Former Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence has transferred to FCS-school Eastern Kentucky, his father, Greg Spence told SI.com on Monday.
The junior defensive end’s transfer comes less than two months after he was declared permanently ineligible by the Big Ten after a second failed drug test. Spence explored entering the NFL draft, where he’d once been projected as a top prospect. But Greg Spence said the feedback he received showed that he’d have been drafted between the third round and the fifth round.
“Everyone pretty much agreed that the talent is there,” Greg Spence said. “Another year of growth and maturity will only help him in terms of having a sustained career at the next level.”
The 6-3, 252-pound younger Spence was suspended for last year's Orange Bowl and the first two games of this past season for his first positive drug test for ecstasy. He was supposed to be back on the field for the Buckeyes’ 66-0 win on Sept. 13 against Kent State, but he didn’t play a down this past season after a second positive test and having his appeal by the Big Ten denied in late November.
When asked if his son is attending drug rehab, Greg Spence said: “He continues to be open and receptive to both professional and non-professional guidance in that area of concern.”
There had been speculation that Spence would enter this year’s NFL draft. Last season, he was a first-team, all-Big Ten selection by the coaches after finishing second in the league in sacks (8) and sixth in tackles-for-loss (14.5). Spence was considered the top NFL prospect on the Buckeyes defensive line.
Spence came to Ohio State from Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pa., as one of the country’s top defensive recruits. Rivals.com ranked him as the top defensive end at his position and the No. 9 overall recruit in the country.
Greg Spence said that his son stayed in football shape this fall by working out at a gym in Columbus with a private trainer. “He has stayed in football shape,” Greg Spence said. “He's bigger and stronger and quicker than ever. His body has filled out, which we've been waiting for. Weight and strength will no longer be a concern."
One of the connections to Eastern Kentucky comes from Colonels coach Dean Hood’s close tie to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The two grew up together in Ohio and remain close friends.
Greg Spence thanked Ohio State's staff and athletic director Gene Smith for their support for his son. Noah Spence leaves Ohio State with a grade-point average of 3.0 and is on track to graduate from Eastern Kentucky in December.
“Eastern Kentucky has a coaching staff that's very similar to Ohio State and is a family atmosphere,” Greg Spence said. “They want to continue to develop Noah as whole person.”