April 13, 2013
Defensive line steals show at spring game
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CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Through the first 14 practices of spring practice, Urban Meyer was pleased with the progress that his defensive line made, but admitted that he'd like to see the unit's efforts carry over into a game-like atmosphere.
On Saturday, the Ohio State head coach witnessed just that.
Defenders may not have been allowed to tackle Buckeyes star quarterback Braxton Miller in the team's annual spring game, but that didn't stop the defensive line from stealing the show. Possessing all four of the players who took the majority of reps with Ohio State's first-team throughout spring practice, the Buckeyes' Gray squad tallied nine sacks on Saturday, in what was ultimately a 31-14 victory for the Scarlet.
Seven of those sacks came from sophomores-to-be Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence, who are expected to anchor the OSU unit that will be replacing all four of its starters for the first time in 28 years.
"I saw what you saw," Meyer said when asked about the tandem of defensive ends after the game. "I am very pleased with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington."
Four of Saturday's sacks were credited to Washington, the Buckeyes' strong-side defensive end who is faced with the enviable task of replacing 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon. Playing in front of a hometown crowd inside of Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, the 6-foot-3, 292-pound defensive end was pleased with his play in the Buckeyes' spring exhibition.
"I just went out there and played football, did what my coaches told me to do, and it just happened. I got four sacks," Washington said. "It was a real good experience."
Washington's outing came much to the delight of his head coach, who earlier this week said that the Taft high school product has the potential to be "great," and praised him for developing a chip on his shoulder this spring.
"Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play. He's a legitimate player, he's a starter at Ohio State," Meyer said. "You saw him today just have his way with our offensive line."
Washington may have led the Buckeyes in sacks on Saturday, but Spence wasn't far behind, tallying three touch tackles against Miller. The former five-star prospect has had one of the more impressive springs of any Ohio State player this offseason, and his improvement was evident in his play in the spring game.
"Noah looked real good," Washington said. "We're dorm mates, so we talk about it a lot, going out there, going to practice, and doing what we gotta do."
As he does for Washington, Meyer has high hopes for Spence, who has been playing the LEO/Viper pass-rush specialist position for the Buckeyes.
"Him and (defensive line coach) Mike Vrabel have a very good thing going right now. He plays very hard. I think at some point, I'm hoping he'll be an All-Big Ten candidate. That's how much respect I have for him," Meyer said. "I'd be disappointed if he doesn't have a very good year."
After each player played sparingly in their freshman seasons, the lessons that Washington and Spence learned are apparent. No longer able to dominate games the way they were in high school, Washington said they have both adopted a mindset of giving it their all every time they step onto the field.
"Just going out there and playing hard every play," Washington said when asked what he 2012 taught him. "In college, everybody plays hard every play. I'm still learning."
After each sack on Saturday, Washington and Spence raised their hands in a celebration that they call "ringing the bell." And if the Buckeyes' spring game was any indication, that could become a familiar image for Ohio State fans in 2013.
"I'm pretty pleased with the progress we've made," Washington said. "It sends us into the summer with a lot of confidence right now. At the beginning of spring, we had confidence, but not as much as we got right now."
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