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Ohio State star DE Noah Spence set to return after suspension

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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence is set to return from his suspension, which stretches back to last season.

Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence returns to the team this week after a three-game suspension, adding to an already-talented defensive line.

Spence (6-foot-3, 252 pounds), a junior, missed last season's Orange Bowl and the first two games this season because he tested positive for ecstasy; originally, he was suspended for a full season, but the suspension was reduced to three games. His family has said Spence unintentionally took the drug when he was given a drink by people he didn't know at a party.

Spence was listed as one of the nation's top-10 pass rushers by NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks in May. "Spence shows terrific snap-count anticipation and first-step quickness, but is still unpolished as a rusher off the edge," Brooks wrote. "He is still learning how to sequence his moves, but his impressive athleticism has allowed him to post solid production with a limited arsenal of pitches. If he can add a wrinkle or two to his game in the fall, Spence could be one of the most intriguing prospects to watch down the road."

Spence, who was a consensus top-five player nationally in the 2012 recruiting class, had eight sacks last season, which led the team; he added 14.5 tackles for loss, which was second on the team to linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference that Spence -- who did not speak to the media this week -- handled his suspension well.

"He went down to the scout team and performed," Meyer said. "(He is) very selfless and we are anxious to get him going."

Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash told reporters Monday that Spence -- who has seen practice time with the first-team defense -- "has a tremendous ability to get after the quarterback, and I think it is going to help us a lot."

Ohio State has four sacks through two games; last season, the Buckeyes averaged three per game.

Senior Steve Miller (6-3, 255) started in Spence's place in the first two games and is listed as the starter on this week's depth chart. But while Miller is solid against the run, he does not have Spence's explosiveness or pass-rushing skills.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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