The Ohio State defensive line should be one of the most talented in the country this year. One of the keys for them was the return of Michael Bennett, their impressive nose guard. Bennett considered going into the NFL Draft but ultimately decided to come back for his senior year.
The Buckeyes have used Bennett much the same way they used Johnathan Hankins when he was there. For the most part, they played nose in a four or three man front, but both played snaps lined up at defensive end. Physically, Bennett and Hankins are substantially difference starting with a difference in weight by about 50lbs, but both were able to make a huge impact on games for the Buckeyes and in many ways, set the table for everyone else.
Bennett is a little undersized for the nose guard spot in the NFL, but brings a tremendous amount of strength. His acceleration is impressive, allowing him to make him some plays in the backfield with quickness, especially when it comes to rushing the passer. Bennett has shown he can not only be a facilitator to create plays for his teammates but has the ability to make his own as well.
The decision to return to Columbus appears to have been a prudent one as he can continue to develop physically, but he specifically needs to avoid going where the opponent is leading him and if he can, improve his first step. Additional athleticism working laterally, especially when it comes to short area quickness could allow him to have a big uptick in the amount of splash plays he makes. If he can work to improve some or all of those areas, it could mean about two rounds difference in his overall draft stock.
Vitals & Build
Date of Birth is not listed
- 6’2” 288lbs (Listed)
Bennett is built like a bear and he looks bigger than his listed weight, but his lack of overall length is noticeable on the field. He has an impressive amount of strength and is able to generate power quickly. Bennett will show flashes of impressive acceleration and burst going forward, but looks far more ordinary when it comes to working laterally. He shows impressive agility at times, but has trouble when it comes to adjusting to a ball carrier in a short area.
Bennett does not carry much excess baggage in terms of weight, which is why he is still as small as he is despite the position he plays. The combination of Ohio State and Bennett have not rushed the issue with his weight, opting to keep him trimmer, while he has still been able to do the job effective. More weight would probably help in terms of eliminating some of the times where he will get pushed back and he will obviously want to get over 300lbs before entering the NFL, which could happen as early as this coming season.
Bennett has a good motor and only seems to occasionally wear down, allowing to contribute a lot of snaps at a high level. Bennett does have a decent amount of room to put on additional weight going forward, but his physical potential is not as high as some. Nevertheless, he has the room to get big enough to be effective in the NFL while still maintaining his athletic ability.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Bennett reacts to the snap effectively and gets off the ball on time consistently. His first step is decent, but it could improve. Bennett is aggressive in that he is almost always attacking forward off of the snap and looking to make opponents react to him. He attacks, diagnoses and then reacts to what the opponents is doing.
When Bennett comes off the snap, his first step is relatively ordinary. He is good about getting up the field, but it is not overwhelming in how quick it is. In terms of pad level, he could stand to be lower at times but he does a good job of playing behind his hands and generating power that tends to mitigate the issue. If he can get a little quicker off of the ball, it will make it more difficult for opponents to react to him. Nothing he does is problematic per se, but it is an area where if he can improve, he can make it one more thing he does at a high level that allows him to win matchups.
Bennett, to this point, wins with power. He has a great deal of strength and brings heavy hands that allow him to get rid of blockers at times. When he is engaged in a block, he is usually leading with his hands and able to work the opponent until he can use his hands, grab them and throw them out of the way at least enough where he can work into the gap.
The times where he tries to win with quickness or use his swim move rushing the passer and the opponent gets into his body, he ends up getting stoned. Occasionally, he can spin out of blocks but for the most part, when he wins on his quickness, he is using that move to avoid the block rather than to get away from the block.
Bennett can be an overpowering force that does not make a ton of tackles, but creates the plays that allow them to happen. He is a consistent presence that is constantly impacting plays and rarely gets caught out of position. His lack of bulk has been an issue at times, but for the most part, he has been extremely effective and reliable. Bennett also brings a high level of effort and chases plays that get past him, occasionally being able to track them down. This year should allow him to eliminate some of the minor issues and just make more plays.
The times where Bennett fires off with low pad level and maintains leverage, he can hold up against the double team, stop them from moving and enable teammates to stuff plays near or behind the line of scrimmage. There are also examples where Bennett is able to collapse the pocket and force opposing ball carriers to change their course to get around the lineman he is pushing into the backfield.
- Bennett keeps a low pad level, has good body position, plays behind his hands and is able to stone the double team as a result. The opposing ball carrier to try to go around him and gives his teammates the path to come stop the for almost no gain. It is difficult to do it much better.
- This is a situation that could make NFL teams nervous. His pad level drifts up slightly but when facing an offensive line with players closer to what NFL linemen will be and his lack of weight proves problematic and he is simply shoved out of the way, enabling a productive run.
The times Bennett will have trouble come down to a few things. Occasionally, he loses track of the ball and will end up going the wrong way, but this is usually when he is playing on the outside. Bennett will occasionally take the easy way out both in working down the line and chasing the ball and go the exact way the opposing blocker wants, which makes it so Bennett takes himself out of the play in the process.
There are also situations where Bennett has plays he can make and needs to improve at finishing. He has some trouble when it comes to range and securing plays working down the line or missing some tackles he should probably make that go right next to him. The result is he will tend to dive at the ball carrier as they run away from him. Some of his is a length issue but if he can get a little more fluid, he can make a few more of these plays and make a few more impact plays each game.
Overall, he was great for the Buckeyes and really set the tone for their run defense over the course of the year, often being the reason plays happened while not getting much publicity or credit. Further consistency and added strength should only allow him to become even better and eliminate the times when he can get overpowered at the point of attack.
Bennett is not an ideal pass rusher, but he can have a far bigger impact than some might expect from a nose guard. Part of what makes Bennett able to be effective is his quickness combined with the fact that he loves to attack opponents with power. Opponents get so accustomed to bracing for Bennett’s bull rush that when he does use quickness, his acceleration and his swim move can get him into the backfield before the opponent has a clue. And because he is able to generate speed, teams still tend to play dedicate more blockers to him, creating favorable matchups for his teammates.
- Here is an example how much of a problem Bennett can create for the opponent. Bennett scares the interior of the Penn State enough that both guards stay in to help out the center, giving the edge rushers one on one matchups on the outside. Noah Spence capitalizes by getting the sack and while he finished the play, Bennett set him up for it.
Bennett can surprise both opposing blockers as well as quarterbacks with how quickly he can accelerate and just how fast his top speed can be. He seems to get almost a sack a game just on the pattern he creates for opponents and surprising opponents with his speed.
- This is a great look at how Bennett can use quickness. He attacks at the opponent just selling power enough to where he then steps outside, slides past the blocker and is right on the quarterback, securing the sack.
Bennett is most effective inside, but Ohio State will use him as an end in even and odd fronts at times. Like so many interior defensive linemen, there are a number of examples where Bennett wants to show he can be an edge rusher, using speed to get up the field. While it can show off his quickness at times, it really does not have much of an impact. He struggles to turn the corner and bend around the edge.
Bennett is far better when he can use power and then work to speed or when they have him sell power before stunting outside. In those situations, he can be fluid enough where it works out in his favor and he can get to the passer from his blindside.
In third and long, Bennett is unlikely to be a player that is one of the best pass rushers an NFL team can put out there, but he is a viable enough threat as a pass rusher where he can help a team when they pass with him out there on the field. The combination of an effective bull rush while using quickness and a swim move allows him to help a team in those situations and if he can develop an effective counter move, he could continue to improve.
The clips were provided by DraftBreakdown.com