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Ohio State 2015 Spring Forecast: Defensive End
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — If games are won in the trenches, then Ohio State might just end up winning quite a few games this year. The Buckeyes entered the season last year with arguably the top defensive line in the nation. The loss of defensive end Noah Spence put a dent in those expectations, but by the end of the season there was little doubt that Ohio State's defensive line was the best of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

This season the Buckeyes will be returning two of the four starters from last year's defensive line, but the depth has constantly been an area of consternation for Urban Meyer. Not that there aren't enough bodies, because there are, but the production has not been where Meyer wants it. If Ohio State is going to overcome the losses of Michael Bennett, Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, they will need that depth to step to the front of the line and begin to produce as their predecessors have.

Who's Coming Back
The very, very good news for Ohio State is that Joey Bosa (6-5 278) is back for his junior season. Following a year where he recorded 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, Bosa became the first unanimous All-American defensive end in Ohio State history. He will anchor a defensive line that will have high expectations, but will also still have plenty to prove.

Whether those expectations get met will depend more on "the other guys" than on Bosa, of course. Redshirt sophomore Tyquan Lewis (6-3 260) and true sophomore Jalyn Holmes (6-4 262) are the only other defensive ends with experience returning. Lewis, who was usually in before Holmes, played in 13 games last season to just nine for Holmes.

There is a lot of excitement about redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard (6-5 244), who played safety in high school, then started out as a linebacker at OSU before moving to tight end, and then finally settled at defensive end. He is an outstanding athlete and from what Meyer has repeatedly said, would have contributed last season if they had put him at defensive end from the outset.

Fellow redshirt freshman Darius Slade (6-4 245) is also back, and defensive line coach Larry Johnson has very high hopes for him in his second season. Adding to this batch of young pass rushers is true freshman Jashon Cornell (6-3 263), who has already enrolled and will participate in spring football. Cornell is a 4-star prospect from Minnesota who was an Under Armour All-American.

Army All-American Dre'Mont Jones will join the cast in the summer, and he might be ready to contribute right away.

Expectations Heading Into Spring
The most certain expectation is to not expect Joey Bosa to be asked to do too much this spring. Generally, veterans who have already proven themselves can do a bit more watching and a little less repping. This will be especially helpful given the current youthful situation, as the coaches will be able to get more reps for all of the young and unproven defensive ends.

This is going to be a fascinating contest to watch as four or five guys fight to leave the spring as "the starter". Competition makes everybody better, and if you're a defensive end and you don't get better this spring, then you won't be seeing any playing time in 2015.

Given the relative speed and athleticism of each of these defensive ends, they should have some positive moments in their one-on-one battles, but those individual skills will need to translate to team football. Whichever player can manage that best will likely be the guy playing opposite Joey Bosa.

Read More on Page 2, including a projected Spring depth chart
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