Self-Defense

By Kyle Rowland on October 16, 2012 at 10:00a
93 Comments

Every Sunday, the Ohio State defense gathers into a cushy room inside the cavernous Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Equipped with all the high-tech gadgets one could ask for, the defensive coaches are able to show players the previous day’s, weeks’ and years’ games from every conceivable angle. 

A concerned Urban Meyer will lend a hand to the defense.

The day after Ohio State surrendered its most points since 1994 – 49, in a 52-49 win over Indiana – when the current freshman on the Buckeyes were newborns, Meyer made an unannounced visit to the defensive meeting room.

“It was shocking,” cornerback Travis Howard said. “We had no idea (he was going to be there). Once we saw him, we knew it was a big deal.”

An offensive mind, Meyer rarely gets too involved in defensive game planning, though the No. 1 objective in the “Plan to Win” remains the same: play great defense.
Instead, Meyer chooses to defer to his trusted assistants. But when Ohio State gives up its most points in back-to-back games in the 123-year history of the program, the head coach, whether he’s an offensive or defensive style guy, takes notice.

Meyer is working with a new group of defensive coaches this season at Ohio State – none of the four have ever worked under Meyer. When he entered their meeting room on Sunday, he didn’t do so to pass out cupcakes.

“I’m not happy at all with what's going on on defense,” Meyer said. “That includes players, coaches. I think we can all get better.  It's a team effort.  We’ve got good coaches, good players, and we’ll move forward and get better.”

Meyer will become part of that improvement process. In a bit of a role change, the head coach will stick to his word after the Indiana game and observe the defense more in practice and pop his head into the huddle more frequently.

“I'll give my ideas,” he said. “But once again, that would be a mistake for me to come in. We have very good coaches, very good coaches. I think (my role) is going to be one of leadership, toughness, and the four to six second demand that we have on this team, not just defense.”

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell spent last season as the Buckeyes’ head coach, so he knows a thing or two about pressure and the constant demands of the job. No coach can be everywhere at once as much as he might want to be. The ideas and concerns from Meyer are welcomed from his predecessor.

In victory, the Ohio State defense seemed defeated. 

“He’s always been involved,” Fickell said. “I think he has the ability to get over there and do motivational types of things and point out some things and make things uncomfortable at times, but that’s how you grow. I think it’s been a good thing, and hopefully he continues to spend a little more time with us.”

Leadership is one of the biggest voids on defense, which is one reason, aside from attrition, that Meyer may have decided to move fullback Zach Boren to linebacker – a move Meyer called “temporarily permanent.” In the past decade, Ohio State has been able to count on its middle linebacker for leadership, direction and on-field corrections.

Curtis Grant was supposed to be that player this season. Entering Ohio State as the No. 2 overall recruit in the country a year ago, and now a sophomore, Grant is still slowly picking up the college game.  While he wasn’t a middle linebacker, senior captain Etienne Sabino gave the unit experience and a veteran mind that could be counted on. But he’ll miss at least two more games with a broken fibula.

“Are we lacking a little bit of that? Yeah,” Fickell said. “Sabino went down and maybe that’s something that we don't have right now. That’s one of the big things we’re trying to find – who’s that leader, who’s that guy that doesn’t just worry about themselves, but can make the others around him better?”

In the past four recruiting classes, Ohio State has signed 14 linebackers. Five are no longer with the program and eight are underclassmen. That lack of numbers has finally caught up with the Buckeyes. At one point last week, only three linebackers were available to practice. Fickell said a deficiency of third- and fourth-year players is one of the main problems at the linebacker position.

“We’re counting on some really, truly young guys to step up and maybe they’re not quite ready yet,” Fickell said.

Ready or not, Ohio State must get better or an undefeated season will come to a screeching halt. The past two weeks the Ohio State offense has been executing at an extremely efficient rate. Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde have each rushed for more than 100 yards against Nebraska and Indiana, and Miller has three touchdown passes in those games.

But Meyer knows scoring 63 and 52 points won’t happen every week. When it comes to the elite teams in college football, defense will almost always win out in the end. West Virginia’s blowout loss to Texas Tech on Saturday is the most recent example.

“At some point you have to play some really good defense,” Meyer said. “The top two right now is Alabama and Florida, the two best defenses in America. And that’s not by accident that they’re 1-2.  The great teams we've had over the years – yeah, we scored some points, but at the end of the day, defense wins games.”

Attrition has led to Zach Boren playing defense.

Through seven games, Ohio State is allowing 400 yards per game, 69th in the country, and more than 24 points per game, ranking 53rd.

During his tenure at Florida, Meyer and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick became close friends. Belichicks’s referral of Mike Vrabel was part of the process of him being retained by Meyer as the defensive line coach.

In striking up the friendship, Meyer and Belichick bounced ideas off each other and took pillars off the other’s philosophies and adapted them to their own teams. A staple in New England was taking a glass half full approach to not-so-pretty victories.

“Coach Vrabel says they used to say at the Patriots, ‘If you don’t learn from a win, you’re eventually going to learn from a loss,’” Fickell said.

Keeping confidence levels raised maintains a positive attitude among the team. But it’s clear the coaches are not pleased with the issues that keep popping up, combined with factors beyond their control. And they aren’t the only ones. The players have taken it upon themselves to voice their frustrations.

