Ohio State v. Indiana: Defensive Review

By Ross Fulton on October 18, 2012 at 2:00p

The Ohio State defensive breakdowns at Indiana were the latest iteration of the issues that have plagued the Buckeyes all year. What is at times a solid performance is overwhelmed by allowing 20+ yard plays, third down conversions, and poor team pursuit angles. The Buckeye defense continues to suffer from personnel shortcomings up the middle.

One possible explanation is that Ohio State is having difficulties implementing the defensive scheme that OSU wants to run. Some growing pains were expected on the offensive side of the football. But those issues have been minimized by Braxton Miller's talents as a runner. The growing pains are instead being witnessed on defense. At this point, it is difficult to see the systematic problems as isolated incidents. Ohio State has committed to the style they want to play and must stick with it to get their players comfortable executing it. In the meantime, the Buckeyes must build on the positive segments of play they are having, and rely upon their defensive line to control the action. 


I believe there are three interrelated issues that are compounding defensive difficulties. They all relate to the cover-4 scheme that Ohio State has implemented this year. 

  • The play calling is not adjusting to how offenses want to attack cover 4.
  • The players are not comfortable within the scheme.
  • Certain players do not have the skill set to play within the scheme.

I address each of those issues in turn below.

The Definition of Insanity...

Indiana presented Ohio State with the same basic spread framework teams have used against Ohio State throughout the year: trips to the field.

This takes Ohio State's best corner, Bradley Roby, out of the mix, and instead forces OSU's Orhian Johnson and linebackers into coverage. Indiana then repeatedly ran a simple cover-4 beater: double slants with a swing route.

Ohio State never stopped the play the entire game. Then you add poor angles and the result is Indiana's last-minute fireworks.

This is a nice pass combination against cover 4. The safety must take the No. 2 receiver on the first slant. The play side linebacker is responsible for No. 3, so he must race to cover the running back in the flat. That leaves the corner stuck covering No. 1, breaking inside when his pre-alignment responsibility is to maintain outside leverage. That being said, this is not the first time this play has been run against cover 4. But Ohio State never adjusted. Instead they continued to run the same scheme and somehow expected a different result. A coaching staff can do one of two things. You can make an adjustment call within cover 4, such as a 'Meg' call. Or you can simply mix and match coverages to keep opposing coaches and quarterbacks off-balance. Neither was done. 

Paralysis by Analysis

The schematic breakdowns are compounded by players who are playing with hesitancy and repeat lapses in filling assignments. Whether it is because of players switching to a new scheme or inexperienced back seven personnel, Buckeye defenders are not playing 'fast.' Below, the Buckeyes run a corner blitz. Behind it, OSU plays a form of pattern matching coverage. Indiana crosses No. 2 and 3. Storm Klein hesitates, however, and begins to follow 2. By that point, Shane Wynn is well past him. This has to be a fluid transition. Add that to Ryan Shazier being in no-man's land and unable to provide support, and Wynn is off to the races. 

OSU's cover-4 application hiccups are also felt in the run game. All year we have discussed Ohio State's poor force support. I believe part of this issue is caused by the shift from a cover-3/single high-based scheme to cover 4. With cover 3, the wide field force player (in nickel) was the star, and the weak side force player is the boundary corner. Now, the safeties to each side must provide force support. The safeties read the No. 2 receiver. If he stays in to block they must come up in force and spill support. 

Whether this is causation or merely correlation, the Buckeye defense continues to use poor leverage technique to the edge. Here, Indiana uses the same principle that has worked well against the Buckeye run game—multiple receivers to the field, with their run strength to the boundary. OSU shades their safety to the trips, leaving no deep safety help in the box (although the deep safety may be out of position). Indiana runs a simple power play to the boundary. The first problem is that Michael Bennett gets single handedly turned and put on roller skates. Ryan Shazier comes up and correctly fills the hole. But then Ohio State's other back end defenders take odd routes. Bradley Roby's is perhaps excused because he is playing force to that side. But with no safety, Klein absolutely has to come across and fill the hole to spill the play. Yet he for some reason steps up away from the play, rendering him unable to come across the formation and clean up. 

