Ohio State Buckeyes: Dylan Thompson

Jamal Marcus was staring at a great opportunity at Ohio State.

With defensive end Noah Spence suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, Marcus was the favorite to start in Spence's place to begin the year. He had ably filled in for Spence in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, registering six tackles and looking like a key piece of the future.

But the junior is now a former Buckeye, as he is transferring. An Ohio State spokesman confirmed the move, which was reported by Eleven Warriors on Monday, saying it was a mutual decision.

Marcus didn't practice the last couple of weeks of spring because of what coach Urban Meyer termed an academic issue. Now, what should be one of the nation's best defensive lines and arguably the top unit in the Big Ten could be scrambling a bit in Weeks 1 and 2.

Senior Steve Miller and redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis are the likely top candidates to start at defensive end, along with Joey Bosa. Ohio State will be thin at the position against Navy and Virginia Tech. Incoming recruits Jalyn Holmes, Darius Slade and Dylan Thompson might have to get ready early.

If the Buckeyes can weather the storm -- especially against Navy's cut blocks -- then they should be fine when Spence returns. But figuring out the defensive end rotation now becomes a major priority this summer.
Now that spring practice has played out in the Big Ten, we thought we'd try to identify the best overall position group on any team in the league.

Had we done this exercise last year, we might have chosen the Michigan State secondary, a.k.a., the "No-Fly Zone." Ohio State's offensive line would have ranked highly as well, along with Wisconsin's running backs, Iowa's linebackers and Indiana's receivers.

This season, there is once again some stiff competition. The Badgers' running backs are still impressive, with Corey Clement joining the cast in a bigger role with Melvin Gordon. Nebraska's backs are also strong, with Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross. You could make a case for Michigan State's defensive line, even with two new starting tackles, simply because of the sheer talent of Shilique Calhoun and underappreciated senior Marcus Rush. Other units that could be very strong include Iowa's offensive line, Michigan's linebackers and Maryland's receivers, if healthy.

[+] EnlargeJoey Bosa
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsDefensive end Joey Bosa made an instant impact as a freshman and helped transform Ohio State's defensive line into the Big Ten's most formidable unit.
But my vote for the Big Ten's best position group goes to Ohio State's defensive line.

It's not a crew that is swimming with All-Americans and award winners, though defensive end Noah Spence and defensive tackle Michael Bennett both made second-team All-Big Ten last season. Still, for sheer talent and depth, it's hard to beat the Buckeyes' defensive front four.

Start with Joey Bosa, who had an outstanding true freshman season with 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2013. He should be even better with a year of experience under his belt, and he's one of the top candidates for Big Ten defensive player-of-the-year honors as a sophomore. At the other end spot is Spence, who finished second in the Big Ten in sacks with eight last fall. The junior will have to serve two more games of his three-game suspension to start the season, but Jamal Marcus showed he can fill in adequately after he had six tackles in a strong Orange Bowl performance.

The Buckeyes aren't huge in the middle with Bennett and Adolphus Washington, who both are listed at 288 pounds. But both are very athletic. Bennett started his career at defensive end, and Washington looked like possibly the best player on the line last spring until he moved back and forth in the fall. The junior has finally found a home at tackle.

"I've picked up about 40 pounds since the end of my senior year of high school," he told ESPN.com. "The defensive end spot became so much harder for me to move and carry all that weight. But I've still got my speed in closer quarters with bigger guys who are much slower than me, so I've still got my advantage."

Washington said that "basically, it's all defensive ends on the field," when Ohio State starts its preferred four. That athleticism can do some major damage.

"We've got guys that can pass rush from any spot on the field, and that’s dangerous," Bennett said. "Who are you going to double team? We all have the mindset that if you’re single-blocked, you should get to the quarterback, and we all have the ability to do that."

New position coach Larry Johnson took over from Mike Vrabel this winter, and the former longtime Penn State assistant wants to rotate guys in much more than his predecessor did. The Buckeyes should have the luxury of depth, especially when Spence returns. Tommy Schutt and the 340-pound Chris Carter can help plug the middle, while Steve Miller, Tracy Sprinkle, Michael Hill, Tyquan Lewis and Purdue transfer Rashad Frazier should all contribute in some form. Jalyn Holmes and Dylan Thompson are 2014 signees who could add even more reinforcements.