“We came in here and we told ourselves we were going to hold this team to maybe a touchdown,” Howard said after Saturday’s game. “And coming out, they put up that many points? It’s horrendous.”

Howard met with the media again Monday, and his tune hadn’t changed much.

“To go out and give up 49 points against Indiana was just embarrassing to us,” he said. “We all feel depressed about it.”

Said linebacker Ryan Shazier: “We’re really, really mad right now. Words can’t really describe how we feel. We’re disgusted with how we played. We just had a horrible game. I'm not saying anything bad about Indiana, but I just feel that we should not have gone out like that. We gave up too many yards, too many points. We have way better players than we showed. Nobody played to their standards.”

Buckeye Nation was aghast after Indiana scored 49 points.

One of the most troubling aspects of the Buckeyes’ defensive woes is the rate of big plays given up. Indiana gained a large chunk of its 481 total yards on the 18 plays it gained 10 or more yards, four of which went for touchdowns. It’s a trend that hasn’t ended seven games into the season.

The defense has been out of position and the middle of the field has been attacked week after week. A cluster of missed tackles also hasn’t helped.

“It’s been absurd how many big plays we give up,” a clearly perturbed Meyer said.

“The overall theme of our team is four to six seconds of relentless effort, and I can coach that really well.  We’re going to demand four to six seconds of relentless pursuit and effort.  If you don't, I’ll be involved in that.”

That involvement and defensive-minded approach, for a coach that has revolutionized offensive thinking in college football, can be a reassurance to Buckeye Nation that Ohio State isn’t about to become what Texas Tech was in the past and West Virginia is currently – all offense and no defense.

In the day of high-powered offenses, those types of teams are seen much more frequently. To see Ohio State lumped into that group is startling to many when you consider how successful the Buckeye defense has been historically.

“Oh, we can’t have that,” Meyer said. “That’s not going to happen. We want to win, but no, Ohio State is going to be a defensive school.

“Absolutely.”

93 Comments

Comments

bassplayer7770's picture

Does anybody think a young guy will be put into the starting lineup like Shazier was last season?  Even though he made mistakes, he still made a positive impact.  Of course, it doesn't help when some of your young guys are also dinged up.

ccollins0325's picture

I think the problem is the opposing team develops their plays to slowly.

The overall theme of our team is four to six seconds of relentless effort

After 4 to 6 seconds, our defense seems to just give up. I believe on one of the long TDs for Indiana, the OSU player (Howard?) seemed to slow to a walking pace while the IU player was still at the 5 yard line. Maybe we need to go for 6 to 8 seconds of relentless effort.

Tim's picture

I agree, and it has also seemed like if the other team is inside the 20, our defense thinks that if they don't strip the ball, they might as well not tackle and just let the player score.  Holding teams to field goals more often would be a good sign.

MediBuck's picture

I totally saw that too, Tim. I think the D keeps going for turnovers in the red zone. They need to realize that holding the opponents to a FG is often a victory too.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I think part of the problem was created in week 1. On Miami's first posession, Sabino set the tone by destroying a receiver crossing the middle. He was flagged for a high hit, and seemed to play softly after that. I don't want to blame everything on one call, but i think ever since, the defensive players have been trying to strip the ball or make arm tackles, rather than squaring up and hitting people.

bassplayer7770's picture

Question to ponder and discuss:  If the young LBs aren't developing fast enough to play even when the team is desperate, could that be an issue with coaching?  Or does it truly take a year or two to develop these kids into D1 level players?

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I have been to a ton of high school games. Granted, my daughter's high school is not an upper division, but I have seen our state's best play (Florida). It does seem the transition from high school to college is harder for the defense because the game is so much faster. Coming in as a freshman and being successful at a position like LB seems like a rarity. Freshman players also have to adjust to the practice schedule and balance the academic demands. I think it is a lot to ask of am 18 year old who just left home 10 weeks ago. Just an opinion.
Oh and btw, my daughter is a cheerleader (that is why I have been to so many games). She was too little to play football--otherwise I would have shaved her head, strapped some pads on and told her to go hit someone! God knew what he was doing. I would have been an obnoxious football mom.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

bassplayer7770's picture

Thank you for your insight.  It makes sense.  Now, what about the LBs who enrolled early?
EDIT:  Don't get me wrong.  I understand these players are likely facing much more complex Offenses in college, so it makes sense it takes time for these players to catch up.  I'm guessing that is what allowed Zach Boren to step in so quickly.

SPreston2001's picture

“Coach Vrabel says they used to say at the Patriots, ‘If you don’t learn from a win, you’re eventually going to learn from a loss,’”
Wow I couldnt have said it any better. That quote for everybody pointing at our 7-0 record and thinking everything is fine and dandy. You must learn to correct your mistakes even during a win or it will eventually catch up to you and lead to a loss...

Mix's picture

A great quote.

-Mix

danavh4's picture

I hate to say this but I'd almost rather see a let down loss now that results in a defensive turn around rather than see scUM put up 50 on us and beat us at home.

Michigan Fan: "We lose a long snapper and the whole team goes to shit!"

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Plus, in a loss this year, we don't actually have anything to "lose."

And going 26 - 0 would be so tough.

Earle's picture

Here's hoping Urban makes things very "uncomfortable" for defensive players and coaches until the improvement is obvious to everyone.

Just say no to italics abuse.

doodah_man's picture

It is interesting that Nick Saban has been raising concerns about the "hurry up " offense http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-10-11/news/34367505_1_three-bcs-titles-nick-saban-ole-miss-offense and its impact on defensive teams. There is also an interesting and excellent article on a brother site, "Men of the Scarlet and Gray" In Defense of the Defense  http://menofthescarletandgray.com/:
...OSU is running a completely new offense that is based on speeding things up and scoring as fast as possible. This strategy keeps the offense off the field a lot more and the defense on the field A LOT more. The more they are out there the more tired they get and more chances they have to make mistakes. Nine chances per game, to be exact. Last year, the defense was on the field for an average of 64 plays per game. Through the first seven games of this year, the defense is averaging 73 plays per game. A lot can happen in nine plays...
If we didn't have such a dynamic quarterback (like this is a problem?) the tempo would be reduced somewhat. When Brax is gashing the opposing D for 40 - 60 yards at a time, the offense is on the field even less.
I know that  this is just one factor but it deserves some consideration. 

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

bassplayer7770's picture

It's different to allow some points, but giving up 49 points and 480+ yards to Indiana should never happen.  I highly doubt the players or the staff will make the excuse that they're too tired out there on the field.  Plus, if they make some stops on 3rd down, they may not play so many plays.  Also, some of the teams we've played have had fairly fast-paced Offenses as well, so they're bound to have more plays throughout the game.

shortbus20's picture

Our time of possesion on offense was 37 minutes...how much rest does the defense need?  Indianas offense scored 49 points in 23 minutes!!

  • shortbus20
fear_the_nut70's picture

I am not buying this.  We had the ball for 37 minutes against Indiana.  That means the defense was on the field (minus special teams time) for about 23 minutes.  So while theoretically this offers an explanation, in practice, it does not.  Players are not tackling, are out of position, are slow to read the offense, can't cover in space, and emphasize stripping the ball rather than wrapping up.  Either the players we have aren't that good right now, they aren't being coached up, or both.  Let's not cloud the issue.

Jack Fu's picture

That post at MotSaG is extremely pollyanna-ish. Yards per play allowed by the OSU defense:
2009: 4.13
2010: 4.32
2011: 5.06
2012: 5.49
Yards per rush allowed by the OSU defense:
2009: 2.88
2010: 3.10
2011: 3.84
2012: 4.08
Yards per pass attempt allowed by the OSU defense:
2009: 5.4
2010: 5.6
2011: 6.7
2012: 6.5
It's not the tempo. This year's defense is just bad. And they're giving up a ton of big plays in the process. This year's defense has already allowed as many 40- and 50-yard plays through seven games as last year's defense did in thirteen, and last year's D was far from a vintage OSU defensive unit. Through seven games this year's D has given up twice as many plays of 70+ yards as the 2010 defense allowed plays of 40+ yards (and in six fewer games). And the only offense they've played that's in the top 30 in the country (in EITHER scoring offense or yards per play) is Nebraska, so it's not like they've been getting gashed by offensive juggernauts.
I hope they get better, but right now they're bad. Really, really bad.

NC_Buckeye's picture

Those stats lead me to think a trend is occurring. I'd like to see the same stats for 2001 to 2008. If those are also trending badly, then my question is what has changed?
Recruits? Coaches? Style of offenses being played against? Defensive philosophy?
Not picking on you exclusively Jack Fu. But there seems to be this unending barrage of commentors that want to shit-can the entire defensive staff (except Coombs for some reason?). And then there is an equal amount of commentors (of which I'm one) that have been telling those commentors that we have personnel problems in the backfield. Now this post by Kyle basically confirms that position by spot-lighting the play at LB as one of the key problems. The response in the comments? Our defensive coaches are the problem.
Sigh. Really?
Is establishing blame that important? I'd think everyone would be more invested in trying to find a work-around to the problems that will give us the best possible outcome at this point. (At least that's how I conduct myself in my professional life. And so far I haven't done too badly career-wise.)
God help us lowly buckeyes from all the Tressel/Fickell haters among us.

Jack Fu's picture

I was not proposing any solutions, such as firing anybody. I don't know enough about the intricacies of the game to say who or what is at fault. I'm just stating facts illustrating that the defense is really bad, because homers who want to keep their heads in the sand and say things like "maybe they're not that bad, maybe it's ... maybe it's ... maybe it's because we're playing at a faster pace" annoy me to no end.

NC_Buckeye's picture

I understand and agree with you about denial of there being a problem is a problem in and of itself.
Hopefully Ross can highlight some solutions in this week's Defensive Breakdown. No pressure Ross. ;-)

johnny11's picture

The time of possesion was like 30 minutes or more for us as opposed to 15  minutes or more for indiana we dominated TOP in that game so them being on the field wasn't the problem.

USMC11917's picture

It is our defenses fault that they are not getting off of the field fast enough. You go three and out and you get plenty of rest. Saban's point is valid if you have an inefficient offense. Our's has not been that bad sans the first quarter.

fear_the_nut70's picture

Saban is whining because the new trend in CFB is outside of his comfort zone--he understands football to be a pro set offense with a powerful running game and a strong defense, and, as all the good ones do, his comments are more about selling his agenda.  This isn't all that different from his campaigning to put his Tide in the NC game last year.  I pay him no mind...
This is the reality (as I see it).  This team peaked two years ago from a talent perspective.  The dropoff in talent was probalby exacerbated by the looming NCAA sanctions (UFM rescued this a bit, at least on paper).  We knew there were defensive problems when we brought UFM in last year, and we seem shocked that they weren't fixed overnight.  This is unrealistic.  First of all, it takes a coach IMHO at least two but probably 3 classes to get his guys in that fit his system (in this case, upgrade talent on the roster).  While the offense improved drastically, this isn't so shocking when you consider that this is a UFM forte--the spread, and maximinzing offense with the skill set that he has.  That it is taking the defense a bit longer should surprise no one.
I had this team as a NCG contender in 2013.  From what I see now, this may be a year too soon unless the defense makes huge strides in the offseason.  For now, though, I will enjoy what has been a pleseant surprise (7-0) and remind myself that this was always going to be a work in progress.  I too have questioned whether the D staff is the right one to lead us, but must caution myself and others that hasty judgments and instability are NOT the way to build a football program.  UFM knows what he is doing, and a staple in that recipe was leaving the prior defensive staff in place while he upgraded talent. Buckeye fans, take your hands off the panic button and enjoy the ride--the ship is bing righted, and whether it is 2013 or 2014, I think UFM will get us where we want to be (which is seriously competing for a NC). 

d5k's picture

I saw the defense having some issues with pass coverage like last year but not getting worse.  I think they were just mediocre and the schematic changes with Withers have not been fully absorbed and executed.
The back seven tackling/angle problems were there last year and I also thought they would be mitigated a bit.

MediBuck's picture

Oregon plays offense at warp speed and still blanked Rich Rod's Zona team 49-0. I think the overall mentality of the defense is certainly different from before (when you have a grind-it-out run-first O, the D gets to rest more and fight for field position while with a no-huddle offense, the silver bullets need to focus more on endurance) but that doesn't mean you still can't play solid defense relative to what your offense is doing.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

BuckGuy003's picture

Just realized if Michigan goes all the way to the rose bowl. We get to see them get embarrassed 3 times in one season in prime time...would make the B1G look bad but thats already done.

fear_the_nut70's picture

Wo hoss.  Cart goes after horse.  A lot of football to be played.  let's start by seeing if they can handle "little" brother this weekend.

biggy84's picture

So much for Meyer being able to delegate to his coaches more to avoid burnout.

bassplayer7770's picture

I think that is an overreaction.  Coach Meyer still isn't going to call Defensive plays, but he might be more involved in Defensive meetings and gameplanning.  It seems like he'll provide a bit more motivation to the Defensive players by being more involved.

southbymidwest's picture

If I recall, the burnout wasn't exclusively from coaching-Urban lost some key assistant coaches who kept track of Florida players off the field. Aaannnd let's just say some of them needed that tracking. When the assistants left, he became too involved in that stuff, in addition to coaching. I believe that was one of the areas in the beginning that he was going to assign to Fickell. 

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I don't think the time Meyer spends motivating the Defense is going to lead to any kind of burnout. He is not going to assume the role of designing schemes or calling plays. His mere presence at meetings and/or at drills will make everyone work harder.
If a memo came out in your company addressing poor performance with the request for better production, you may adjust your work one kind of way. Now, the boss comes and parks his keester in your office to ensure you are being more productive -- you will certainly work a different kind of way.
Meyer just walked into the Defense and popped a squat.
 

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

RoyWalley's picture

Just my opinion, but I think our defensive line is weak.  Hankins, Simon, Williams, Goebel, are nice players, but they do not make plays.  No Pressure on the QB, never deflect a pass!!!
Again, it's a team game, so there is plenty of blame to go around. 

bassplayer7770's picture

I don't know that I'd go so far to say the D Line is weak, but they didn't seem to be very effective against Indiana.  I'm sure they'll get that sorted out soon.

Enzo's picture

Is that on the players, the scheme, or Vrabel?

timdogdad's picture

playing d line against pass happy teams must be tough. the ball is  hiked, you try to get by your man, too late, ball is gone, repeat, repeat.    maybe a few chances for a sack or hurry.  that's why the back 7 needs to cover better

Larryp713's picture

I disagree with this. Our defensive line is the best group there is. The problem on the big plays is when the offense does eventually break through to the second level, everybody's heart stops. The poorest tackling by far is from the LBs and DBs. That is the frustration, we usually watch a couple TFL and no gains and think we are getting the ball back, and then some quick pass to the flat or over the middle gives up 20 yards.

Respectfully,

Larryp713

d5k's picture

Yes, it is simply incorrect to think the D-Line is the issue.  The one criticism I would have is instead of rushing hard up the field on the edges on a 3 step drop they often need to get their hands up and disrupt throwing lanes.

Buckeye06's picture

I think Meyer needs to take some responsibility on this too.  He has the final say on who we recruited last year (granted he didn't have a full recruiting cycle), and both the top LBers we picked up at the end, Williams and Perkins, are Meyer guys.  We need 1 of them to step up and help out.  I mean finally it seems people are understanding it isn't all on Fickell when we just don't have the bodies we're used to having at LBer.  He is partly to blame of course, but we are lacking serious depth at a position where we have never had problems plugging and playing guys year after year. 
And Fickell is a great LBer coach...as he was the man who helped develop the guys who made OSU the true LB U.  So if he can't fix it, who can honestly?  As I said, it's partly his fault, but man this is unheard of territory for OSU fans

d5k's picture

Typically you wouldn't have to rely on freshmen to come in and contribute.  In an ideal scenario you would have the best freshmen/sophomores on the bottom of the 2 deep and you would have rock-solid juniors and seniors and some all-american type sophomores as the starters and you would only ever need a freshman if you had a few injuries.  Normally you would only want freshmen on the 2 deep if they legitimately beat out sophomores and juniors.  Instead we have about as many freshmen LBs as we do upperclassmen in total so you end up with freshmen on the 2 deep by default and more prominently when you have an injury.  You can't expect freshmen to be ready to go, it is just an awesome surprise if they are (Hawk, Laurinaitis, Katzenmoyer).  Carpenter who was fantastic at OSU didn't start until his Junior year because Rob Reynolds was ahead of him.  We don't have that luxury with Shazier/Grant/Perry.

Doc's picture

I don't understand why we can not fix our problems against spread offenses.  A power running team makes us look like Supermen, but a spread attack makes us look like a bunch of third graders.  To me that is a coaching problem.  I understand we are thin because of injuries, but what has happened to recruiting linebackers over the years?  Five defections is part of the answer, but not the whole thing.

"Say my name."

chitown buckeye's picture

It is much harder to tackle in space one on one. Some have a gift no others can be taught. (Katzenmoyer, Winfield, Doss, Hawk). When you are dealing with the spread guys need to get off there blocks and make tackles or disrupt plays so the backside pursuit can make a play. I'm not seeing any of our guys fight off blocks. On the short bubble screens or quick WR passes I have not seen one corner fight off a block and make a play yet this year. As soon as any of our back 7 get blocked they take themselves out of the play instead of still trying to fight and disrupt a play while being blocked. I guess I'm just not sold on our back 7 having the actual ability to tackle in the open field. I think it will take more than a few tough Tuesday practices to get better at tackling. I see it being an issue the rrest of the year. I think we can get better at it but I also think it will take some solid recruits who have the natural talent/ability to tackle.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

NC_Buckeye's picture

I guess I'm just not sold on our back 7 having the actual ability to tackle in the open field. I think it will take more than a few tough Tuesday practices to get better at tackling. I see it being an issue the rest of the year. I think we can get better at it but I also think it will take some solid recruits who have the natural talent/ability to tackle.

This. God yes. This. ^^^^^^^^
Thank you for that Chitown.

biggy84's picture

Solid recruits? It's not like Tressel and co. didn't recruit well. They certainly recruited more talented players than the likes of UAB and Indiana. Every year teams have to adapt to players departing, etc. Look at Alabama, they lost how many starters to the NFL? They haven't missed a beat. Furthermore, tOSU has always re-tooled after players leaving. As unpopular as it may be, Fickell may be in over his head again. Defensive coordinators do make that much of an impact, ask Stoops.

d5k's picture

The point is that lots of guys who should be in the 2 deep either are out of the program or chronically injured.  The plan was not for Shazier to get playing time as a freshman and be relied upon heavily as a sophomore.  The plan was for guys like Dorian Bell to be all-american candidates and Shazier behind them on the 2 deep.  Some of this is luck where some guys got hurt or caught smoking too much pot or shooting BB guns off buildings if you want to include the DBs.  There also was some attrition with the new coaching staff.  Ideally you want a bunch of upper classmen competing with each other and then the best guys will win out and be reliable rather than upper classmen being starters by default because your only depth are unprepared freshmen.
We should see some improvement next year with a bunch of sophomores challenging the juniors/seniors and then maybe a rock star freshman will crack the 2 deep and get playing time.  And maybe a top 30-ish defense next year will be enough to compete for the national title with a top 5-10 offense.  But year 3 if certain key players stick around we will be extremely dangerous on both sides of the ball.  Spence is going to be a stud, you can already see it.  Shazier will improve with the mental side of the game.  And Roby will only get better.  Not sure what other contributors will emerge but we are recruiting lots of studs (some will end up being duds of course).

chitown buckeye's picture

I'm not saying coaching isn't part of the problem as well. However there are a lot of commenters here that believe that just because a player is a 4-5 star recruit and not playing to that "website dreamnt number" that it automatically falls on the coaches. Isn't it possible that some of players just aren't as good as they were billed to be? Isn't it possible that we recruited a handful of Mike D'Andreas and no AJ hawks? I'm simply saying we can and will get better but we are going to need to hit on future recruits who are natural talents to get OSU back to defenses of the 90's and early 00's . Katzenmoyer,Winfield, Doss- they were not great tacklers because of coaching. They came into OSU with a natural talent/ability to tackle and find the ball. To just blame it on coaching is crazy, players have to be accountable as well.
the argument that we have highly rated recruits means nothing. For every 5 star recruit that becomes an all American you could name a 5 star that didn't pan out. I think we just have a handful of guys on the defense right now that may have been overrated. We missed on them, thats ok. Some of them may be late bloomers as well. OSU defense isn't going to be fixed overnight there are glaring problems that range not just from the schemes but from the current personnel as well.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

biggy84's picture

Much in the same way we can see a dramatic improvement from last season on offense based on coaching, we can also use the same rationale to explain how defensive problems are based on coaching. I don't think that that every single lb prospect was overvalued by the tons of talent scouts that scouted them for the many universities. A recruit, or two, not panning out i understand, but ALL of them? Good coaches can make a huge impact in a year, just look at our offense.
 

d5k's picture

We had a lot of underperforming receivers on offense but we had depth where at LB we have a few underperformers and NO depth.  Depth allows for competition for spots and then the best guys will play.  Our offense wouldn't be as good if Devin Smith and Philly Brown didn't win out over the other receivers and step up their game.  Who knows, if we still had more of the guys who have been lost due to attrition/injuries maybe none of the guys who started this year would be the starters... or maybe just Sabino.  It's hard to evaluate.

chitown buckeye's picture

I agree coaching can make a difference. Having the proper players helps too. The dramatic change in the offense is the fact Meyer stepped into the perfect qb for his offense. Braxton is a player who makes everyone around him better. He is a recruit that we nailed on. Going to b a stud. He is a heisman candidate in his sophomore year. (you could tell that even during last seasons mess) Now who do we have on the defense that would compare to Braxton? If we had a Braxton miller talent at middle lb I think most of these problems would go away. A leader out there that would make up for the inexperience of others. I believed Meyer touched on this  in quote abt Boren moving to linebackers. From a scheming standpoint you are only as good as your worst piece. We cant draw up in depth, tough schemes because it seems as if most of our young guys are having problems with the simple ones. Coaching is important but you also need players. Im going to put trust that Meyer will get it figured out. It may mean letting go of fickell or may not. I trust him though.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

biggy84's picture

Fair enough, my fellow Buckeye :)

klfeck's picture

Guess those of us who thought there was a problem with coaching are somewhat vindicated by Meyers statement. He would not be inserting himself into the defense if he didn't see a problem with the coaching.
 
“I’m not happy at all with what's going on on defense,” Meyer said. “That includes players, coaches. I think we can all get better.  It's a team effort.  We’ve got good coaches, good players, and we’ll move forward and get better.”

Kevin

OH!!!!!

Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

zachofaltrades's picture

Not sure if this was said somewhere else, but how many points would be scored if OSU played WVU?  I remember someone said a couple weeks ago "Why aren't we Baylor."  Well, that person got what they wanted.  We are now Baylor and put up 60 pts and give up 50 on D.  That OSU/WVU final would crack 120 cummulative points.

bassplayer7770's picture

I had another thought.  Back in the Spring, we were hearing how the D was always beating the O in scrimmages.  Seeing the two sides now, I can only think that's because Braxton was a "caged tiger."

d5k's picture

Indeed.  It also makes the defense look a lot better in practice when your passing offense is extremely limited and only gets opened up when the QB is a big time run threat.

chitown buckeye's picture

Its interesting that Meyer talks about 4-6 seconds of relentless effort. I certainly get what he is trying to promote, however what I see are LB's, safties, and corners over pursuing the ball. Every one of the guys have taken poor angles and run right past the play instead of getting to the ball carrier, breaking down, warpping up and making the tackle. It seems as if most of our back 7 simply run with reckless abandon to the "area" of the ball and if they make a tackle great if not they bellieve someone else will. Not sure if this has started to happen because of this "play with your hair on fire mentality" or not. It seems to me the players are misunderstanding what this phrase means. Play hard but play under control.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

d5k's picture

I think angles are the biggest problem we have.  I think we could tackle with poor form without wrapping and trying to strip the ball and whatever else as long as everyone takes at least a DECENT angle.  We are taking some angles where there is a .1% chance of that guy making a tackle.  That .1% is the Eric Decker style trip over the 45 yard line type.

Enzo's picture

"I'd rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent." - John Wooden

SPreston2001's picture

Very well said my friend! Let the young guys step up!

brylee's picture

"In the past four recruiting classes, Ohio State has signed 14 linebackers. Five are no longer with the program and eight are underclassmen. That lack of numbers has finally caught up with the Buckeyes. At one point last week, only three linebackers were available to practice. Fickell said a deficiency of third- and fourth-year players is one of the main problems at the linebacker position."

Right there it is...

bassplayer7770's picture

That seemed to be the issue last year as well, so it's incredibly frustrating that we're still facing that issue even after signing 5 LBs in the 2012 class.  Ugh.

yrro's picture

Linebacker is one of the hardest spots on the field to come in and start as a freshman. About the absolute best you can hope for is a physical beast like Shazier who goes plowing into the gap, and if he guesses right, it's a big play, and if he guesses wrong, it's a big play the other direction.
It really felt like just a few years ago that we had so much depth at linebacker, I wasn't surprised guys were transferring out. Bell, Newsome -- guys who were buried in the depth chart that we could desparately use this year.

SPreston2001's picture

I wish Bell was still around...

theDuke's picture

still kinda want to see the Perkins Perry Experience... just out of curiosity.

theDuke

Denny's picture

Key to defense: less calling each other 'bro', more being in position and wrapping tackles.
The hard part is the change starts from the coaching level.

Taquitos.

rickyu22's picture

Fickel gets alot of crap for this but what about Withers. He is co-defensive coordinator isnt he? How can Fickel go from coaching LB a few years ago and they dominated, to coaching LBs now and they arent showing up? Is that coaching, players personal devolpment, or just bad recruiting? 

scarpenter614's picture

According to ESPN's BuckeyeNation, we have 14 LBers on the roster.  8 of them are freshmen, 2 are sophomores, 1 is a junior, and 3 are seniors.  However, I've never heard of seniors Stewart Smith and Ross Oltorik.  That being said, I haven't followed recruiting very closely until the past year or so.  I would guess that the reason we haven't targeted too many LBers in the 2013 class is because of the 8 freshmen.  Cam Williams, David Perkins, Jamal Marcus, and Josh Perry are all 4 star guys so I would think that they should start to show signs of promise when they're not injured.  Our sophomores Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier were highly touted 5 and 4 star guys as well.  So we have the talent coming in.  The question is are they getting developed properly and how quickly can we expect them to be solid against the spread?  Sabino was a 5 star guy and he's been mediochre at best.  

bassplayer7770's picture

I can think of 4 Senior LBs if Smith and Oltorik are being included.  Klein and Sabino are also Seniors.

scarpenter614's picture

ESPN has Storm listed as a JR and 247 has him listed as a SR.  And after thinking about it, I think you and 247 are correct.

Kyle Rowland's picture

The numbers listed in my story do not include walk-ons. 

d5k's picture

I think we would prefer Grant and Shazier on the 2 deep behind some rock-solid juniors and seniors with Shazier getting playing time when awesome Junior X subs out.  And then all the freshmen could be on the psycho coverage units and be emergency 3-deep LBs.

Buckeye06's picture

I think the LBer position will be fine next year, as those 5 guys will all have a year in the system for experience etc.  This year it's awful, and not 1 of them looks good, even Shazier and Sabino.  They are the best we have, but they wouldn't have started for many of our teams from 05-10.  It's a body problem, where you don't have someone who will step if in the starter fails, as there is no one to really step in.
I know Meyer says it's a coaching problem too, but I'm seeing it as a #s problem moreso. 

klfeck's picture

I find it troubling that Meyer had to move Boren to D to bring in some leadership. Are you telling me guys like Hankins and Simon aren't providing enough of that or is Boren merely providing leadership to the LB crew? I know the Mike LB is the QB of the D, but bringing in a offensive captain who had to learn the D in four days seems drastic and sad.

Kevin

OH!!!!!

Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

MediBuck's picture

I think the leadership he's talking about is more the schematic leadership. The linemen are in the trenches in three-point stance, they can't see offensive skill players in motion or how alignments change when the QB audibles. It's gotta be a strong safety or linebacker who can survey the whole of the offensive backfield and reciever alignments and "direct traffic" for the rest of the team. My guess is that Sabino was that kind of guy, but none of the back seven right now are cerebral enough to see the changes and telegraph it to the rest of the D. Troubling indeed, but more of a brains than brawn kinda thing.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

cbuck1's picture

Aman to that, ive listened to everybody in here go on about players, coaches and how we need a change. We are 1 of the youngest teams in the country, we're not goin to a bowl game. We are infact building for next year and beyound. The defensive line is playing its tail off, but when u have 3 or 4 men goin against 6 constantly, its hard to generate pressure. that task amplifies when u have offenses lining up in shotgun and releasing ball in 2 to 3 secs. scheme to me is the problem. if a team is running that style at you, you shouldnt be giving a 10 yard cushion to receivers

andretolstoy's picture

 
The answers are right before us. 1.) We lack players right now 2.) The Defense is on the field longer. While this is the least of excuses, it still true 3.) I have noticed that the slower developing plays are the ones that are hurting us the most. Perhaps this is the true counter attack to teams going really, really fast?
While I am always one to seek accountability for failure, there are also factors we need to look at. This is a team fail, not an isolated fail. So they need to fix it as a team. Coach Meyer is invovled in all aspects of this team so he is not immune to criticism. It's not just a Fickel, Vrabel, Withers problem.
I'm confident we'll dominate on all levels, just not right now. Right now I am content that I see glimmers of greatness and that we're 7-0. I don't even understand why Coach Meyer is so stressed out over this. It's his first year and he started in a deep hole. He should be commended for the success thus far, as Fickel should be commended for keeping the ship sailing without destruction.

bassplayer7770's picture

Coach Meyer should address the Defense because that was the biggest and most glaring issue on Saturday, and it is his job to oversee the team and the coaching staff as a whole.  At the same time, notice he did not throw the defensive coaches under the bus.  He still refers to them as good coaches.
EDIT:  In addition, you better believe Coach Meyer will also address the Special Teams issues (the blocked punt).  Speaking of punting; is it just me, or does Buchanan's punting motion seem a bit slow?  Perhaps he takes a second longer to actually put his foot on the ball, and that might partially explain the blocked punts?

