Projected 2014 Depth Chart: Defense

Projected 2014 Depth Chart: Defense

The Ohio State defense came under fire at the end of 2013 and for good reason. But with two new coaches, seven returning starters and 10 signees, help is on the way for the Buckeyes, which is why we're doing our best to piece the puzzle together and project just what OSU's defensive depth chart will look like in 2014.

Link: Projected 2014 Depth Chart: Offense

(* denotes a returning starter)

Defensive End
1. Joey Bosa, 6-6, 275, So.*
2. Steve Miller, 6-3, 255 Sr.
3. Tracy Sprinkle, 6-2, 275, RS Fr.
4. Dylan Thompson, 6-5, 270 Fr.

Bosa burst onto the college football scene in 2013 and should make the jump from All-Freshman to All-Big Ten -- or higher -- in 2014. Behind him sits an experienced veteran in Miller, while Sprinkle redshirted last season and Thompson could redshirt this year given Ohio State's depth across the defensive line.

Nose Guard
1. Adolphus Washington, 6-4, 295, Jr.
2. Joel Hale, 6-4, 310 Sr.*
3. Michael Hill, 6-2, 305, RS Fr.
4. Chris Carter, 6-4, 340, RS Jr.

Hale started most games for the Buckeyes at nose guard last season, but with Bosa's rise, Washington eventually shifted back inside. Both players should see plenty of reps on a rotating line in 2014, as should Hill, who actually played as a freshman before an injury allowed him to take a medical redshirt.

Defensive Tackle
1. Michael Bennett, 6-3, 285, Sr.*
2. Tommy Schutt, 6-1, 299, Jr.*
3. Donovan Munger, 6-4, 290 RS Fr.

It may not be on his resume yet, but Bennett is an All-Big Ten caliber player who has the versatility to play virtually every position on the Ohio State defensive line. Schutt battled injuries in his sophomore season but has shown promise in the first half of his college career, while Munger redshirted last season due to complications stemming from a blood clot.

Viper
1. Noah Spence, 6-3, 252, Jr.*
2. Jamal Marcus, 6-2, 240, Jr.
3. Jalyn Holmes, 6-5, 240 Fr.
4. Tyquan Lewis, 6-3, 255 RS Fr.
5. Darius Slade, 6-5, 240 Fr.

Arguably the deepest position on the defensive line, the Viper spot's depth will be put to the test while Spence -- an All-Big Ten first-teamer in 2013 -- misses the first two games of 2014 due to a suspension. Marcus showed plenty of ability in Spence's absence in the Orange Bowl, while Holmes was a prized defensive line recruit for the Buckeyes in the 2014 class. Lewis is a natural fit for the position but redshirted in 2013, while Slade could do the same this year simply due to depth.

Linebacker
1. Trey Johnson, 6-1, 220, So.
2. Dante Booker, 6-3, 215, Fr.
3. Kyle Berger, 6-2, 225, Fr.

Replacing Ryan Shazier will be no easy task, but Johnson should get the first crack at it, after a freshman season that saw the OSU staff opt not to redshirt the then-true freshman. Four highly-sought after linebacker prospects could also get a crack at filling in for the All-American linebacker, with Booker and Berger being the most natural fits at the Will linebacker position.

Middle Linebacker
1. Curtis Grant, 6-3, 243, Sr.*
2. Raekwon McMillan, 6-2, 242
3. Joe Burger, 6-2, 235, Jr.

In arguably the most intriguing defensive position battle of the offseason, Grant will try to fend off McMillan, an early-enrollee and the nation's fifth-ranked middle linebacker in the 2014 class. Grant will likely be in the middle of the Ohio State defense to start the season, but the former five-star prospect will have to play up to Urban Meyer's standard to keep McMillan off the field.

Outside Linebacker
1. Joshua Perry, 6-4, 246, Jr.*
2. Sam Hubbard, 6-6, 230 Fr.
3. Camren Williams, 6-1, 231, Jr.

Like Grant, Perry will get the first shot to reclaim his starting spot, but he'll also have to fight off a highly-sought after freshman in Hubbard, a five-star prospect out of Cincinnati Moeller. One way or another, Hubbard should find himself on the field during his freshman season, as it's apparent that the Buckeye linebacking corps finally possesses some much needed depth.

Cornerback
1. Doran Grant, 5-11, 191, Sr.*
2. Damon Webb, 5-11, 180, Fr.
3. Eli Apple, 6-1, 194, RS Fr.

Grant spent the 2013 season starting opposite Bradley Roby and according to at least some statistical categories, he actually performed better than his All-Big Ten counterpart. Expect a more steady rotation at the position than we've seen in years past, as Meyer's made it clear that he expects Webb to make an impact as a true freshman.

Safety
1. Vonn Bell, 5-11, 195, So.
2. Cameron Burrows, 6-0, 205, So.
3. Malik Hooker, 6-2, 190, Fr.

It may have taken 13 games for him to do so, but Bell managed to make an impact in his freshman season, recording an interception in the Buckeyes' loss in the Orange Bowl. Although Bell's first start came at the nickel position, he's a more natural fit as a free safety, which is where he should ultimately end up as a sophomore.

Burrows played at corner during his freshman season and will likely be Ohio State's No. 1 dime back as a sophomore, while Hooker could potentially redshirt as he only has two years of football experience under his belt.

Safety
1. Tyvis Powell, 6-3, 207, RS So.*
2. Erick Smith, 6-1, 195, Fr.
3. Jayme Thompson, 6-0, 190, RS Fr.

Powell spent last season as the Buckeyes' starting nickel and could ultimately wind up back there by the end of his sophomore season, as Meyer as pinpointed the four-star Smith as a player he expects to contribute right away in 2014. Thompson is returning after his freshman season was erased due to an ankle injury and should play immediately on special teams.

Cornerback
1. Gareon Conley, 6-2, 185 RS Fr.
2. Armani Reeves, 5-10, 198, Jr.
3. Marshon Lattimore, 6-0, 180, Fr.

Another intriguing position battle, Reeves received plenty of opportunities but ultimately underperformed as a sophomore in 2013, while insiders have raved about Conley's play in practice as a redshirting freshman last season. Lattimore is the wildcard of the bunch, as the four-star prospect from Glenville could make an impact on defense, offense and/or special teams for the Buckeyes.

Nickel
1. Darron Lee, 6-2, 219, RS Fr.
2. Chris Worley, 6-1, 204, RS Fr.

At a position that Ohio State uses as a linebacker-safety hybrid, the Buckeyes will have one of each fighting for the spot in the battle between two redshirt freshmen. Lee gets the edge, as he actually played in 2013 before taking a medical redshirt, but don't count out the Glenville product in Worley, or Powell making a return to the spot that he occupied a year ago.

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