July 6, 2013

The Replacements: Johnathan Hankins

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The start of fall camp is nearly a month away, but the Ohio State football team is already focused on putting together its second consecutive undefeated season. To do that, however, the Buckeyes will be forced to replace some key contributors to their 2012 squad that accumulated a perfect 12-0 record.



In the coming weeks, we'll take a look at the voids that OSU will try to fill, and the candidates who will attempt to do so. Today, we continue with the Buckeyes' defensive tackle position.



What they're replacing


The Buckeyes' man in the middle for each of their past two seasons, Johnathan Hankins was a rare space eater and playmaker, who went on to become a second round selection by the New York Giants in last April's draft. The 6-foot-3, 322-pounder put together a productive junior season in 2012, posting totals of 55 tackles and one sack.



It'll be tough for the OSU coaching staff to replace the presence of Hankins, an All-Big Ten selection in each of the past two seasons. On a unit that will have four new starters in 2013, the void left by Hankins might be the most noticeable in this upcoming year.



The frontrunner


After being hampered by injuries in 2012, junior Michael Bennett emerged this spring as the odds-on-favorite to be the Buckeyes' starting defensive tackle. At 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, Bennett is hardly the physical presence that Hankins was in the OSU lineup, but he makes up for his size with quickness and athleticism.



Having also played defensive end during his time with the Buckeyes, Bennett is a versatile player who could really line up anywhere on the defensive line that the Ohio State coaching staff needs him to. In 21 games in two seasons, the Centerville, Ohio native has recorded 28 tackles and four sacks.



The X-factor

While he certainly possesses the size that made Hankins such an intimidating force -- and then some -- former offensive lineman Chris Carter came on strong at the end of spring practice, and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel hinted that the Cleveland, Ohio native could crack his unit's rotation with a similar showing this fall. At 6-foot-4 and 341 pounds, Carter is better suited to play nose tackle for the Buckeyes, but his size certainly makes him an intriguing candidate to replace Hankins.



Entering his redshirt sophomore season, Carter is really yet to have made any sort of significant impact for the Buckeyes. In 2012, he played in all 12 of OSU's games, but his playing time came primarily on the Buckeyes' special teams units.



Other candidates:
Tommy Schutt, Tracy Sprinkle, Donovan Munger, Billy Price.







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