Ohio State depth chart breakdown: Defensive front seven

After assessing the depth chart on the Ohio State offense following spring practice, we turn our attention to the defense.

There are far more questions on that side of the ball.

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While the hiring of new coaches Jim Knowles, Perry Eliano and Tim Walton to revamp the defense has gotten much of the ink since January, the quality of the unit will come down to how well the players play in the new 4-2-5 scheme.

Many familiar faces are back on defense, and many who have not played yet could get a shot to finally make a mark.

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Here’s how things look up front heading into the summer:

Defensive line

Starters: Zach Harrison and Javontae Jean-Baptiste (ends), Jerron Cage and Taron Vincent (tackles)

Next wave: Ty Hamilton, Tyleik Williams, Jack Sawyer, J.T. Tuimoloau, Mitchell Melton, Mike Hall, Jaden McKenzie, Noah Potter, Tyler Friday

Future: Caden Curry, Kenyatta Jackson, Hero Kanu, Omari Abor

We are going with the term “next wave” instead of backups because defensive line coach Larry Johnson wants to play many more than four players regularly, and history says he certainly will.

This is an interesting group because the four starters are all seniors who were highly-regarded recruits, and none has really lived up to the hype yet. What they do with their one last shot figures to have a lot to do with how good Ohio State ultimately ends up being.

Hamilton is a third-year sophomore from central Ohio who has been impressing the coaches since arriving on campus while Potter and Friday are fourth- and fifth-year players, respectively, coming off injury-plagued seasons.

Williams, Sawyer and Tuimoloau are all true sophomores who played some last year and showed flashes of brilliance, but they will need to step up to help the defense reach its potential.

Melton is still listed as a linebacker on the roster, but he was playing end in the spring game before going out with an injury.

Curry was a late addition to the 2022 recruiting class but made a big impression during spring. Jackson, Kanu and Abor are set to join the program this summer.

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Starters: Cody Simon, Steele Chambers

Backups: Tommy Eichenberg, Chip Trayanum, Teradja Mitchell

Also in the mix: Palaie Gaoteote, Reid Carrico

Future: C.J. Hicks, Gabe Powers

This may be the hardest position group to get a handle on at this point.

Chambers and Eichenberg were the first-teamers in the spring game, but Simon was out after having a shoulder issue fixed in the winter. When healthy, Simon and Chambers showed promise last season, but overall the group’s play was not good and saw multiple veterans exit in the middle of the season.

Chambers could be set to take off after having a full offseason to concentrate on linebacker, a position he did not take on full time until the preseason last year.

Mitchell is a senior who was voted a captain last season but had an up-and-down campaign.

Trayanum is a transfer from Arizona State, where he played running back, so knowing what to expect from him this year is tough to figure out.

Gaoteote transferred from USC last season, had a hard time staying healthy and may not fit well into the new scheme that calls for smaller, faster linebackers.

Carrico is a redshirt freshman from Ironton who was a four-star recruit while Hicks and Powers are both true freshmen with great recruiting pedigrees.

Hicks, who starred at Alter for the last four seasons, could eventually be a perfect fit in Knowles’ defense that will ask the defensive line to force the ball to the perimeter for linebackers to run down.

Gaoteote, Carrico and Powers could find themselves filling the SAM linebacker position in a 4-3 sub package used against power teams such as Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.

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