Ohio State's spring football practices came to an end on Saturday with one clear-cut player standing out as the best breakout player at spring's end: defensive end Noah Spence.
It should come as no surprise that Spence got so many rave reviews during the spring. Spence was the prized gem of Urban Meyer's first recruiting class along with fellow starter Adolphus Washington.
Both played in all 12 games in 2012, but Spence was not as impactful on the stat sheet as Washington.
Whether from spending more time in the weight room and getting stronger or taking the lessons of departed starter John Simon to heart, Spence practiced like a man possessed and, by most accounts, was unblockable.
Meyer and the OSU defensive staff couldn't have asked for a better spring for Spence because they need him to be a star right away in his sophomore season.
That sounds like a lot to ask, but that's what happens when a team loses its entire starting defensive line.
So Spence needed to respond to give his coaches some confidence that they had a star end to build a defensive line around. That shouldn't take anything away from Washington, though, because he is likely to be a stud himself.
But Spence is the type of pass-rusher who can take a defense from good to great if he's on his game.
The Buckeyes have had some good defensive ends in the last few years, including Will Smith, Vernon Gholston, Thaddeus Gibson, Cameron Heyward and Simon.
Having coached in the SEC, Meyer understands that an elite defensive line is a common thread among the greatest defenses. Football games, even in this era, can be won or lost in the trenches.
It's critical to have a guy who can get to the quarterback almost every single play and make a big play either with a sack or pressure, possibly forcing a bad throw.
Spence proved in the spring that he can be that guy.
The question, as always with any player after a good spring, is whether it can translate into game action.
There's no reason it shouldn't because Spence has been consistently dominant over the course of 15 spring practices.
He was the breakout star of the spring.
Now Spence's biggest challenge is proving his outstanding spring was no fluke.
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