Repeatedly, Ohio State defenders are wrong-footed or taking false steps. Regardless of athletic ability, defenders are not going to be effective when they are playing slow, not taking proper angles and failing to fill pursuit responsibilities.

The Personnel and the Personal

The inability to flexibly apply their cover-4 scheme is providing opportunities for opposing offenses. But those are generally of the five- to ten-yard variety. Every explosive play above—whether initially opened by scheme or not—is aided like gasoline on a fire by simply poor defensive fundamentals. For instance, in the first video clip above showing an IU touchdown, Ryan Shazier and Christian Bryant both overrun the football and then use poor tackling technique. On the gap run, as noted, Bennett loses his gap and Klein misreads his keys. The result is any schematic deficiency is exacerbated by poor execution.

The question is what is the cause. Some is the result of talent deficiencies at certain positions. In particular, Ohio State has an unsettled Mike and Star position, crucial aspects of the defense. Some of this is individuals who do not fit the system well, individuals who were brought in with a different framework and who were drilled in that philosophy. OSU's middle five (safeties, nickels, linebackers) in particular now have far different responsibilities. Notably, they must play far more 'man' coverage. Cover 4 asks a lot of the safeties—they must be prepared to come up in force support or defend No. 2 down the seam in man coverage—depending on their keys. This takes some different talents than playing a one-high defense. 

But this also cannot be the only explanation, because for the players that do have the athletic skills for this scheme they are repeatedly finding themselves out of position and/or overrunning plays, such as Shazier and Bryant above. Shazier in particular still gets lost in space and overruns plays. Nor does Ohio State's defensive line seem matched well with the back seven scheme. It is indisputable that the Buckeye's back seven would be assisted by a stronger pass rush. OSU's front four is stout against the run but does not have a natural pass rusher. The problem, however, is that if OSU brings in the freshman and sophomore defensive linemen to try to create a pass rush they leave themselves incredibly vulnerable against the run. That IU touchdown run does not happen if Johnathan Hankins is in the game at 3-technique.

The injury issue cannot be understated. A defense that was so thin in the back seven has been decimated by injuries. Not only in losing players such as Etienne Sabino and CJ Barnett, but also amongst those who can play. Shazier and Bryant were noticeably limping against Indiana. The upshot is that all these issues are colluding together to create serious defensive lapses.

Green Shoots 

Cover 4 pattern matching is perhaps the most popular trend in coverage schemes for a reason—it provides a nice mix of in-the-box run support, defense against four verticals, and aggressive man coverage without forcing your safeties to turn their backs to the quarterback. It is particularly effective against spread offenses. So perhaps these growing pains are a necessary evil. But the more insidious issue is that no coverage is perfect. Every team has 'coverage beaters' against every coverage, including cover 4. Coaching staffs must adjust when teams are exploiting your scheme. Luke Fickell is as new to a cover-4 based scheme as the players. Similar to asking an I formation coach to play call from the spread, perhaps Fickell is undergoing his own growing pains in learning how to adjust. Or perhaps the coaching staff is trying to keep things as simple as possible for struggling players. The upshot, though, is that the Buckeye defense is having breakdowns at all levels—theory, implementation, and execution.

The result is that it is unrealistic to expect these issues to be resolved in a game. The Ohio State coaching staff has determined the defensive style it wants to play. It must continue to work to steep its players within the cover-4 scheme until they can play 'fast' doing so. But it is going to continue to lead to growing pains—and those growing pains come in the form of giving up big plays.

Given the gloom and doom above, it is easy to forget that the OSU defense plays sustained periods of solid football. OSU forced six three and outs and forced Indiana to punt four consecutive series in the second quarter. The Buckeye defense is particularly effective when teams try to attack their experienced defensive line. So long as the OSU defensive line can control the game, the defense plays fairly well. But large scale breakdowns overwhelm these moments.

Ultimately this defense does not have the luxury of the Ohio State offense—when the chips are down, someone needs to step up and make a play. OSU dropped multiple interceptions that would have put the game away. Urban Meyer intimated this week that Noah Spence and Nathan Williams are too good to not play at the same time. This is a strategy I have advocated for a while. When you are this thin on defense, you have to find the way to get your best 11 playmakers on the field, regardless of position. Though Meyer discussed running a '3-4', this is semantics. OSU's 4-3 under looks like a 3-4 to begin with. Look for Williams to play at Sam linebacker at times with Spence at Leo. Ohio State has been most effective this year when their strength—the defensive front—controls the action. OSU must therefore get defenders out there who can do just that.     


Comments Show All Comments

Borrowed Time's picture

Ross, curious who is the one who decides OSU will be playing a cover 4 defense. Is that Meyer, Fickell, Withers, or someone else?
It just seems to me if we want to run a cover 4, we should have someone experienced with the cover 4 calling the defensive plays. Someone who is able to react to how the opponent is attacking the defense.

Ross Fulton's picture

To me, this is Meyer's decision.  He hired the staff, he brought in Withers to run the DBs, and this is what Withers has always done.  After the first few games he was clearly unhappy with a more passive style and wanted it turned up. 

As to how the staff was put together (including having Fickell as the DC) I still think this is the 64K question.  I do think it was not as cohesively put together as the offensive staff. 

d5k's picture

It did feel at the time that Fickell was being thrown a bone (by Gene Smith as much as Urban) for potentially harming his career through last year's turmoil.  That said, I have faith in each individual coach that they can get on the same page collectively.  The fact that you have a few different styles of cooks in the kitchen without a clear head chef (since Meyer focuses on the other 2 phases) probably has been partly to blame.

carence's picture

To be honest Ross, appreciate all you do but for the Defensive Review of Indiana, you could have simply stated "Crap" and that would have sufficed.

boojtastic's picture

Due respect, I can't disagree more. 
We've been treated to more or less a decade of solid defensive play out of the Buckeyes. A clearer understanding of why the current crap is crap will be essential to identifying a turn-around (God willing). Even for someone as clear and analytical as Ross, this write-up stands apart as perhaps the most instructive of the season.

QBYBuckeye's picture

This is a great article.  It really helped me understand some of the nuances of what I have been watching.  Thank you.
Apart from Xs and Os, there is necessarily a difference between a successful OFFENSIVE mentality and a DEFENSIVE mentality. 
When you have an offensive breakdown, you punt the ball, wait for the defense to give it back to you, and try again. 
When you have a defensive breakdown, it often results in 7 points for the opposition and you are playing catch up.

New York Buckeye

Ross Fulton's picture

Completely agree.

LouGroza's picture

We have been a very slow laterally reacting pass defense. It looks as though we are thinking too much, afraid to make a mistake or just do not have the ability which is hard for me to believe. Those short slants with receivers running across the field in front of the LBs and DBs only to find their way to a big play or td has to get fixed and I think it will.

Grayskullsession's picture

So this pretty much proves that it was not just the players fault but the coaches as well. Fickell and Withers refused to adjust the scheme and coverages which lead to IU exploiting the same coverage over and over. Stuff like this just makes me shake my head in disgust.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

d5k's picture

Our players are struggling to execute in the base concept so wrinkles and adjustments are difficult to implement.  Seems like they underestimated the growing pains they would have in the early season.  If they planned to go all-in with cover 4 they could've played it non-stop in the pre-conference rather than showing lots of different stuff on film.

Ross Fulton's picture

I do think there is some hesitation to add a lot of bells and whistles when you have continually different starters at linebacker and safety and guys are really struggling with what they are trying to do at a base level.

penult's picture

If they showed "lots of different stuff in the pre-conference" then why didn't they go to some of that different stuff as an adjustment? Or to mix it up at the very least.  It's a lot easier to call plays when you know exactly what the defense is going to do on every single play. 

Ross Fulton's picture

My complete speculation is that a little birdie from above inserted himself after UAB and told the defensive coaches what he wanted run...

yrro's picture

I am getting very disturbing reminders of Rich Rod and how his defenses always started the season in a 4-3 and ended in a 3-3-5.

d5k's picture

I tend to agree, although I don't think it is complete speculation since Urban called the defense passive after UAB and then the scheme has been different ever since.  But instead of bend but don't break now we break but don't bend in my opinion. 
Urban made the fair assumption that even if we suck at covering the intermediate routes we could make some tackles in the secondary.  So instead of allowing easy WR screens all day he wanted to play more aggressive cover 4 and make teams complete down the field throws.  But unfortunately they can do so, and for big plays due to the poor angles and perpetual wrong-footedness of the middle players.

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I don't think it "proves" that at all.  As was said, for every coverage and scheme there is a play that will beat it.  For all we know, 1. we are making changes but the players aren't executing, or 2. we are not making changes for fear of poor execution (walk before you run).  You can't deny the offensive brilliance of Wilson at IU, so its quite possible the we did not change so as to make them earn their points on sustained drives.  If I recall, it wasn't these coverage beaters that always kept the drives going as we dropped INTs, and had poor tackling angles and pursuit.  Essentially, players were either in position and failed to make a play, or players were out of position.  My opinion is that the defensive problems not lie on the coaches.  If I were a coach, why and how would I change the scheme and coverage when my players can't figure out the base defense to brgin with?  I attribute the poor defensive showings to growing pains of implementing a new system with players not built for the system, not able to grasp the system, or just generally young players tried by fire.

Read my entire screen name....

Ross Fulton's picture

Yes, my hope was to show that there are multiple problems and there is no silver bullet. Then it becomes a chicken and egg problem. Is the problem because of the play calls? Or is it because the players cannot execute things, which makes the coaches gun shy to make certain calls?

d5k's picture

Pun intended with "no silver bullet"?

Ross Fulton's picture

But yes, as I say--ultimately any shortcomings in the play calls would be minimized by sound execution, pursuit angles, and tackling.

O-H Kee Pa's picture

If there's one video that illustrates just how clueless we are at times, it's that video of IU's TD. What in the hell is Klein doing/thniking?

Ross Fulton's picture

Great question. I don't know what our linebackers are keying, but it repeatedly leaves me scratching my head...And no, I don't think that is what they are being taught.

Maestro's picture

I never thought I would miss Sabino so much.
Instead of Ryan Damn Shazier, I am now calling him Ryan Broken Dam Shazier - he spills outside of his intended area.

vacuuming sucks

jccavanaugh's picture

Forgive the n00b question, but whose decision was it to implement the cover-4 scheme, and why isn't that person calling the plays rather than someone like Fickell who doesn't know it?

Crimson's picture

This is what I've gathered from Ross: we started out playing either cover-3 or cover-4 to figure out what our players were best at, which is cover-3.  However, after UAB, maybe Meyer said to throw it out the window and run cover-4.  Since he's not a defensive coach, he's not calling those plays.  I would assume that Fickell and Withers are working together continuously to figure out the game plan, and while Fickell is calling the plays, Withers is also in his ear about what he is seeing and what should change to go with it.  Then again, who knows what adjustments are being made, because the defense is still absorbing how to run cover-4.

hodge's picture

I wonder how much of the problem is psychological, as well.  These guys know that they've been messing up, and I'm sure that--aside from being embarassing and humbling--it has to wear on their minds.  An instinctual position like Linebacker cannot thrive if the player is constantly fearing failure, same goes with corners and safeties.  If it is indeed a lack of confidence that's been clouding their play recognition/instincts, it's entirely plausable to understand why they've been over and under pursuing plays, leading to your aforementioned systemic breakdowns.
Hopefully, a sputtering offense like Purdue's will allow our Silver Bullets to play their most complete game of the season, empowering them and improving their self-confidence.

nickma71's picture

And SI called (rightfully so) Tressel bullheaded or was it stubborn in not changing up against Florida. Yep, insanity.

buckeyepastor's picture

Excellent summation and analysis.  QUite a perfect storm of injuries, inexperience, sloppy fundamentals, and changing roles we've had to go through.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Earle's picture

So, Ross, is your assessment that the staff has just decided to force-feed the cover 4 scheme to the defense and live with the inevitable big plays that are part of the learning experience, and that the inexperience of the coaching staff (read: Fickell) with the scheme is exacerbating the problem? 
Also, do you think we currently have the back 7 personnel to run this once they know it, or are we going to need a couple of good recruiting classes before it really takes hold?

