BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
Very few NFL teams feature a strictly 3-4 or 4-3 base defense, as most employ a multi-front scheme where players are able to line up in different spots and show the offense a variety of looks.
Having players with the versatility to function in multiple spots, and in a variety of roles, is extremely valuable in being able to move players around and show different looks on defense. That versatility is what an NFL defense could get from Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
After seeing action in every OSU game as a true freshman, and eight games as a sophomore after missing the first four games of the season with a groin injury, Bennett became a full-time starter for the Buckeyes in 2013. He had a breakout season as he compiled 42 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and forced three fumbles. Asked to anchor a defensive line that had no returning starters this past season, Bennett did so successfully as the Buckeyes led the Big Ten in sacks with 42 and held opponents to only 3.3 yards per carry when running the football.
Why You Should Watch Bennett in 2014
Bennett is an athletic interior penetrator that plays with good pad level and active hands. He is quick off the ball and plays with consistent effort.
Bennett is at his best as a pass-rusher, collapsing the pocket to provide pressure. He is a relentless rusher and utilizes his hands well to create separation from blockers and pursue the quarterback.
For guards that struggle to move laterally, Bennett will give them fits. He challenges their ability to mirror and if they have slow feet, Bennett is able to blow by them. Below you can see how aggressive Bennett is as a rusher. He displays great burst, active hand usage and takes intelligent rush angles to the quarterback.
Listed at 6’2” and 288 pounds by Ohio State’s official athletics website, Bennett plays every position along the defensive line for the Buckeyes. He is best suited as a 3-technique defensive tackle in even fronts or as a base defensive end in odd fronts, but he is versatile enough to play anywhere along the line, which increases his value as a prospect.
What Bennett Needs to Prove in 2014
Bennett needs to become more stout as a run-stopper at the point of attack. Bennett is moved out of gaps too easily and needs to develop more power to be able to anchor and hold his ground against the run. He especially struggles against double teams, as he is frequently blown off the ball in those situations.
Blockers are get his back turned to the line of scrimmage when drive blocking, which puts him in a position where his ability to come off the block and maintain his gap integrity, much less make a play, is diminished. Developing and displaying more strength will be vital for Bennett in his senior season.
Projecting Bennett’s Draft Stock
Bennett is part of an outstanding defensive line that also features standouts Noah Spence and Joey Bosa. This exciting group should dominate in 2014 and wreck havoc on opposing offenses. For Bennett, living up to those expectations and not having any drop-off from 2013 will be instrumental for the Buckeyes and his draft stock.
Given Bennett’s limitations as a consistent run defender, he projects as a solid rotational player in the NFL who has starter upside if and when he becomes more stout and develops power. Playing in a physical, run-heavy conference, Bennett will have plenty of opportunity to show improvements in that area.
Bennett’s ability to win with technique, quickness and consistent effort makes him an interesting and exciting prospect to monitor during the 2014 season.