CINCINNATI -- The work in the backfield was a little bit easier since their targets couldn’t actually be taken to the ground, lowering the degree of difficulty for defensive linemen hunting for a sack.
Over and over, the heirs to the starting bookend spots on the line took turns abusing blockers and forcing officials to blow early whistles to save quarterbacks from potential punishment. It made it difficult for anybody to track exactly how many sacks they should be credited for in Ohio State’s spring finale on Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
“38 or something?” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer joked. “I’m very pleased with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.”
That might have been something of an understatement, with Washington piling up four sacks and Spence tacking on three more, consistently wreaking havoc and showing the kind of potential that has excited the Buckeyes throughout camp.
Heading into the offseason, the emergence of the tandem up front has eased some concerns for a defense that is replacing six starters in the front seven -- including the entire group of linemen.
There might still be some issues with depth that will need to be answered when practice resumes in August, but there isn’t any question at this point who will be sliding in to replace departed seniors John Simon and Nathan Williams on the edge.
“I just went out there and played football,” Washington said. “I did what my coaches told me to do, and it just happened that I got four sacks.”
Moving forward: The Buckeyes aren’t caught up yet. But “The Chase” is on, and the margin is shrinking.
Meyer has stressed the need for Ohio State to find a way to make up for the 15 bowl practices missed because of the NCAA sanctions that barred the Buckeyes from the postseason last year, which led to the development of the “Chase” area in the practice facility where players can work out on their own doing football-specific drills. At this point, the Buckeyes have apparently scratched off seven of the dates they missed.
“I think we’re on track,” Meyer said. “Heading to summer, I think we’re halfway caught up, so they have to catch up and that’s that whole chase principle. We were 15 down and you can whine about it, complain about it, blame people, I guess -- but we don’t do that.
“Let’s just go forward and catch up somehow, and that’s what that whole area [is for]. We’re halfway home. If we can pick up those eight practices between now and our first game, then I think we’ll be fine. We’re still behind, but we’re on track.”
Bumps and bruises: A few veterans with little to prove to the coaching staff ultimately didn’t have to show them anything at all as spring closed.
Meyer helped ensure the health of his starters by holding a handful of them out on Saturday if they were dealing with minor injuries, with running back Carlos Hyde, left tackle Jack Mewhort, center Corey Linsley and cornerback Bradley Roby among the first-teamers who watched the exhibition but conceivably could have played had the game counted for something.