Tommy Schutt was supposed to be a big name by now. He isn't, and that drives him. Schutt signed with the Buckeyes in 2012 along with Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se'Von Pittman. They were expected to form a dominating defensive line as the cornerstone of coach Urban Meyer's first Ohio State recruiting class.

Tommy Schutt was supposed to be a big name by now. He isn't, and that drives him.

Schutt signed with the Buckeyes in 2012 along with Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se'Von Pittman. They were expected to form a dominating defensive line as the cornerstone of coach Urban Meyer's first Ohio State recruiting class.

But Pittman washed out early and landed at Akron. Spence was permanently banned last year by the Big Ten for substance-abuse violations and transferred to Eastern Kentucky.

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Only Washington has lived up to his billing, and it was a journey for him his first three years - from defensive end to three-technique tackle to nose guard. With Michael Bennett off to the NFL, Washington will move back to tackle this year. The Buckeyes hope that Schutt will - finally - fill the void at nose guard.

He had only 10 tackles last season as he fought injuries, which have been the only constant in his Ohio State career.

"Some foot stuff, some ankle stuff," he said.

Now he is healthy and determined.

"I think I've disappointed some people around here, including myself," Schutt said. "I took the offseason very seriously and tried to get myself the most prepared I can to make the biggest impact I can."

That included dropping from 300 pounds to 285-290, which he believes will make him quicker and give him more endurance.

"He has had a good spring, his best spring since he's been here," Meyer said. "He has done a very nice job. As of right now, he and Adolphus would be starting inside - as of now. I'm not ready to say he's the guy yet."

Meyer said that Joel Hale, back on defense after switching to the offensive line in 2014, was pushing Schutt until suffering a torn calf muscle. Hale will be out four to five weeks, Meyer said.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson said he believes Schutt can be stout against the run - job requirement No. 1 for a nose guard - and still contribute as a pass-rusher. He said that Schutt has the intelligence to understand the defense and how he fits in it from play to play - a must for that position.

Washington raved about Schutt's ability.

"Off the charts," he said. "Tommy can be as good as anybody in the country. I think he's going to be that this year because he knows he needs to step up and play that role, and I think he'll be ready."

Johnson wants to have a rotation of eight to 10 linemen. That way, the starters don't have to pace themselves or risk being tired in the fourth quarter. The failure of backups to develop has been a lament of Meyer's for two seasons. It was one of the few disappointments of last year's championship season, and Schutt knows he had only a minor role in the success.

"I always put my team's success before mine," he said. "I've always been a team guy. But it's obviously frustrating for me and the coaches that I haven't played at the level they want and I want."

Now, it's his final chance.

"It's crazy to think this is my last go-round," Schutt said. "You do want to spill everything you've got."

The Buckeyes are counting on it.

"We look for great things from Tommy this year," Johnson said.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch