Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Freshman focus: Washington goes out big
By Austin Ward
Freshman DE Adolphus Washington has shown glimpses of a bright future.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The signs of development were there earlier in the last month of the season.
Urban Meyer joked about the fresh-faced look on one of his young, stud defensive ends had heading into a win over Illinois, and how Adolphus Washington was starting to chip away at it.
By the end of the freshman's first battle with rival Michigan, Washington looked like a full-fledged man -- and at least in a brief spurt, capable of filling the shoes of one of the most decorated linemen in Ohio State history.
The Buckeyes were quite obviously bitterly disappointed not to have two-time captain and Big Ten defensive lineman of the year John Simon on the field with them on Saturday against the Wolverines. But they were able to survive without him thanks largely to the work Washington has done this season to speed up his development and make a contribution.
His sack and forced fumble against the Wolverines might have been the only entry on the stats sheet, but it resonated given the opponent -- and the one-on-one matchup he won against one of the better blockers in the conference. Along with Washington, we wrap up the season-long look at the weekly contributions from the freshmen with a couple others who flashed and made an impact as the perfect record was officially nailed down.
Position: Defensive lineman
Stats sheet: A tackle, sack and forced fumble
What it means: Washington has some of the same skills that made Simon such a force during his career, and while it's still premature to expect that he'll be capable of matching the gaudy numbers the senior put up over four years, the newcomer does seem to be well on his way to making life miserable in the trenches. The combination of his size and pass-rushing skills allows him to play multiple spots in much the same way Simon did for the Buckeyes, and in case there was concern that all the weight Washington has put on since joining the program was slowing him down, the film of his sack should put those to rest.
He said it: "Those guys [Washington, Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt], sometimes you recruit guys that are overrated, but the names just mentioned are not overrated. They’re going to be great players here, and I appreciate the effort." -- Meyer
What it means: Matching the expectations he established with eye-popping numbers in the spring game was always going to be tough, particularly with older targets a bit more ready physically and mentally to handle the responsibilities on the perimeter getting the majority of the opportunities. But even with the football not coming his way all that often, the number of snaps appeared to be increasing and the level of trust from the coaches was on the rise by the end of the season, and it almost culminated with a touchdown against Michigan. The Buckeyes put the ball in the hands of Thomas on the opening drive of the game facing first-and-goal from the 8, and he made a nice play to get down near the end zone and set up a short carry for Carlos Hyde that provided an early lead.
What it means: Evaluating the progress of the next wave of linebackers has essentially been limited to watching special teams throughout the season. The reasons vary, from injuries to struggling to grasp the system to the way the upperclassmen have played, but Perry finally had a crack to make a play on defense -- and he delivered in a pretty significant situation. With the Wolverines facing a third-and-2 in the third quarter, Perry came up and teamed with C.J. Barnett for a hit that stuffed Vincent Smith for no gain, forced a punt and gave a first-year player something to feel good about heading into the offseason.
He said it: "The linebacker position has got to get right. That's the weakest area of our team right now." -- Meyer