Ohio State led the Big Ten in sacks last season and finished third in rush defense despite some soft spots at linebacker. The defensive line returns every player of significance from 2013 and has a lot of young players with room to improve.

"I didn't know we could grow as much as we have this spring," Bennett said.

That's a sobering thought for everyone else, and it's another reason why the Buckeyes' defensive line should be the best position group in the Big Ten.

Best Big Ten recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

Michigan and Ohio State both sit in the top 10 recruiting rankings this year after each landed top 10 classes in 2013 -- the Buckeyes were third, while the Wolverines were sixth.

That's why it should come as no surprise that the two schools have the top four recruiters in the Big Ten Conference for the Class of 2014 so far.

Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters in the Big Ten and why they deserve such high praise:

Big name visitors set to invade Ohio State 

September, 27, 2013
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Urban Meyer doesn’t miss an opportunity to impress.


The two-time national champion did it last year when Nebraska played Ohio State in The Horseshoe under the lights and he’s not missing the opportunity this year.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger names scheduled to make the trek to the banks of the Olentangy River for the Buckeyes-Badgers game Saturday evening.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The second installment of Ohio State's Friday Night Lights is over and several of the top players in the nation put on quite a show.

There was some incredible one-on-one competition and the cream certainly rose to the top as Ohio State got a look at some very solid talent in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes.

Here is what we learned:

Baker a two-position standout


It’s going to be interesting to see at which positions 2015 standout Jerome Baker (Cleveland/Benedictine) is going to be recruited.

He’s fantastic at outside linebacker and at running back.


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Summer recruit wrap: Ohio State 

July, 23, 2013
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BuckeyeNation looks at 10 themes of Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class to date:

Arms race is over

Ohio State missed out on ESPN 300 quarterbacks Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) and Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway) and came up empty on standout DeShaun Watson as well. That didn’t matter to Urban Meyer, who got his man in Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Leesburg). The Georgia high school standout had a private game of pitch and catch with the Buckeyes coach and it was enough to earn an offer and commitment. Consider the hunt for a quarterback finished.


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2015 ESPN 300 targets: Ohio State 

July, 16, 2013
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With Tuesday’s release of the ESPN Junior 300, here’s a look at 10 of Ohio State’s top targets in the 2015 recruiting class.

1. DE Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham)
6-3, 235
ESPN 300 rank: 1


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The Opening: Ohio State storylines 

June, 27, 2013
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Nine Ohio State pledges will head to The Opening, which is one more than a year ago.

With the most representatives of any school in the nation heading to the nationally televised, star-studded event, quarterback Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County), running back Parris Campbell Jr. (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary), outside linebackers Dante Booker (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary) and Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius), offensive tackle Kyle Trout (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster), defensive ends Dylan Thompson (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic) and Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor), wide receiver Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral) and cornerback Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) know what they’re in for.

All nine are going there with a chip and a chirp.

[+] EnlargeDante Booker
Brad Bournival/ESPN.comA big Opening could propel Dante Booker up the rankings.
<1. The chip is to prove they’re underrated.

OSU has the most commits at The Opening of any school by far, but that doesn’t mean it has a ton of highly ranked commits. In fact, only four of its commits are in the ESPN 300, and only one (Webb), is among the top 150. Excellent showings here could provide a rankings boost for any of them. “By competing, we’re showing how good we are,” Berger said. “Being able to meet up with the top 150 kids, it’s the perfect time.”

2. The chirp is to get in the ear of some of the top campers in the nation.

All nine have been active in recruiting for the Buckeyes. Webb’s family even has a website, Bucks2014.com, detailing news, notes and commitments for Ohio State. They all see The Opening as an opportunity to spread the word. “Kids like to make decisions in the summer,” Berger said. “This is a great time to put the Buckeyes in their ear.”