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Crimson's picture

My only source is Ross, so maybe this helps.  They didn't play very well in cover-3 early on, so why not switch to cover-4, which is the future according to Meyer.  We don't really have a full set to play it, as the back middle needs to step up.  Shazier is fine but learning, and no uninjured players can fill the other two LB spots, or star, well from what we've seen.  The safeties might be fine, but they need more experience with the system (someone said something about one of the safeties not being a good fit).

NEWBrutus's picture

My goodness.  IU's left tackle absolutely blew up Michael Bennet on that run play.  Drove him 2 yards out of the play. 
My question:  Doran Grant perhaps has better cover skills than a Johnson or one of the other safeties, why not get him on the field in obvious pass situations where coverage skills are apparently needed? 
Other things are unfortunatly not curable when playing these spread teams.  Klein probably isn't the fastest guy anyhow, and now that he is thinking instead of playing, it makes him look even slower. 

Crimson's picture

I would love to see Grant playing the Nickel, but we aren't seeing it yet.  If we don't see it next week when Urban tells the defensive staff to make changes, then there must be something wrong with him in run support.  They could just put him in for long third downs, but I don't think Indiana lets other teams substitute betweens plays very much, just like us.

Doran Grant has vastly better cover skills than a Johnson or one of the other safeties

Ross Fulton's picture

The 'star' is really supposed to be a hybrid LB/S. Jermale Hines was the perfect fit. So its difficult to think a corner fits that better than any safety you have on the roster.

Crimson's picture

I understand that star and viper are hybrid positions.  However, I don't think player type should be the determinant here -- you recruit a "star" player to play star, but you put your best on the field regardless.  We have weak play, especially at LB and star (some safety as well).  This week, we are expecting for Nate Williams or Noah Spence to be playing LB while the other plays DE at times, because they are better players than the LBs we currently have (same goes for Simon).  However, we're having problems with star and nothing is done yet.  We don't have the problem that the star player is being run over, so maybe weighing a few less pounds isn't too bad.  However, Doran Grant can cover better and would have been a starter had Howard not surged back, and I think he's probably one of the best 11.  If he takes better angles, doesn't miss as many tackles, and covers better, then he should be playing.  If they put him in and it doesn't work out, that's fine.
The other benefit of this is that teams cannot run trips, with Roby left with no one to cover, as easily.  You still need someone to cover the third, but having Grant over a pure star player is definitely better here.

yrro's picture

The interesting part to me out of all of this mess is that OSU's cover-3 has been one of the best defenses in the country (yes, even against the spread - see Tress' last two bowl games) the last few years. I know cover-4 is the new hotness, but why mess with perfection?
Makes me really curious what the relationship is between Withers and Fickell in getting the defense coached up/making adjustments. They're working on this together - you'd think that if Withers knew cover-4 better he'd be in Fickell's ear after the first time they scored on that trips look.

Crimson's picture

Cover-3 has not been perfection either last year or early this year.  We're nothing special either way right now, so it's a good time to transition to cover-4.
As for making adjustments, they're still transitioning, and the players are not fluent with cover-4 yet.  Maybe they're not making them, or maybe they are, but the players are not carrying it out.

Ross Fulton's picture

I don't think that we gave up the big plays in cover 3. Nonetheless, you are right, we have not been good in either. In that case, it does indicate some serious personnel holes. To me, we have really struggled at Mike, FS (with Barnett being out) and Star all year.

bassplayer7770's picture

Obviously, Curtis Grant is struggling to pick up the Defense, but wouldn't you think somebody could play MIKE just as well as Storm Klein has so far?

Maestro's picture

Somebody, anybody, please.

vacuuming sucks

d5k's picture

I'll live with Nathan Williams getting burned in coverage a couple times if we get more pass rush from Spence.  I also would count on Williams to be disciplined more than Orhian Johnson / Pittsburgh Brown / freshman LB.

