I grew up in Michigan, and one certainty every fall was that the Ohio State Buckeyes would have a strong defense. They enter the 2011 season with the second best defensive line in the Big Ten.
It starts with a talented set of bookends in John Simon and Nathan Williams. Simon is the No. 2 defensive end in the Big Ten, and Williams isn't far behind at No. 4.
Actually, Simon may slide inside to play tackle, so 6'4" sophomore Adam Bellamy can play defensive end. The other defensive tackle is no slouch. I projected sophomore Johnathan Hankins as the No. 9 tackle in the Big Ten, and if he doesn't perform well, they have junior Garrett Goebel ready to step in.
Senior Andrew Sweat continues the tradition of strong linebacker play at Ohio State. Sweat is rated as the No. 5 linebacker in the Big Ten.
While Sweat patrols the wide side of the field, juniors Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein will fill the other linebacker slots. Keep an eye on Sabino, because he may be the next great Buckeye linebacker.
Also, don't be surprised to see safety Tyler Moeller slide down into a linebacker's position in certain defensive situations.
The Buckeyes finished right behind Nebraska in the secondary ratings, with four players making their respective top 10 lists.
Junior Orhian Johnson is No. 3, and senior Tyler Moeller is No. 6 at safety in the Big Ten. Sophomore Jamie Wood is ready to step in when Moeller slides to linebacker.
Ohio State is so deep at cornerback that the player I projected at No. 10—Florida State transfer Dionte Allen—may not start in the defensive backfield. Allen has been replaced by sophomore Dominic Clarke.
The other cornerback is junior Travis Howard, who finished No. 7 in my top 10 list. I am still scratching my head wondering how I could rate the Buckeye secondary as No. 1 in the conference, but my peers rated them lower.
Please don't feel sorry for the Buckeyes. If Nebraska had not joined the Big Ten, we'd be praising Ohio State for having the No. 1 defense in the conference. And that sounds very familiar.