Watching the defensive side of the ball during the jersey scrimmage, it was easy to tell who this year's impact players are going to be, and where most of the noise is going to come from on the field. The defensive line made the offensive line look silly on multiple occasions; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd stringers were all susceptible.
The LBs looked pretty good as well, especially against the run. Andrew Sweat at Will is a revelation. Given room to run and blitz, he is a whirling dervish of pain. Storm Klein and Ryan Shazier both had some notable stops. The secondary did get burned a few times, most notably Doran Grant on a 55 yard Bauserbomb to Devin Smith, but overall played well. With two weeks to go, it seems like barring any long term injury, the depth chart is mostly settled and the defense should be ready to go.
Overall expect this to be an Ohio State defense much like the ones you've become accustomed to over the past four or five years: One that is consistent, tough, sound at tackling, stays mostly in the Nickel, and is strong against the run. It's also a very young defense at certain positions, but with veteran leaders like Sweat, Johnson, and Williams (among others), I think this group could develop into one of the nation's best by the end of the year.
Here are some of my notes from this morning's scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball:
- Stewart Smith, a 2nd team DL, had a number of excellent plays, including a nice TFL on 4th down in the red zone
- Speaking of which, Ryan Shazier had a thundering hit on Boom Herron at the goal line to prevent a TD. This defense hits like a mack truck, and Shazier is no exception.
- As previously mentioned, Andrew Sweat seemed very comfortable at Will, and said after the scrimmage that he enjoyed working there quite a bit. He had 9 total tackles and 4 TFLs. Look for him to get a ton of action this year.
- Mike Vrabel gave some love to Nate Oliver, saying that he was "extremely proud" of him and the work he's put in. One thing that you can definitely expect from the defense this year is a lot of rotation, especially among the DBs, as the staff tries to find time for the talent they have.
- When asked about how Fickell has helped him as a coach, Vrabel mentioned that while he has a good grasp of the technical side of coaching, reaching college kids was something he had to pick up from his good friend.
- Lots of 4-3 in goal line situations, as would be expected. In 3rd and 4th and short running situations, the defense does an excellent job of collapsing the middle of the line very aggressively. The offense would later play against that tendency using some playaction, which worked fairly well. Braxton Miller's insane quickness also made the defense pay for over committing a few times.
- On the d-line: Nate Williams was somewhat limited in reps, but that may be to prevent him from killing someone. He's terrifying. Jon Hankins similarly looks like a beast out there. Both guys had sacks on dudes wearing black no contact jerseys, but who found themselves contacted anyway.
- Sweat summed up Hankins in one word: "Dominant." Not bad for a three star rated Sophomore DT.
- Freshman Michael Bennett was again working with the 1s, and had a nice sack later on.
- Bradley Roby is your 2nd starting cornerback; I think that competition is pretty much over. Roby isn't a big guy, but he's got speed and should have a lot of opportunities to prove himself if opposing offenses decide to stay away from Howard Island.
- Tyler Moeller was dressed, but didn't practice. Dave Biddle reported that Orhian Johnson said that he's been limited all of August, and didn't know the severity of his injury. Hopefully it isn't too bad.
- Fickell mentioned Christian Bryant specifically in his interview afterwards, saying that the coaching staff "expects big things" from him this year. Truthfully, Bryant seemed to get a little lost in the wash today. He's easily the smallest member of the defense, and needs to make sure that his positioning and angles are perfect or he'll get run over.