Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday during the Big Ten coaches' teleconference that "I think there's some NFL players" on Ohio State's defensive line right now.
Meyer said a good way to grade recruiting is to count the NFL players and that he sees a lot on his defensive line. Unfortunately for Michigan coaches and players, who face Ohio State on Saturday, they likely will be seeing that defensive front in their nightmares.
Ohio State has zero seniors in its defensive line two-deep and likely will be starting a true freshman at end at Michigan. But given the Wolverines' problems along the offensive line, the Buckeyes' defensive line still should be expected to dominate.
Keep an especially close eye Saturday on junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett (6-foot-3, 285 pounds). Bennett had just 28 tackles in 21 career games heading into the season, but he has blossomed this fall. Bennett has been steady against the run and also has flashed some pass-rush potential; he has 31 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
There have been some whispers that he could turn pro -- he has big-time quickness for a guy his size -- but expect him back next season, when he should vie for All-American honors.
While Michigan senior offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have played relatively well this season -- Lewan remains a projected first-round pick, while Schofield is considered more of a mid-round prospect -- the Wolverines' interior has been a mess. Michigan likely will start two redshirt freshmen, Kyle Kalis (6-5, 297) and Erik Magnuson (6-6, 295), at guard and converted guard Graham Glasgow (6-6, 305) at center against the Buckeyes.
Michigan's rushing attack has been an embarrassment of late; the Wolverines have rushed for a total of 130 yards in the past four games -- and that includes a 139-yard outing in an overtime win at Northwestern. Conversely, the Buckeyes are allowing just 95.3 rushing yards per game and have given up just five rushing TDs.
Bennett isn't the only future pro up front for the Buckeyes. Sophomore end Noah Spence (6-3, 252) is a burgeoning pass-rush star (seven sacks) who has held up better than expected against the run. True freshman end Joey Bosa (6-6, 275) was a hyped recruit who actually has exceeded the hype (Michigan coach Brady Hoke even commented Tuesday on how well Bosa has played); Bosa -- who played at prep powerhouse Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas -- has 31 tackles, nine tackles for loss and five sacks. Junior nose tackle Joel Hale (6-4, 310) does what he is supposed to do -- clog up the middle and take on two blockers. Depth is good, too.
It also helps to have junior linebacker Ryan Shazier around to clean things up; he leads the team with 108 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss.