Backup defensive end Jamal Marcus, who was expected to start the first two games of next season while Noah Spence finishes his three-game suspension, has left the Ohio State program.
The earliest report came from Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors and said Marcus had been dismissed from the team along with receiver Brandon Ojikutu for a violation of team rules.
Marcus started for Spence against Clemson in the Orange Bowl and played the best game of his career, finishing with six total tackles and frequently making plays in the backfield. "I feel like get me on the field, I can make plays whenever I get the opportunity," Marcus said after the performance, per Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.
According to Rowland, however, Marcus was "conspicuously quiet" during spring drills and took reps with the second- and third-team defenses. The writing was kind of on the wall.
This loss does not cripple one of the nation's top defensive lines, but it does present some questions about depth on the edge. Here are some guys who must step up to help replace Marcus in the rotation.
This is the luxury of being Ohio State. When one backup defensive end transfers, another capable replacement stands waiting in the wings.
And not just any capable replacement—a veteran one.
Steve Miller will be a senior in 2014 and has contributed for the past two seasons. He was the No. 61 overall player in the 2011 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite, and although he hasn't panned out like a star, he has always been a steady enough contributor.
Miller finished last season with 12 tackles and six tackles for loss, most of which came in garbage time. But his pedigree suggests he should be able to handle a bigger workload—and maybe even start the season opener against Navy—without too much trouble.
Tyquan Lewis took a redshirt in 2013, but he is not your average redshirt freshman. At least in terms of experience, that is.
He enrolled early last January and has now been through two full spring camps in addition to last regular season. Even though he has not seen a snap of live action, he has been through a lot with the team and should know the defensive playbook fairly well.
Lewis ironically came to Ohio State from North Carolina—just like Marcus, whose departure has provided this opportunity.
He was a 4-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite and the second-highest rated defensive end in the Buckeyes' 2013 class, trailing only Joey Bosa. Listed at 6'3", 260 pounds on the Ohio State website, Lewis should have the beef to contribute, at the very least, in run support.
That could come in handy against Navy, which runs a triple-option offense and finished second in the country (trailing only Auburn) with 325.38 rushing yards per game in 2013.
Perhaps the most intriguing name on this list, Rashad Frazier transferred from Purdue as a walk-on but earned a scholarship.
According to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, he had two sacks in the first nine minutes of the spring game, recovering the first in the end zone for a defensive touchdown:
Nine minutes in Rashad Frazier making bid for spring game MVP, with fumble cause-recovery for TD and sack on third down to force punt.— Tim May (@TIM_MAYsports) April 12, 2014
This success may have come out of nowhere to some, but according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, Frazier was talked up all spring by defensive line coach Larry Johnson and teammate Michael Bennett:
Larry Johnson and Michael Bennett have been talking Rashad Frazier up all spring.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) April 12, 2014
As a potential contributor, it is hard to take Frazier seriously until he proves he can produce in a real game. Spence's suspension and Marcus' transfer might give him that opportunity early.
If the spring was any indication, Frazier is ready to answer the call.
The highest-rated defensive lineman in the Buckeyes' 2014 class, Jalyn Holmes was the No. 80 overall player on the 247Sports Composite and the No. 51 overall player on the site's subjective rankings.
Urban Meyer went to Virginia to land Holmes, who was also fancied by Florida State during his recruitment. And it's no wonder why all the big-name recruiters were after him: He is 6'5", 225 pounds with a rangy frame and good athleticism.
That said, 225 pounds does not sound like an ideal playing weight for the next level. Holmes did not enroll early and get a chance to work out with a college weight program, so it remains to be seen if he's ready to crack the defensive line rotation as a true freshman.
Marcus' dismissal ensures, if anything, that Holmes will be given a close look as a potential contributor in year one.
But it does not guarantee immediate playing time.