February 7, 2012

Grading the Class: Defense

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Yesterday we looked at how the Ohio State recruiting class stacked up on the offensive side of the football. Today it is the defense's turn in the spotlight as we take a position-by-position look at the future Silver Bullets and give each group a grade.



Defensive Line:


If there was one position where Urban Meyer and his staff hit it completely out of the ballpark, it was on the defensive line. The Buckeyes secured verbal commitments from four of the top 100 prospects in the nation, including a pair of five-star defensive ends in Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft product Adolphus Washington and Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt standout Noah Spence.


Not to be overshadowed, however, are Canton (Ohio) McKinley defensive end Se'von Pittman and Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West defensive tackle Tommy Schutt. Schutt is ultimately expected to provide a much needed sparkplug in the middle for the Buckeyes and was a standout performer during practices at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Pittman provides the most versatility of the group with the ability to play either defensive end spot or to move down to tackle on passing downs.


The additions of Washington and Spence give the Buckeyes two big-time edge rushers, with Washington having the versatility to flip to the strongside end position. Both players dominated their respective all-star games, Washington at the U.S. Army game and Spence at the Under Armour game and could be in line for early playing time in the fall.


Grade: A




Linebackers:


From day one of being hired, Meyer made it no secret that the linebacker position needed to be upgraded and the Buckeyes went out and added both quantity and quality to next year's rotation. Meyer inherited local standouts in Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy product Josh Perry as well as Lancaster (Ohio) product Luke Roberts. Roberts will likely get his start at middle linebacker and Perry has the build of a SAM backer. Perry is probably the wildcard of the group as his size and athleticism also make him an intriguing prospect as a tight end or weakside defensive end.


With two already in the fold, Meyer went to work and closed with three outstanding linebackers in four-star prospects David Perkins and Camren Williams as well as three-star prospect Jamal Marcus.


Perkins will be the next closest thing the Buckeyes will have this fall to sophomore-to-be Ryan Shazier who showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman. Perkins is a tremendously gifted run-and-jump athlete that flies to the football.


With Williams, the Buckeyes are getting a smart, tough, athletic, and versatile linebacker prospect that could probably play any of the three positions but will likely end up playing in the middle. Williams is the son of former NFL standout Brent Williams and has a great feel for the game.


If there is one player in the Ohio State class that may have been underrated it's Marcus. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound prospect has the look of an outstanding SAM backer and his film has already drawn rave reviews from Meyer. Marcus has a lightning quick first step and arrives to the football with bad intentions.


Grade: A




Safeties


The Buckeyes went on a run of defensive backs this past June, landing Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville's De'van Bogard, Bedford (Ohio) standout Tyvis Powell and Steubenville (Ohio) star Najee Murray all within a four-week period. Murray's offer in June was at corner so for the purposes of this piece, he will be listed with the corners but it would certainly not be a surprise if he was put at safety at some point in his college career.


The two players that are the most likely to play safety at Ohio State are clearly Bogard and Powell. The northeast Ohio products both have the size and range that college coaches are looking for but the two are very different in terms of playing style.


For Bogard, the transition to his more natural safety position will be an interesting story to follow. The 6-foot, 185-pound prospect played linebacker for Glenville where he showed an outstanding nose for the football and a knack for the big hit. Bogard is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and with some work on his cover skills could be the next great Ohio State safety.


While Bogard is more of an in-the-box, strong safety type of prospect, Powell is the longer, rangier free safety type at 6-foot-3, 185-pounds. Powell played corner for Bedford in high school but has the size, long arms, and speed to run the alleys and will likely slide over to the middle of the field.


Grade: B




Corners


As mentioned above, Steubenville's Najee Murray could end up as a safety but with the offer coming at corner, he will be grouped there for the purpose of this piece. Normally when talking about moving a prospect from corner to safety it is looked at as a slight on that prospect's ability in coverage but that is certainly not the case with Murray. The reason for a potential move is that Murray is one of the most ferocious hitters to come out of the state of Ohio in the last few years and his ability to deliver that game-changing hit and to support the run could possibly be better utilized in the middle of the field at safety. Murray is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com.


One of the biggest late additions to this class was that of West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial four-star defensive back Armani Reeves. Reeves, the high school teammate of Camren Williams, picked the Buckeyes late in the process over Michigan after previously being committed to Penn State. With Murray being a flex guy in terms of having the ability to play safety as well, adding a second corner in the class was crucial. Reeves isn't the tallest corner out there but he is extremely tough and athletic and could very well see playing time this fall with a depth chart that is pretty thin at the moment.


Grade: A-





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