With or without Noah Spence, the Ohio State defense is going to have its work cut out for it against the Clemson Tigers’ attack. Spence is growing into a phenomenal pass-rusher, but the key to the Buckeyes stopping Clemson is the pass coverage, not just the pass rush.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that Spence, the Buckeyes’ leading sack and tackle-for-loss player, did not make the team flight to Miami, as he dealt with personal issues. Jamal Marcus, a sophomore who has seen quality playing time behind Spence, will likely fill in should Spence not make it to Florida to participate in the Orange Bowl.
Marcus, according to 247 Sports, was a 4-star recruit when he came out of Hillside High School in Durham, NC. The backup Leo, a hybrid linebacker-defensive end player, is long on talent and should be sound in Spence’s stead.
However, with Spence or with Marcus, the Buckeyes have to improve upon something that has been a bugaboo for the team all season long: defending the short and intermediate zones in pass coverage. Stopping Clemson takes a combination of disrupting timing through press coverage on the wide receivers and pattern matching to discourage quarterback Tajh Boyd from making the quick, easy throw.
Neither of those aspects have been a strong suit for the Buckeyes defense in 2013.
Getting pressure on Boyd is key; in the two losses this season, the Tigers have surrendered nine sacks. However, all sacks are not created equal, and in sacking Boyd, both Florida State…