Buckeyenomad's picture

Another great analysis. I understand Urban's want to implement his defensive scheme but I am baffled as to why they haven't tried to use the strengths of the D to their advantage?  The two corners are good in man coverage and the D-line is stout against the run.  Shazier is greatly sideline to sideline and athletic enough to cover TEs in man coverage.  So my main question is why isn't this a press coverage man team? Especially now with Boren at the Mike the team appears to be built to stop the run with out a lot of additional support from the secondary.  The safeties could play a 'robber' type scheme with the short zone safety adding run support.  Is this not an implementable scheme?  Or is that it does not fit the cover 4 model?
Additionally I would really like to see more blitzes LBs.  Shazier is a great athelete and has shown he can get to the QB effectively.  There is also the much discussed move of pushing Nate Williams to LB and putting Spence in his place.  I think this would be a great idea for passing downs as it would create a serious pass rush, while allowing Shazier to cover the TE.  My question here is why they wouldn't move the smaller Spence to LB and leave Williams on the line? 

d5k's picture

It may not seem like it, but Nathan Williams is actually about the same size or smaller than Spence.

Ross Fulton's picture

Read my stuff I link on cover 4.  Cover 4 is essentially a man scheme! 'Press man' sounds great, but then you watch Ohrian Johnson do it above and its not as fun...

Plus, lets say you blitz more.  Ok, what linebackers are playing in coverage?  Did you see Storm Klein play man coverage?  This stuff is easy to say, but you have to think about all the ramifications. An opposing offense has 5 receivers. You therefore need five guys in coverage. Cover 4 requires those guys to do it and we see how it is turning out.

The point I am making is that this defensive group did much better last year playing a zone style where they could come up and make tackles. Now they are getting beat for big plays. Hence transition phase...

Buckeyenomad's picture

yep, I totally forgot about the misery that is Ohrian Johnson and Storm Klein in Man coverage... 

d5k's picture

I hate to say it, but what about dropping 8-9  more?  I.e. if they are doing 3 step drops you can drop some edge guys into throwing lanes instead of pointlessly rushing on the edge.  Not a base play but rather than blitz, not get home, and have storm klein 1 on 1 wrong-footed against a speedy slot wr or rb it could be a useful mix it up play call.

Ross Fulton's picture

In hindsight they were probably better off doing what they did earlier this season, at least against dink and dunk spread teams.


But I think at this point the die has been cast. They are going to do what the man upstairs wants...

d5k's picture

Seems like the timing of Michigan State's crappy simplistic offense made the decision look better than it was (given the personnel issues we have).

cal3713's picture

As frustrating as it is to watch, it's better to lose this year.  It gives our players in game experience which is much better than simply trying to learn the system next summer while trying to prep for a national championship run.

Maestro's picture

They lost?

vacuuming sucks

Jack Fu's picture

I think he was referring to the inevitable loss that will occur if the defense continues to give up 400 yards a game. But more broadly, the point was obviously that if there are going to be growing pains it's better to experience them in a year where the team can't go to a bowl game than in the future when they may have bigger things to play for. But you obviously know that and were being either sarcastic or obtuse.

Earle's picture

Obtastic, perhaps?  Sartuse?

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

45OH4IO's picture

The offense has been very successful with a (generally agreed upon) lack of playmakers outside of Braxton. From what I have heard, the success has come because Meyer modifies his system to put the personnel in a position where they naturally excel.
I am all for switching to a zone-heavy scheme if it hides the LBs and allows the line to get after the QB. Who are the playmakers on D? And what kind of scheme maximizes their abilities? Design a defense that maximizes the time the D line has to rush and makes the QB look towards Roby.
As Ross has already stated though, I feel like the Bucks are too deep into the season to do an overhaul that large...

cjkanski's picture

Thanks for another great breakdown Ross.  I look forward to it every week. 
Isn't there something in between or does cover-4 mandate that you give the outside receivers that 6-8 yd. cushion and backpedal on the snap?  I know I've been a broken record on this, but it's got to be the most frustrating thing for me to watch.  Most of the passes completed against the D seem to be within 8 yds.  These guys backpedal themselves right out of the play and make it hard to get back in position to tackle.

