As we kick off the 2014 college football season, Noah Spence has been a very popular name among BIG 10 football viewers. He is a true junior and stands at about 6'3" and weighs 252 pounds, and is coming off a first-team all-Big Ten Conference season. Spence ranks second among current Buckeyes with 15.5 career tackles for loss and obtained 9 sacks last year. Spence was one of a group of very talented players who nearly led Ohio State to a Big 10 championship. Lets take a look at his game and see what he has done well, as well as what he has struggled with so far.
2013 Season: Spence started 13 games for the Buckeyes at the defensive end position referred to as the "viper" by Ohio State coaches. He recorded 52 tackles on the season with two pass break-ups, four QB hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, he also tied a career-best with six tackles vs. California.
The Good: Spence brings great athleticism to the table and has impressive speed and explosiveness for a guy that weighs about 250 pounds. He also has a great first step, as soon as the ball is snapped he will immediately burst on to the line of scrimmage and deliver powerful hits when engaging the ball carrier. Spence also can help contain the run and chase down some of the mobile quarterbacks that usually give defensive linemen fits. I also like his versatility, his skill set can allow him to evolve into an outside linebacker or an edge rusher in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
The Bad: Spence can best hone his game by locating the football better, from the film I saw there were a few instances where he failed to locate the ball and was solely focused on making a tackle. During the 2013 season, I've seen play callers fool him with screens and play fakes a little too often for my liking. Spence will also need to develop a wider array of moves as he matures his games to become a better NFL prospect. As a speed rusher, it is critical to use your hands, dip your shoulders, develop a spin move, or something that can be a formidable weapon against an offensive tackle in pass rushing situations.
Projection: Spence is a likely second round selection if he becomes draft eligible next spring. He will test very well in the combine, I see his 40 time, cone drill, as well as vertical jump being substantially better than many combine participants at defensive end. He can find his way into the first round by becoming a little bit more of a factor in stopping the run, or by showing some range if used in zone pass coverage. As an overall NFL prospect I'd grade him as an 82, which provides him room to really boost his draft stock this season.
Noah Spence is one of many college football players I will be breaking down on a regular bases to better prepare college football fans for next years draft process. I will most likely be breaking down defensive ends, quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and linebackers.