3. Stout Trout.

Trout is one of those guys outside the 300 with a chance to break in if he can hold up against top competition, some of which he got a chance to see up close and personal at the Columbus NFTC. “I’m trying to seek out the best competition and beat them,” Trout said. “I went to the Nike Training Camp expecting to see Da’Shawn Hand. I wanted to see him and I wanted to go against him. When they said, ‘Do you want to play right tackle?’ I said, “ ‘Heck yeah, I want to play right tackle.’ I’m a left tackle, but I don’t care. I can change my feet, I’m athletic. It’s a little weird, but I wanted to prove to people I can go with the No. 1 defensive end in the nation, which is exactly what I did. … He beat me, I beat him, and we stalemated. I want to go at him again. Not in a mean way, we’re cool, but I want to go against the best talent in the nation.”


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Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy) might already know what it’s like to play for Ohio State.

The 6-foot-3, 269-pound defensive end can’t help himself because he received an earful from his grandfather Gerald Kasunic growing up. See, Kasunic played for the Buckeyes in the early 1960s so the scarlet and gray has always been a topic of discussion in the Barnett household.

A fan of the Buckeyes, Barnett has heard the stories. Just how many, he’s not sure.

So when Ohio State called with an offer on Wednesday, it took him back a bit.


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Damon WebbTom Hauck for Student SportsDamon Webb is the top-ranked recruit in the Buckeyes' 2014 class.
As the summer camp season kicks off, Ohio State has nine commitments in the Class of 2014. It’s a class that should really reveal itself in a few weeks, when six pledges head out to The Opening in Oregon.

BuckeyeNation looked at each individual and gave each of them a label. Here’s what we came up with:

The Star

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Recruiting Week In Review 

June, 10, 2013
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Ohio State football had its first June camp this week, but the big commitment of the week came in basketball. As always, it was a week full of action. Here’s what went down in the last seven days:

On Sunday, the Buckeyes had their first senior advanced camp and it was dominated by underclassmen as 2015 inside linebacker Justin Hilliard, 2015 cornerback Ashton White and 2016 outside linebacker Rahshaun Smith picked up offers after camp. Poona Ford looked solid at the camp, as did Stephen Collier, Daniel Burns, Cameron Chambers and Terry McLaurin.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsESPN 150 defensive end Solomon Thomas is visiting this week.
On Saturday, ESPN 150 defensive end Solomon Thomas confirmed he’s visiting Ohio State this week, and Bryce Dixon talked about the impact the switch from wide receiver to tight end has made in his recruiting.

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This month is very important for Ohio State, as the staff is set to host its senior advanced camp on Sunday. Hundreds of prospects will be in attendance, including several top targets. Here are five storylines to watch this week:


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It’s time to dip into the BuckeyeNation recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions.

We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered.

We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter at @bbournival, by e-mail at brad.bournival.espn@gmail.com or by posting a question in the Horseshoe Pit forum.


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Tales From the Road: Ohio State 

June, 5, 2013
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BuckeyeNation continues to hit the road in search of budding Division I talent who should catch the eyes of Ohio State fans. Here’s what we came up with this week:

This week’s targets: BuckeyeNation as well as RecruitingNation headed to Columbus, Ohio, for the Elite 11 and Nike Football Training Camp. Seven Buckeyes commitments -- the only pledges missing were Marcelys Jones (Cleveland/Glenville) and Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati/Moeller) -- made their way to the Ohio State campus and didn’t disappoint as Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius), Kyle Trout (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster), Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech), Dylan Thompson (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic) and teammates Dante Booker and Parris Campbell Jr. of Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary each earned trips to The Opening.

Detroit rock city: Assistant coach Kerry Coombs spent a good portion of the evaluation period in Detroit, and for good reason. He went after two-time Michigan commit David Dawson from Cass Tech High School last season, but missed. Coombs and the Buckeyes didn’t this time around as Webb committed back in January. Malik McDowell of Detroit Loyola is also on the Ohio State radar. Before he said yes to Michigan, Lawrence Marshall was an Ohio State pledge, even if it was only for three days. Marshall lives in Southfield, Mich. a suburb 19 minutes away from Detroit.

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Sometimes the door opens, sometimes it closes.

While three Ohio State commitments earned golden tickets to The Opening, the Buckeyes lost another prospective pledge to Michigan and one to Clemson as well in a busy week full of recruiting.

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