," defensive line coach Larry Johnson said this spring. "When you put him at nose guard, it’s a different position because you don’t get as much pass rush. Now he’s back at the three-tech position, he’s got to understand his slide protection. Will he know to take an inside rush or an outside rush. Those are the things that we’re really working on to make sure that he really understands going to the three technique this fall."

Like Joey Bosa, Washington spent much of his spring working on his own, crafting his pass rush in order to be even more disruptive this season.

Others Returning: Tommy Schutt (6-3 290, Sr); Joel Hale (6-4 295, rSr); Michael Hill (6-3 295, rSo); Donovan Munger (6-4 300, rSo); Tracy Sprinkle (6-3 290, rSo)
Senior Tommy Schutt emerged as the starter at nose tackle, showing that he can be both a run stopper and pass rusher. It has been a long time coming for Schutt, who has spent much of his career with nagging injuries. If you ask his coaches, he was one of the best surprises of camp.

"He had a great spring," Johnson said of Schutt. "One thing is that he’s been hurt two years in a row. He was hurt back to back so he didn’t get a chance to get on the field. This year he’s dropped probably 15 or 16 pounds. He’s lighter than he was last season and he’s moving really well. I really think he’s had a great spring for us, so we look for great things from Tommy this year."

The third senior in the group is Joel Hale, who moved to the offensive line in 2014 after being the team's starting nose tackle during the 2013 season. He redshirted last year due to a back injury, however, and is back this year to help out again on the defensive line. He brings a ton of experience and leadership with him, and that will be welcomed as the Buckeyes work to get production from a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.

"Joel, we just have great respect for guys…he’s a competitor, he’s tough and he goes hard," Urban Meyer said. "Now we just have to find the right place for him."

The trio of redshirt sophomores Donovan Munger, Mike Hill and Tracy Sprinkle all had their moments this spring. Munger secured the job as Washington's backup at the three tech. Meyer has been very critical of this group, but Johnson likes where they are right now.

"Mike Hill’s come along really strong," Johnson said. "Donovan Munger, and Tracy Sprinkle you’ve heard little about, but he’s had a good spring also. So I’m really pleased with where we are, we’ve just got to continue pushing forward."

"Very disappointed a year ago with the backup group," Meyer said of his defensive line. "We'd like to get a rotation. In fact, when I heard Mississippi State — Dan Mullen's a great friend — and he said, 'Yeah, we're rotating 10 guys.' We had a very ugly team meeting that day. We can't rotate 10 guys. Why do they have better players than we do? Why are they better coached than we are? Because I have to ask that question. We're Ohio State, so we should have 10 guys rotating, and we didn't have it.

"So a lot of pressure has been put on them. I would say Tommy Schutt has had a very good offseason. He's cut weight. He's where we want him and he's going very hard. I think Joel Hale is the other name you kind of forget about. He's really going to help us. And then you've got Adolphus, we're being very cautious because he's played a lot of reps. The other guys, you got Mike Hill, Munger, they show signs of it."

Newcomers: Joshua Alabi (6-5 295, Fr); Davon Hamilton (6-3 290, Fr); Robert Landers (6-2 295, Fr)
None of  Joshua Alabi, Davon Hamilton or Robert Landers were superstar recruits, but they all have their positive characteristics. Alabi is a massive individual who makes life difficult for the inside running game. Hamilton is very strong, but a bit of a late bloomer. Landers is an explosive player who makes plays in the backfield consistently. Of the three, Landers is probably the most likely to see the field this season.

Click here for licensed OSU sports photos.

Overall, the group of freshmen defensive tackles weren't overly well-thought of by the recruiting services, but the Ohio State coaches liked them just fine.

"Joshua Alabi was someone people thought might go to Miami," cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said on signing day. "Stud. Tough. He’s a great player."

"He's explosive," safeties coach Chris Ash said of Robert Landers. "Watching his film, he's not overly tall, he's very powerful in the trenches and has some really good get off."

"We find kids every year in the state of Ohio," explained Coombs. "A young man out of Pickerington [Hamilton] that committed to us just a few days ago, that in their senior year they become dominant players, that’s what he did. Same thing with the kid out of Wayne, [Landers], he became a dominant player his senior year. There should be something said for that and so far with this calendar so accelerated, sometimes that kid who just continues to grow and develop maybe doesn’t get noticed as well."

Depth Chart
Adolphus Washington (6-4 290, Sr)
Tommy Schutt (6-3 290, Sr)

Donovan Munger (6-4 300, rSo)
Joel Hale (6-4 295, rSr)

Tracy Sprinkle (6-3 290, rSo)
Michael Hill (6-3 295, rSo)

Robert Landers (6-2 295, Fr)
Joshua Alabi (6-5 295, Fr)
Davon Hamilton (6-3 290, Fr)

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