Heading into Senior Bowl week, perhaps no player had more of a chip on their shoulder than Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence. Upon taking the field on Tuesday afternoon for the first South Team practice, Spence made sure everyone in attendance at Fairhope High School knew he meant business. This week is truly a shot at redemption for the EKU product and he knows it.
“It’s definitely a blessing and a great opportunity [to be here],” said Spence.
As a once sure-fire first round prospect, Spence’s NFL future became uncertain after failing multiple drug tests at Ohio State. This led to his eventual indefinite suspension from the Buckeyes, in which he put together a dominant 2013 season that had him earning All-Big Ten honors after leading the team with eight sacks. But that suspension is what set Spence on the right path.
“I made a couple mistakes,” Spence said, “Young, dumb, immature mistakes but it was never part of my full-on character. It’s not the person I am and what I’m trying to portray now. Watching my team win the National Championship and me not being able to be there, that was the huge turning point.”
Soon after Spence found himself in the next stop on his road to recovery, joining the Eastern Kentucky football program in 2015 thanks to a recommendation by his former Ohio State coach, Urban Meyer. At EKU, Spence proved himself on and off the field and was a co-winner of the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year award after posting 63 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“As soon as the season started and I started to see NFL coaches coming to practice I was like wait a minute, I think this still can happen,” Spence said. “It felt good. I had a fear of failing and putting myself in that situation again and disappointing everybody. That was the biggest fear.”
Now in front of a much larger crowd of NFL coaches and scouts, Spence continued to show why he belongs and the passion he plays with. Spence’s first action of the week started with special teams drills followed by a group installation walkthrough that was overseen by Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and newly appointed defensive coordinator Todd Wash. The coaching staff put Spence at both the right and left end positions in their base 4-3 defense after the Colonel product weighed in at 6-foot-2, 254 pounds earlier in the day.
But it was the one-on-one drills later in practice that had his potential suitors take notice. Spence’s first opponent of the day was Arkansas guard Sebastian Tretola. While Tretola won the rep after pushing Spence down to the turf, the fiery EKU star let Tretola know he’ll get him the next time around and kept going at him until after the whistle blew. Georgia offensive tackle John Theus received the same treatment against Spence next, as the relentless pass rusher refused to let up after the rep finished.
After an 11-on-11 session in which the offense fumbled four snaps and on three consecutive plays, it was back to one-on-ones for Spence and his high motor that allowed him to shine at the end of practice. On two plays in a row, he beat Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark to the inside using swim and rip move combinations. On the second rep against the Red Raider offensive tackle, Spence got home so fast that he knocked down the stand in assistant coach posing as the quarterback target.
“I like to have a big motor all game,” Spence said. “I like to be able to pop out on the screen. If everybody starts running, I want to keep on running during the game and at least try to chase down the quarterback or chase down the running back. Sometimes you make the plays and sometimes you don’t but it looks better [when you give it your all].”
At his current size, Spence may be more suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense but he thinks he would have success putting his hand on the ground in a 4-3 scheme if he gains ten pounds. Spence’s best attribute when putting his hand in the dirt is his quickness, which allows him to beat slower offensive tackles around the edge, but he will need to gain more strength to balance his game.
“I played a Viper position at Ohio State, which is like an end and linebacker combination, and at EKU I played more of a traditional defensive end position,” Spence said. “Right now I really like Justin Houston’s game. I like to compare myself to him and watch a lot of his film and try to model my game after him.”
The Buccaneers need all the help they can find at getting to the quarterback and causing disruption, and if the team thinks Spence can become anywhere near as productive a pass rusher as Houston, he will have to be on their radar in April. A player that can manufacture a consistent pass rush is a fit in any defense and that’s what Spence hopes to bring to Tampa Bay if they call his name.
“[My specialty is] pass rush,” Spence said. “I’ll be able to set the edge for them and provide a limitless effort.”
PewterReport.com’s 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl coverage is sponsored by Gerber Collision & Glass.
Why are we even discussing him? He’s way too small; maybe okay for 3-4. Pertaining to the Buc need at DE, I wouldn’t draft anybody that size until maybe the 6th round.
Dude is a beast. Since Mike Smith is going to run a more hybrid D, I would hope that he would be considered.
Yeah G forbid we get a Justin Houston type pass rusher. Smh.
The great Lee Roy Selmon was always listed at 260 but in reality he played at under 250. Probably the same with Simeon Rice. What’s that saying about the size of the fight vs the size of the dog? One can’t look just at the height, weight and speed. Not that simple.
I think if Tampa could some how get him in Td-2 od Trade back into Rd-1 One he would be a very good Impack for Tampa Bay.Go Bucs
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