There’s no arguing that defense wasn’t exactly the strong suit for the undefeated 2012 Ohio State Football team. The Buckeyes were ranked 34th overall in total defense, while allowing opponents to score an average of 22.6 points a game. It’s a good thing the offense was able to score 37.2 points a game.
For comparison purposes, Alabama (the nation’s top ranked 2012 defense) only allowed 10.9 points a game. It’s safe to say the 2013 Buckeyes have some work to do.
The Buckeyes lost seven starters on defense, eight if you include the Week 1 suspension of CB Bradley Roby. With a plethora of new faces and names on the field, here’s my three defensive stars to watch:
As a true freshman in Urban Meyer’s inaugural season, Spence played in 11 of 12 games, racking up 237 defensive plays despite the immense talent ahead of him on the depth chart. That being said, Spence has some large shoes to fill. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound lineman is taking the place of John Simon, a senior leader and captain last season for Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Meyer and line coach Mike Vrabel have called upon Spence to be the ring leader of the defensive line this year, seeing as the four starters from last year have either graduated or moved on to the NFL. That covers the line, now lets move to the linebackers.
As the only returning starter from the front seven last year, the spotlight is on LB Ryan Shazier, and it’s bright. Meyer has put a lot of faith in the junior linebacker, naming him a captain for the upcoming season. Shazier led the Big Ten in tackles for a loss last season (17) and came in second in total tackles (115).
The Ohio State program has been blessed with terrific linebackers, such as James Laurinaitas and AJ Hawk, and Coach Meyer expects Shazier to be a big name as well.
On a defense that only houses four seniors, every bit of leadership and experience counts. S CJ Barnett is one of three returning members to the secondary, and will be the key to the success or failure of the secondary.
The fifth year senior has started more games than any Buckeye on defense (24) and has 131 tackles in the last two seasons, second on the team to Shazier (172). Barnett led the defense in 2011 in tackles with 75, so he’s no stranger to the field. However, young players alike will look up to Barnett (also a team captain), and his leadership on the field could make or break the teams success.