August 19, 2012

New position brings new opportunities for Washington

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When Adolphus Washington arrived at Ohio State, many were surprised to see the former Taft high school defensive end playing defensive tackle for the Buckeyes. His new position coach, however, wasn't so surprised.

"He's grown up. He's gotten bigger. I don't know if you guys have seen Adolphus Washington, Sr., but he's a large individual," OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said, referring to Washington's father. "Dogs with black and white spots usually have puppies with black and white spots, so Adolphus is a big kid."

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds coming out of high school, Washington now finds himself weighing 289 pounds as the Buckeyes wrap up their first fall camp under head coach Urban Meyer. Washington's growth has made it all but necessary for the Ohio State coaching staff to move him inside, where he is currently playing back-up to junior Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle.

Vrabel said that the decision to move Washington to the interior defensive line came from a place of both need for the Buckeyes and willingness on the former U.S. Army All-American's part.

"For us, right now our need, was to have him play inside. And he'd play wherever we need him to, he's that type of kid," Vrabel said. "He's big and athletic, so that's a good combination as the three-technique."

After spending 14 seasons in the NFL playing positions ranging from defensive end, outside linebacker, middle linebacker, and even tight end, Vrabel knows a thing or two about how much value a player's versatility can add to a team. And despite his gain in weight, Washington maintains that he still has the ability to play any spot on the defensive line.

"What allows me to play outside is my speed. For me to be 289, I have a lot of speed and I have a lot of power. So you combine those two, you can be very deadly coming from the outside," Washington said. "Playing inside, my power helps me a lot and my length affects me, but it kind of helps me at the same time."

While Washington's flexibility as a player and willingness to play anywhere for the Buckeyes has impressed the Ohio State coaching staff enough to make him a a second-string player and serious candidate for playing time, that doesn't mean that his position change hasn't come without some growing pains.

"He gets frustrated at times because he hasn't played in there with some of the traffic. I think he likes rushing on those guards sometimes," Vrabel said. "He's had a lot of success rushing the passer, we just need to get him comfortable in there."

But if there's a player to help the Cincinnati native make a smooth transition into playing defensive tackle, it's his team-assigned 'big brother' in Hankins.

"It's pretty good. He's teaching me all the things that I need to do," Washington said of his relationship with Hankins. "Telling me how to defeat double teams and just how to get my hand placement and things like that, so he helps me out a lot."

If actions speak louder than words, then Hankins tutelage of Washington has paid off. The new defensive tackle is just one of five Ohio State freshmen to have the black stripe removed from his team helmet- an act that symbolizes a player 'officially' joining the Buckeyes' roster.

According to Vrabel, there's no doubt that Washington earned the right to have his stripe removed.

"He was going against a first-team offensive lineman, three straight pass rushes in a row in one-on-one. And I said, 'If you win three in a row, we'll take the stripe off after practice,'" Vrabel explained. "He did three in a row and I went right to the head coach and asked him and he was more than willing to take it off."

Having his stripe removed was certainly a positive step for Washington in his new journey as a defensive tackle. But the true freshman already has bigger goals on his mind.

"I just got to keep working on the inside thing," Washington said. "I think one day I can dominate like Johnathan Hankins."


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