Joe Podelco / Lantern photographer
Nearly everyone in the world of college football is aware of the impending suspensions of star offensive players Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron on the Ohio State football team. However, the defense, which was ranked No. 2 in total defense last season, must replace seven starters for the upcoming season.
Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is expected to be drafted at the end of the first round in this month’s NFL draft, and the Buckeyes must also replace starting cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence.
With all new starters and just a week left before the Spring Game, the defense dominated the OSU offense in Saturday’s scrimmage, forcing five turnovers and not allowing a single touchdown.
Although the offense struggled, junior defensive lineman John Simon said he is not worried about its performance when the season begins.
“We see them in practice every day, and we know the offense is very good,” Simon said. “I just think all week we’ve focused on relaxing a little bit and just playing together, and I think it paid off.”
Simon said losing Heyward is a huge loss for the defense, but he has been encouraged by its performance this spring.
“Seeing a lot of the young guys improve and get better every day and just seeing the excitement even though we aren’t working toward a big game or anything,” Simon said. “Just seeing the excitement and passion we have.”
During Saturday’s scrimmage, the defense was on target.
After sophomore Dorian Bell recovered a fumble by redshirt freshman wide receiver Verlon Reed, he was hit hard by freshman quarterback Braxton Miller to end the play. The defensive players and coaches on the sideline were joking with, and yelling at, Bell, something Simon said is important for a defense.
“We were having a good time,” Simon said. “That’s the way defense should be: Just let loose and have fun.”
Junior defensive back Travis Howard has been impressive this spring, making big plays at the cornerback position, and he said his experience behind Chekwa and Torrence at the end of last season helped his progress in spring practice.
“It helped tremendously,” Howard said. “I feel like I knew a lot, and I feel like I had a lot of experience. So, coming into this spring my confidence level just went up, and it allowed me to make a lot of plays this year.”
Junior defensive back Orhian Johnson, a returning starter for the Buckeye defense, said he has seen a lot of promise from Howard this spring.
“I believe that he is one of our next corners,” he said. “If he keeps on the path, he could be one of the next great corners out of here.”
As a returning starter, Johnson has become a leader for the young Buckeye defense.
“I’ve been really trying to just go out there and make sure I can help out in any way necessary that the defense needs me,” Johnson said, “whether it be being vocal and telling someone something, or stepping in and making a play.”
Although the defense was impressive, Simon said there is still room for improvement before Saturday’s Spring Game.
“We’ve got to clean up a lot of stuff,” Simon said. “We’re gonna watch the tape, and then I’m sure as long as everyone does their one-eleventh, we’ll be all right.”
“I hope we have no more injuries, and we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Johnson said, “keep learning and keep getting better.”
Coach Jim Tressel, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas join Pryor and Herron on the five game suspension of the upcoming season.