Ohio State Football: Young Defensive Front Will Determine Fate of the Buckeyes
The biggest obstacle to Ohio State winning the national football title in 2013 is the team's inexperienced defensive front seven.
However, wins aren't predicated on offensive prowess alone.
As the old adage goes, "defense wins championships," and the best defenses begin and end with men who dominate the line of scrimmage and overwhelm their opponents in the trenches.
When asked about how he felt about his team heading into fall camp, Meyer didn't hold back his concern regarding his young defense, as noted by Rusty Miller of the Associated Press:
Offensively, I feel very strong about where we could be if we have a solid training camp. Defense is where the issues are.
To this point, it remains to be seen whether or not Ohio State's newest batch of front-seven defenders are capable of subjugating their opponents. The only returning starter from last year's group is linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is a phenomenal athlete and likely first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
But after Shazier, there are six other positions to fill in the front seven—the foundation upon which every great defense is founded.
Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch reports that young players like sophomore Noah Spence are being thrust into leadership roles normally occupied by juniors and seniors.
For his part, Spence appears to be ready for the challenge of leading:
I am trying to become more of a leader on our defensive line because there are a lot of young players on the line. So I guess I’ve got to pull up and play that role.
Another young player who looks ready to step into the limelight for the Buckeyes this season is sophomore defensive end Adolphus Washington, who registered three sacks in limited action last year.
Judging by the way he got around All-American tackle Taylor Lewan in practice recently, as noted by Tony Gerdeman of TheOzone.net, he's ready to take on a bigger role this year:
Michael Bennett and Joel Hale also appear ready to take the big step as full-time starters, as does linebacker Curtis Grant.
Great shot of Taylor Lewan blocking Adolphus Washington. pic.twitter.com/qjyMwVR6Co— Tony Gerdeman (@GerdOzone) August 19, 2013
There is no doubt that Ohio State has enough talented players to feature an explosive defense. The real question, which won't be answered until the team faces opponents like California, Wisconsin and Michigan, is whether or not these talented players can become a solidified unit.
If they can learn to play together, then the Buckeyes have a legitimate chance to go undefeated and earn a trip to the BCS Championship Game next January.
Contrarily, if these young players don't figure out how to build rapport, accountability and discipline with one another, then Ohio State will be in danger of losing a game it shouldn't, thus likely putting an end to their national championship dreams.
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