The Ohio State football program will likely head into its third game of the season with one of the team’s most dynamic defensive players back in the lineup.
Junior defensive lineman Noah Spence is set to return to game action after missing the Buckeyes’ last three games because of a suspension handed out in January.
Spence was originally suspended a full year by the NCAA for testing positive for ecstasy before his family appealed the suspension and it was reduced to three games. A second appeal was unsuccessful.
Spence served his three-game suspension by sitting out the 2014 Orange Bowl and the first two games of the 2014 season against Navy and Virginia Tech.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said he is excited for Spence to be back out on the field.
“First of all, he is an exceptional player. I know myself and his family (are) anxious to see him play,” Meyer said during a Big Ten teleconference. “He has handled (his suspension) — he went down to the scout team and performed for the last two weeks. (He is) very selfless and we are anxious to get him going.”
Neither Spence, nor the usual amount of OSU players, were made available for comment Monday following the Buckeyes’ loss to Virginia Tech. Just one player of the expected three spoke to the media after Meyer’s weekly press conference.
Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said though he hadn’t coached Spence until the spring, he is eager to see what the junior can do.
“Noah is a very talented player. Fits well in our scheme. Has a tremendous ability to get after the quarterback and I think it is going to help us a lot,” Ash said Monday.
Because he was suspended, Spence spent most of his time during fall camp with the scout team. Ash said, however, Spence has still been involved with the first-team defense.
“He has been in all of the defensive line meetings, so all through the course of training camp, he has worked a lot of scout team stuff going against our offense,” Ash said. “He has been out there practicing our stuff quite a bit.”
Ash added that during the short time he coached Spence, he has seen the lineman take steps to become a better player throughout camp.
“We saw a lot of strides in the spring from him. From the time we started to the time we ended spring practice, he really made a lot of improvement,” Ash said. “He has made improvement throughout training camp so far also and (we) are excited to see him get out there on game day.”
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson said during OSU’s fall media day that he expects to play multiple linemen to keep players fresh.
The addition of Spence into the lineup should help do that.
“My goal is to have a group of nine to 10 guys we can shuffle in and out in no particular order,” Johnson said Aug. 10. “We have the talent to be able to do that. We just have to coach it up.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday at noon at Ohio Stadium.