With nine starters returning to an offense that led the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 37.2 points per game in 2012, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer doesn't have to spend a lot of time worrying about that side of the ball.
His defense, though, is a different story.
The Buckeyes must replace six starters in their front seven, including all four starters along the defensive line. That's a task no coach wants to tackle, especially for a team with national title aspirations like Ohio State.
“If we put together a good D-line and linebackers, I think we’ll have a good team,” Meyer said following his team's second spring practice last month. “If not, we won’t. It’s pretty simple.”
Up front, Meyer is turning over half of his defensive line to a pair of soon-to-be sophomores in Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.
Judging from their spring game performances, Meyer can rest easy knowing that was the right decision.
Spence and Washington—both former 5-star recruits, according to Rivals—dominated the Scarlet team's makeshift offensive line Saturday afternoon, looking untouchable on their way to tallying seven combined sacks.
Of course, many of those sacks were of the "touch" variety, due to the no-contact jerseys worn by Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton, but their speed and power were undeniable.
Washington, who had four sacks, and Spence, who notched three, were terrors coming off the edge.
Both abused a pair of tackles in Taylor Decker and Chase Farris, who are battling for the team's only offensive line opening at right tackle.
“Noah Spence and Adolphus [Washington] work hard," Miller said, according to OhioStateBuckeyes.com. "They have to fill big shoes from the guys who left last year, and they proved we have to keep working at the right tackle position.”
Both Spence and Washington were a small part of Ohio State's defensive line rotation in 2012, but the pair played sparingly with guys like John Simon, Nathan Williams and Johnathan Hankins up front.
Spence had 12 tackles and one sack in 2012, while Washington had nine tackles and three sacks in limited playing time.
Approaching their sophomore seasons, Spence and Washington will be asked to do much more for Ohio State's defense. Meyer has raved about Spence all spring and thinks just as highly of Washington.
"Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play," Meyer said after the spring game. "He’s a legitimate player as a starter at Ohio State. We saw him today just have his way with the offensive line."
When the 2013 season finally rolls around, it shouldn't be a surprise to see these two players having their way every Saturday.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
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