"I could *BLEEP* forever. *BLEEP until I drop" - The Count


Ross Fulton's picture

This is what I refer to with the 'Meg' call (Saban's term). Essentially, this alters the coverage so that the corner is basically manned up outside to take away these underneath throws.

Schematically, cover 4 is okay with giving up some of these underneath flats. But the goal is to come up and tackle. Remember in the days of spread horizontal passing can't stop them all.

PierogyJim's picture

Great work Ross, even though reliving those moments almost made me upchuck :(

LouGroza's picture

One thing I have noticed with Shazier and he did it on the big run at IU shown above. When he takes on a blocker in the hole as he did above he puts his head down at impact. It may be for just a fraction of a second but it is long enough to lose sight of the back. It is like he is in a blocking drill or something. As opposed to keeping his head up to see the runner while getting off the blocker. Have noticed him doing that several times this season.

johnny11's picture

Yah I really haven't seen a lber fill a hole properly all year. They approach like they do their tacking. Poor footwork and usage of hand moves to get off blocks also. They also don't know how to push the runner back into the defense or force outside. I just don't see much disruption of any plays really.

chitown buckeye's picture

Ross, any idea what Klein was thinking on the Houston run? Was there something there he was seeing or just simply a brain fart? It looked as if it was a half hearted blitz attempt? Thanks for the breakdown hopefully things begin to click on this side of the ball for everyone. (players and coaches)

"I'm having a heart attack!"

timdogdad's picture

hearing roby's comments about playing at purdue(bad crowd, field, we'll win no problem) shows we'll  benefit from basically being in big games the rest of the way-maybe except illinois.   we should have all the motivation we need on d the rest of the way.   even with injuries,  youth, scheme issues, i expect us to play at least as best as we can and not treat these games as a rec league game like vs uab.   

input4u's picture

I get having a Base "D" to hang your hat on, but seriously at this level can't you incorprate a few looks that throw off the other teams offense and not have just adjustments in cover 4.  these guys all should be smart enough to know thier assignments in at least 2 formations.  Cover 4 and Cover 3.  Just like the offense adapted to it's strengths, run a few defense looks in the non comference early games and go with what works the best.  Is thier to much pride in sticking with somehting that doesn't work well and gives up big plays?

yrro's picture

The defensive miscues at the beginning of the season were almost entirely the result of miscommunication from different responsibilities in cover 4 versus cover 3.

bucksk1n's picture

On the long TD run posted, I'm curious who had deep middle responsibility.  They had trips to one side but ran to the side with the tight end.  It looks like both safeties shifted to help the corner/star with the trips but Christian Bryant seems to be 15+ yards off the ball / well beyond the hash.  
Was Roby out of position on the play?  Roby immediately moved up immediately to the line  and not able to adjust to make a play.  As Klein did essentially the same thing on the other side when Shazier didn't make the tackle no one was deep and it was an easy 6.  
Or is this one of the risks with this cover scheme as they are trying to make sure they have better protection on the edges.  If that's the case then Klein's 'blitz' doesn't make any sense as he was essentially the deep help and just reinforces the notion that a freshman could take his spot and blindly attack the edge hoping the ball carrier runs into him.

bucknut24's picture

Reading all these posts are great and everyone is making good points and Ross's breakdown is great each week, but wow what a mess of a defense.  My buddy and I had talked several times before the season and that with our D-line and the recruiting class we were thinking the opposing QB's didn't stand a chance.  We were laughing at how may sacks we would have, that the QB wouldn't be able to get a pass off and if he did it would be picked off.  What a turn of events.
I am amazed at the struggles and have no clue if the D can actually contain an offense or if the Cover 4 is worth it.  I feel for the players and hopefully it will "click" for them soon and they can get their confidence back.

d5k's picture

I think Simon has been hurt all year. Nathan Williams and Bennett have been hurt a lot all year. Spence is going to get in more the rest of the season. Unfortunately it hasn't gone as scripted but we are 7-0 and have a chance to bandaid the d enough to go 12-0.

Ross Fulton's picture

I agree with this, esp about Simon. It's really too bad, because he can be a very disruptive force when healthy.

Tim's picture

Cover-4 in video games is about as conservative as you can get!  I don't get why it gives up so many big plays in real football!