Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington was always so much bigger and stronger than his peers growing up that he could dominate without having to push himself.
But the 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive end from Cincinnati Taft High School knows his days of getting away with being a loafer are over. If he has a lapse in effort during practice, his coaches and teammates are quick to point it out.
“Every day I slack off — or if they see me on a play slacking off — they make sure I know about it,” he said.
Washington, who had nine tackles and three sacks as a freshman last season, appears to be the heir apparent to John Simon, the Big Ten defensive player of the year.
Projected as a third-round NFL draft pick, Simon was known as a workout warrior, and he brought several freshmen along with him to his crack-of-dawn weight-lifting sessions.
But while others may have gone reluctantly, Washington needed no prodding.
“He didn’t have to drag me,” Washington said. “Once I saw John Simon do it, I was right behind him.”
The 6-foot-5 Washington weighs about 25 pounds more than Simon and believes he possesses some of the same skill set.
“As far as pass rush, I’m pretty much like him,” he said. “But I think I need to get a little more aggressive in the run game like he was.”
Asked where he’s improved the most, he said: “A lot of things — technique, learning how to play harder, just learning how to compete at a higher level.”
Coach Urban Meyer called Washington “a very talented player. Coach (Mike) Vrabel is coaching the heck out of that guy. He doesn’t take a step without hearing Vrabel on him. … The first half of spring practices, I wasn’t buying that stock (about Washington’s emergence), but I’m buying it now.”
Washington and the rest of the defense will be turned loose during the spring game at 1 p.m. today at Paul Brown Stadium, although they won’t be able to tee off on quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton. The duo will be wearing no-contact black jerseys, and Meyer joked that he’ll take extra measures to make sure no one takes a shot at Miller the way defensive end Noah Spence did at an earlier practice.
“I’m going to bring a baseball bat,” he said.
The Buckeyes need to replace all four starters and two of their three linebackers, but Meyer was upbeat when assessing his defense this week.
“That front seven is much improved,” he said. “We’re much more aggressive on defense than we were at this time last year. I kind of like the direction we’re headed. Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are making some strides. (Linebacker) Curtis Grant, (cornerback) Doran Grant and (nickelback) Tyvis Powell are guys off the top of my head who are making some big strides.”
If Grant reaches his potential, it could turn out to be the spring’s most positive development. He was rated as the No. 2 recruit in the nation in the 2011 class by Rivals.com but has been a disappointment for two years.
“He’s the starting middle linebacker at Ohio State as of right now,” Meyer said. “I see, first of all, a great kid. I’m not saying he wasn’t a great kid last year, but he wasn’t fully engaged. He is a fully engaged guy right now. … We’re starting to create a little something at linebacker that’s better than what it was.”
The right tackle spot is still unclaimed. Taylor Decker, a Vandalia product, is fighting converted defensive end Chase Farris for the job. Meyer also said Pat Elflein is in the mix for the lone open spot on the line, although that would mean moving one of the four returning starters to right tackle.
Meyer made it clear he’s not happy the position is still so unsettled.
“That’s real bothersome to me. That’s real bothersome to our coaches, too,” he said.
“Decker is the one breaking the huddle with the ones, and he certainly has the ability to be our right tackle. But the offensive line kind of set a nice little standard last year. I thought we were the best offensive line in the Big Ten. … We’re not right now.”
OHIO STATE SPRING GAME
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network (7 p.m. tape delay)/none
Tickets: Available at stadium between Gates B and C