Thursday, October 9, 2003

OSU defensive line: The rush stops here


But Badgers could test nation's best run stoppers

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - Ohio State's defensive line distills football to its essence, a game of Red Rover. It dares anyone to break its chain.

Thus far, no one has. But the Buckeyes concede that a big reason they rank No. 1 nationally in rushing defense (43.4 yards per game) is because they have faced five predominately passing teams.

"I don't know that anyone's come after us with the run," coach Jim Tressel said, "like perhaps some teams will beginning Saturday."

That's when Wisconsin, which ranks ninth nationally in rushing (222.5 per game), gets a shot.

The Badgers will try to crack a front four considered perhaps tops in the nation. Three of four starters - Tim Anderson, Darrion Scott and Will Smith - returned from an OSU team that ranked third in rushing defense (77.5 per game) last season.

Smith was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last year; Anderson and Scott made the second team.

The new starter is budding star Simon Fraser, a junior defensive end. The Buckeyes also rotate in Marcus Green, Mike Kudla, Quinn Pitcock and Joel Penton.

"That's quite a group of defensive linemen," UW coach Barry Alvarez said. "It's a combination of size, athleticism, speed, explosion - the whole package."

Smith, a senior end with 20 tackles and a team-high 3 1/2 sacks, is considered the team's top pro prospect this season. The eight linemen in the rotation have 10 1/2 sacks total.

Scott, a senior tackle who missed the Northwestern game with an ankle injury, should return Saturday.

"We expect to be the best defensive front in the country," Anderson said. "To get to that level, you have to look at all the little things. You have to do everything right."

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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