Eastern Kentucky may be an FCS football program, but defensive end Noah Spence is no second-tier pass rusher. Spence is one of the best defensive linemen Kentucky will see all season; equally as good as, if not better than, Florida’s Jonathan Bullard, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Mississippi State’s Chris Jones and Auburn’s Carl Lawson and Montravious Adams. There isn’t a team in the Southeastern Conference that wouldn’t take Spence today, and start him tomorrow.
So why is he in Richmond?
Short answer: Ecstasy.
Spence openly admits he had an addiction to the psychoactive drug while at Ohio State, where he started 13 games at defensive end in 2013, before he was suspended for a failed drug test prior to the Orange Bowl. Spence argued he unknowingly took the drug in a drink, and threatened to sue the Big Ten. But after failing a second drug test weeks before the 2014 season, Spence’s addiction came to light and he was dismissed from the team. He admitted to taking it after every game during the season, and every Friday and Saturday during the offseason.
At the time of his dismissal, Spence was considered Ohio State’s top NFL prospect, ranked ahead of Michael Bennett, Braxton Miller and Devin Smith, a second-round pick last May. He was a first team All-Big Ten selection and finished second in the conference in sacks and sixth in tackles for a loss, playing as a true sophomore for the Buckeyes.
Prior to Ohio State, Spence was a five-star recruit, the top-ranked defensive end in the 2012 class and the fourth-ranked player overall. He turned down Alabama, LSU, USC, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Notre Dame — you name it, he had a scholarship offer.
Now he’s playing for lowly Eastern Kentucky and dominating the competition. He has a sack in each of the Colonels’ first three games and he leads the team with five tackles for a loss.
Tomorrow, he will give Kentucky’s banged up offensive line all it can handle for four quarters. UK shouldn’t have a problem getting the win, but it will have a huge problem containing Spence and protecting the quarterback.