Our "Inside the Game" positional previews with WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein and BuckeyeNation's Austin Ward continue in the trenches.
Ward and Rothstein discuss the contrast in the defensive lines. The Buckeyes could go as far as nine deep and believe they are among the nation's best units, while the Wolverines lost three-fourths of their top-notch line from a year ago, have another player on indefinite suspension and are unsettled at best.
Ward: The expectation up front for Ohio State is not just to be better than its rivals.
It’s not even to be the best in the conference.
The Buckeyes are going into this season with the goal of establishing themselves as the deepest and most talented group in the nation, and they certainly have a shot at building their case.
It helps to start at the top with the return of tireless, tenacious end John Simon and the emergence of Johnathan Hankins next to him as a force at defensive tackle, but there’s plenty more ammunition than that.
Garrett Goebel and Adam Bellamy round out the projected first unit, and even though he’s listed behind Hankins, Michael Bennett could be too disruptive in the middle to keep on the sideline. When Nathan Williams receives full clearance from his knee surgery, he could provide another scary weapon on the edge for a team that could conceivably roll through nine guys without a substantial drop-off.
On top of that, there’s a talented trio of newcomers who will fight to either be included or expand that rotation. Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se’Von Pittman gave Ohio State a recruiting haul in February that would make any program envious. And it figures to set up the Buckeyes not just for a good run in the trenches this fall, but also into the next few seasons.
Rothstein: On a team filled with current or former defensive line coaches -- besides Jerry Montgomery both head coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison came up as defensive line coaches before assuming loftier titles -- there is a lack of a lot of things with their former pet position.
Experience, for one, is lacking as the line will boast three new starters and the one returning starter, senior Craig Roh, is adjusting to added weight and a new position as a strongside defensive end.
Depth is another issue, as the Wolverines could see multiple freshmen push for time on the line behind some of the inexperienced starters.
Will Campbell and Jibreel Black are the likely starters on the interior of the line, with Campbell being three years of promise without production and Black adding weight and learning to play inside after being converted from defensive end. At rush end, sophomore Brennen Beyer slides in as the likely starter after Frank Clark’s indefinite suspension due to legal issues.
Behind them are talented freshmen in Ondre Pipkins, Tom Strobel, Chris Wormley and Matt Godin -- all of whom could push for time. Nathan Brink provides some veteran stability at end and tackle, but the walk-on doesn’t have a ton of experience.
It’s a position full of questions at a spot where the Wolverines can’t really have them, as much of what Mattison likes to do on defense comes from the expectation of a defensive line getting pressure on a quarterback.