Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Title Hopes May Rest on Young D-Line's Shoulders

Luke PashkeCorrespondent IJune 4, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3:  Michael Bennett #63 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sacks Patrick Nicely #7 of the Akron Zips during the third quarter on September 3, 2011 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Following a perfect regular season that was capped off with an always sweet victory over Michigan, the Buckeyes now find themselves as serious national championship contenders in 2013. Urban Meyer and company return plenty of firepower on offense including a Heisman candidate at quarterback, two explosive and experienced receivers, and an almost sure to be 1000-yard rusher.

Along with the plethora of playmakers returning on offense, the Buckeyes only lose one offensive lineman to graduation this offseason. Combine the return of these key players with the second year of the implantation of Urban Meyer's spread attack and you've got yourself a pretty threatening offense. Case and point, this offense is of national champion caliber. 

On the other side of the ball the Buckeyes have a few holes to fill but none bigger than their extremely effective and vital defensive front of 2012. Ohio State boasted one of the best defensive lines in the nation last season that included two all-conference studs in John Simon and Jonathan Hankins. Simon's leadership and sheer power were major assets to the defense last season and Hankins ability to eat up blocks and clog the middle was vital to the Buckeyes' success. Unfortunately for Buckeye Nation, valuable D-lineman like Simon and Hankins don't grow on trees and solid experience can't be obtained in just one offseason.

However, Luke Fickell's defense is billed with the task of replacing three essential defensive linemen and at least their properly equipped for the job. Since Urban Meyer took over the OSU program in November of 2011 he's landed eleven highly touted defensive line recruits. Among these recently added recruits are Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. The two fellow defensive linemen were both part of the 2012 recruiting class and are expected to step up their play and learn as quickly as possible in order to bolster the now thin defensive line. 

Washington has bulked up considerably since coming to Columbus last season and is now hovering around 300 pounds. Along with this new bulk the sophomore has managed to maintain the athleticism that allowed him to play defensive end in high school. His upside is huge and the Buckeyes hope he can fill the vacant spot at strongside defensive end. 

Aiming to take the open weakside defensive end position by storm is the uber-athletic Noah Spence. The product out of Pennsylvania gave his fellow offensive teammates nightmares all spring long with his blazing speed and was a tough assignment for anyone. Spence has a knack for reaching the quarterback on any given play and with so many inexperienced lineman racking up considerable minutes in 2013, it's absolutely vital that he establishes himself as a serious pass-rushing threat early on.

With Spence and Washington filling in on opposite ends, unsung veterans like Michael Bennett and Joel Hale will be tasked with the essential job of battling in the trenches. Other young defensive linemen that will surely be called to step up and make a name for themselves include Tommy Schutt, Jamal Marcus, Chris Carter, Joey Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and Michael Hill.

Obviously Urban Meyer understands that you don't win national championships in college football without a stingy and deep defensive line on your team. The type of athleticism and depth that exists on the defensive lines of Alabama and LSU are one of the main reasons for their recent successes and Urban Meyer is looking to match them. The bad news is he had to lose some very solid defensive linemen initially.

However, the good news is that the hardest part of creating an elite defensive line is already complete. Urban Meyer and his staff managed to lure several top-tier high school defensive linemen to Columbus in their first two years. Now these talented young men just have to get after it and live up to their expectations and if they do, the Buckeyes could very easily run the table in 2013.

In other words, Buckeye Nation better just hope these dogs bite as pups.