By Matt Finkes on September 22, 2011 at 11:58a
Former OSU defensive coordinator Fred PagacPagac, now with the Vikings, was a master at
making adjustments on the field

Short-staffed might be the best description of the Ohio State Buckeyes so far this year. With seven would be starters (including those suspended and injured) out for the first two games of the season then four suspended starters and two starters injured for the Miami game, it has been known to all that the Buckeyes were fighting an uphill battle from a  personnel standpoint.

The difference Hall had alone in the first half against Miami was evident of what that experience factor can add to the equation. This is not an excuse but a fact. Every player who scored or created a turnover in the Miami game last year was either suspended, hurt or had graduated. These are the kind of issues that are flat out hard to overcome.

One thing people are not focusing on is how the Buckeyes are short-staffed in the coaching category as well. Don't take that the wrong way. The staff is still one of the best in the country, but, consider for a moment what was lost with the departure of head coach and de-facto quarterbacks coach Jim Tressel.

What the university hired was a new defensive-minded head coach and a linebacker coach. The difference in this I think was the most striking on Saturday. Coach Tressel left giant shoes to fill in both of his roles, and maybe even more so as the leader of the offensive staff. While the defensive group has remained intact with the addition of a coach who is well known to all there, the offense might be suffering from the loss of their lynch pin.

With crisis, comes opportunity, however, and a chance for a good coach to become great. In my experience, the best coaches I have played for aren't necessarily the ones who prepare the best, but the ones who are able to make the adjustments on the fly that make the difference in a game.

In 1995, we had a great team led by a talented defense. We were well-prepared and played a simple game plan of basic, sound football. As the season wore on, teams were steadily doing better and better against us culminating with Tim Biakabutuka's 312 yards in the regular season finale.

The following season, when Fred Pagac took over, we blitzed more, made in-game adjustments to coverages, fronts and blitz packages and were one of the most dominant defenses in the country.

The question here is whether Luke can do what he has done so many times in the recent past as the leader of the defense and make the mid-stream adjustments that are now necessary to get this team back on track and ready for the next big test.



Comments Show All Comments

baddogmaine's picture

I'm not sure that the defensive schemes have been wrong, except that failing to put a spy on Eric Page was madness. The overall problem has been execution - missed tackles and poor angles. The players need to fix that themselves.


While the outrage on offense has been directed at Fickell - and should be - the conversation needs to include Bollman as well. I will continue to argue that the way the QBs were used in the last two games was also madness, but the underlying issue is that a QB can only execute the game plan he is given; and it's been clear for a while that the Buckeyes lag behind most of their conference and other top-calibre teams in creativity. We rarely try to fool defenses, and rarely do. What Fickell does about this is not clear, he has to choose between difficult options. But at some point if the offense continues to struggle he needs to make clear that lack of experience is not the same as or an excuse for lack of an offensive identity that tries to make the best out of what we have. The head coach has a show down with his offensive coaches - in private, perhaps - and tells them to get it fixed or else. Heavy is the head that bears the crown.

Maestro's picture

Losing Tress and Hazell was a tremendous loss for the offense. To replace that with Drayton is completely unfair to Drayton and to the team. I understand that Fickell left a void on the defensive side of the ball, and I think that the addition of Vrabel was a win, but I really would have like to see them add another offensive coach instead.

vacuuming sucks

Bucks's picture

Love this. It seems so many people keep saying "so what, this is OSU!" When you look at all the things that have taken place and are being dealt with now, I'd hope it gives people pause to understand just how much is different right now. Changes will be made, people will emerge. Just takes time, which is hard for pretty much anyone to deal with.

zander999's picture

I'm glad to see someone in the know feels the same way about the real void left by Tressel and what a challenge it will be to fill it this season.  My fear is that Fickell will be overly blamed for something that was nearly inevitable.  The current offensive coaching staff is just not setup to work well without a head coach that is deeply integrated into the offense.  No blame, just the reality they face.  Bollman is a very capable O-Line coach as is evident in their strong showing so far; leading the offensive strategy (and adjusting it mid-game) just doesn't seem to be his calling.  Again, no blame.  I sincerely hope that people temper their expectations this year and see the opportunity to bring in a high profile QB coach/ co-offensive coordinator in the offseason.  The thought of having that along with our already great defensive coaching staff (including Fickell) is very exciting and will bring many W's.