May 11, 2013

Spring grades: defensive tackle

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice now in the books, we find ourselves just three months away from the opening of Urban Meyer's second fall camp as the head coach at Ohio State. With that in mind, we're taking a look back at what we've seen and learned from each position group throughout this offseason, continuing with today's look at the Buckeyes' defensive tackles.

Spring grade: B-

One half of a defensive line unit that will replace all four starters from a season ago, the Ohio State defensive tackles are certainly the less glamorous component of the Buckeyes' front four. Nevertheless, OSU's interior linemen remain an integral component of the Buckeyes' defense, and it was Michael Bennett and Joel Hale who emerged as the favorites to replace Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel.

What OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel has behind Bennett and Hale remains to be seen. Tommy Schutt missed most of spring practice with an injury and the other defensive tackles on the OSU roster are largely unproven, but Vrabel's shown a propensity to not rotate linemen if he doesn't feel that adequate depth is there.

Spring surprise: Chris Carter

While Bennett, Hale, and Schutt seem to be the Buckeyes' undisputed top-three defensive tackles, Carter appears to have worked his way into the rotation. Meyer said that the converted offensive linemen needs to maintain a weight of 340 pounds to play at Ohio State, but Vrabel said that he's finally seeing signs that Carter could be a consistent contributor at Ohio State.

"I think that Chris Carter, the last two weeks, looked like a nose guard. He looked like a legitimate force inside," Vrabel said. "It's something that we're going to have to continue to coach and to continue to push to get his full potential, because there's not a lot of guys his size that can do what he does physically."

To be determined: How deep will it go?

Behind Bennett, Hale, Schutt, and Carter, not much depth exists when it comes to Ohio State defensive tackles. If all goes well, the Buckeyes won't need much more than four defensive tackles in their rotation, but when you take into account injuries, you just never know how many you'll need.

In an effort to bolster their numbers at the position, the Buckeyes converted Tracey Sprinkle, a high school defensive end to defensive tackle. It remains to be seen whether or not he'll stay there when fall camp opens up, but depth certainly remains an issue for OSU's interior defensive linemen moving forward.

Looking ahead: Michael Hill

With the Buckeyes' numbers at defensive tackle as low as they are, the opportunity is there for an incoming freshman to make a relative instant impact in 2013. That freshman might just four-star prospect Michael Hill, the top-ranked player out of South Carolina.

Whether Hill -- or perhaps Youngstown native Billy Price -- will be counted on this fall remains to be seen. But both will certainly bolster the Buckeyes' numbers and add intriguing options for Vrabel in the near future.


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