Ohio State will depend on the size, speed, and the experience of their defensive line in 2009. Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has assembled a strong group of players to serve as an anchor for the pre-season favorite in the Big Ten. With so many familiar faces, and so many faces in general, the D-Line is expected to compensate for youth and inexperience at both CB and LB.
DT's Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington, as well as DE's Lawrence Wilson, Rob Rose, and Cameron Heyward have been contributors for State's' defensive line for quite some time. The group has 62 starts and over 100 games played. Worthington and Heyward are projected starters. Denlinger will rotate with Dexter Larimore and Rob Rose will likely start the season 3 deep. There's other talent in place.
Thadeous Gibson had 5 sacks last season. He also had 2 personal fouls in the Texas game (o.k. so one of them was a bad call). The point is: Gibson gets to the quarterback. He and young gun Nathan Williams provide OSU with two of their best rush ends since 2003. Both played excellent down the stretch last season - relying on their explosive first step and their overall speed. If you go back and watch the last three games of the season you'll see #90 and #43 creating havoc in the backfield. They played incredible in the Bowl game. Too bad it didn't keep Colt McCoy from throwing for over 400 yards. Tough kid.
The individual parts of the D-Line are interchangeable, so, at this point, it's hard to name starters. But let's just say 'I had to'(heehee). Gibson starts on one side with Heyward on other side. Senior Doug Worthington, all 6'7" 285 pounds of 'him', will start at one tackle spot while a 'little guy' Dexter Larimore(6'2" 305) starts at the other. Larimore will be spelled by Senior leader Todd Denlinger as well as the occasional inward migration of Ironhead Junior (Heyward). rFr. Garrett Goebel and Fr. John Simon will round out the 3 deep on the inside. Simon has put up 48 reps @ 225 this off-season which would rank him first at the 2009 NFL combine - BY 9 REPS! Simon has been turning heads during camp as a possible 'impact frosh'(also see: Bell, Berry, and Hall).When Heyward moves inside expect Nathan Williams and Gibson on the field at the same time (I pity the fool at QB).
The next contributor on the list might have to be Senior defensive end Lawrence Wilson. He's been in the line-up since the Carter administration. It remains a question as to how much the Senior can contribute after suffering two season-ending leg injuries that required surgery. He said he was 90% at Media day. Your guess is as good as mine. Rob Rose could see some time at DE. The defensive end position is so deep that Melvin Fellows, a 4 star-rivals250 recruit, ranked as the #10 WDE in the entire country, is sitting at 8th on the DE chart.
Expect increased production along the entire front. Let's not forget this unit held Texas to -9 yards rushing in the first half. The biggest increase will come in the sack numbers. Gibson and Williams are nearly unblockable off the edge and either is capable of double-digit sacks this season. The extra pressure would ease the growing pains of the back seven, allowing our linebackers to run freely. If your looking for helmet stickers, or conversely, something to hang your hat on, make it the defensive line.