Career Recap: Despite a lot of talented competition, Spence earned some playing time as a true freshman for Ohio State. As a backup, he totaled 12 tackles with a sack.
Spence made a big jump in his play in 2013 after winning a spot as a starting defensive end. For the year, the sophomore collected 52 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, one forced fumble and two passes broken up. He was a Second-Team All-Big Ten pick by the conference's coaches. However to end the season, Spence was suspended for three games, including the Orange Bowl against Clemson as he reportedly violated a conference rule. Thus, Spence will be out the first two games of the 2014 season.
2014 Season Outlook: Even though Spence will miss the games against Navy and Virginia Tech, he should have a big season for the Buckeyes. One of the reasons is it will be hard for teams to key on Spence. Ohio State has a lot of defensive line talent with other good pass-rushers like tackle Michael Bennett and defensive end Joey Bosa. Bosa could end up being a higher-rated prospect than Spence when he comes out in 2016 or 2017, so offenses will have a tough choice on which player or players to double-team.
Spence also has a rather easy schedule, too. He doesn't matchup against the elite left tackles in college football. Against Michigan State, Spence will take on a young up-and-coming left tackle in Spartans sophomore Jack Conklin. Another talented tackle who Spence will take on is Penn State's Donovan Smith. Both the Spartans and Nittany Lions have talented quarterbacks who could hurt the Buckeyes' secondary. Michigan State's Connor Cook did last year in the Big Ten championship game, while Penn State's Christian Hackenberg could become one of the best quarterbacks in college football this fall. Ohio State will need Spence to get after those signal-callers.
Skill-Set Summary: The passing-driven NFL is always looking for edge rushers capable of pressuring the quarterback. Thus, Spence has a lot of qualities that will make him in demand as a draft prospect.
Spence has speed off the edge and presents mismatch problems for offensive tackles. He has a good burst off the snap and the athleticism to work his way around blockers. Spence could use more refinement, but he has raw speed and athletic ability to rush the quarterback.
While Spence is undersized, he has some natural strength to him. He should get bigger and stronger, but in college, he has demonstrated some ability to scrap with blockers and hold his ground.
At his current size, Spence is going to need to gain weight if he's going to remain at defensive end in the NFL. However as a true junior, Spence has plenty of time to grow into his body, so he could end up staying as a 4-3 defensive end. Spence also could be a good candidate to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. That would be a natural fit for his quickness and athleticism on the edge.
2015 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2014 season, Spence has the potential to be an early-round pick. He could be a first-rounder with a big year, but still could easily be a second-day pick without one.