NW Buckeye's picture

I have never been a fan of a three step punt.  Always taught my punters to rock back on the snap for their 1st step.  Turned a 3 step into a 2 step right away.   Also shortened up even more when we were inside our 15.  One step technique was taught.  Never had a punt blocked unless it was a bad snap.  Of course, that was in HS but we also blocked our fair share of punts.  Most college punts rely on good blocking allowing the punter to take a 3 step to get rid of the ball.  Our timing from snap (first movement) to punt was 1.8- sec.  Time Buchanan's - it most probably is at 1.9+   Just the nature of the 3 step punt.  And, yes, tenths of seconds make a big difference in blocked/not blocked.  

Doc's picture

Urban should be commended for turning the offense around and getting to seven wins in just seven games, but he also knows that the offense has bailed the defense out over the last two/ three games.  Fix it now, or fix it later.  I say fix it now.
Fickell should be commended for stepping into a shitty situation and doing the best he could with the hand he was dealt.  But, that is not a free pass forever.  At some point in time he needs to be treated like a big boy and evaluated on the job he is doing now.  The entire defensive coaching staff is on the hot seat IMHO.

"Say my name."

Earle's picture

If he wasn't stressed out about the performance of this defense, he wouldn't be Urban Meyer.  He would be Rich Rodriguez.

Just say no to italics abuse.

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

That said for sure! ^^

hail2victors9's picture

RichRod was naive enough to belive that defense wasn't needed if we just kept scoring.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

Denny's picture

Ah yes, the Sasha 'My Offense is My Defense' Pavlovic approach.

Taquitos.

Earle's picture

Upvotes for all references to obscure Cavaliers players.

Just say no to italics abuse.

94Buckeye's picture

I've seen that also. The middle of the field is wide open. Usually, that is not a save place to throw a football. However, it's probably a  result of linebackers being out of position because of a lack of discipline or inexperience. There is also no great pressure on the quaterback so he has plenty of time to find an open receiver. You can't teach experience.  Also, once a runner gets past the line of scrimmage, our linebackers are chasing the runner from behind rather than getting leverage head on. That shows linebackers are out of position.

RBuck's picture

Oh, how I long for the days when a screen pass was a 3 yard gain at the most...like, 2 years ago.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Oh, how I long for the days when a screen pass was a 3 yard gain at the most...like, 2 years ago.

 
But we would lose the game 28-9 because Tressel and Bollman didn't understand that punting the ball didn't score points?!?  And that FG's weren't really that awesome! 
We need to do two things from here on out IMHO...
1) Just accept the defense for who they are right now.  Its the same personnel as last season.  And they were NOT good then either.
2) Be thankful that the offense is as good as it is.  Because if it wasn't, we'd probably be 0-7.  Meyer is doing this based on plays that fit his personnel, not players that fit his philosophy.  That is amazing to me...
We all knew going in to this season that it would be difficult and things wouldn't turn around over night.  The fact that we are 7-0 means we are a better team than we were and far better than anyone expected.  No one can honestly say they predicted us being 7-0.   
 

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

onetwentyeight's picture

All the people hand-wringing about the 4-6 seconds stuff need to take a step back and look at yourselves. OBVIOUSLY it doesn't mean or is meant to imply that somehow players under this coaching staff will simply give up after 6 seconds. It was just a quote that's being tortured so out of context now. Let it go, people. 
This reminds me of when Herman got BLASTED around these parts for his one off-hand quote about OSU seeing defensive looks they'd "never seen before" or something against UAB and CAL and the subsequent FREAKOUT about ZOMG HERMAN ISNT PREPARED WTF. Now that the Offense detonated and gone nuclear the last two games you don't hear anybody flogging that quote out of context anymore. Christ. 

NW Buckeye's picture

Thanks for pointing that out.  That 4 to 6 thing simply put really means don't relax after your first step or your first assignment has been taken care of.   It is a practice term that really is necessary to get better looks in practice. 

Earle's picture

I think it means you go all out from snap to whistle.  The point is that most plays don't last more than 6 seconds.  Don't let up until the play is over.

Just say no to italics abuse.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Exactly. The idea is that since most plays only take 4-6 seconds, players who earn the honor of wearing the Buckeye uniform must play with absolute fury and abandon from snap to 0.5 second after the whistle. It's not soccer, where a player has to pace himself or take a few plays off to conserve his energy for a 90+ minute game with fewer stoppages and no commercial breaks, etc.  

johnny11's picture

yah our defensive struggles are due to multiple things. One is experience. example for that is when we have so many players out of position to make a tackle because they haven't had enough game experience to let the game "slow down".  Two is injuries. example three linebackers capable of playing forcing them to use Boren. Three is the defensive coordinators not adjusting IN GAME correctly to combat what they are going against. 4th and final is type of player we have. For years Tressel has recruited players to combat your typical big ten team. You know i formation running right at you with play pass sprinkled in. Now the big ten has very few traditional teams and more spread offenses which our players aren't as suited to defend. This is just my opinion though. Finally i don't like the offense scores to fast argument because we have had the better TOP most games and they have been on the field less than the offense.

timdogdad's picture

just like the ozone michigan monday said, scums d is solid on fundamentals. just decent talent but playing correctly.  our coaches should say: scum is better than you on d because they are playing correctly.   are you motivated now silver bullets?     

cbuck1's picture

Aman to that, ive listened to everybody in here go on about players, coaches and how we need a change. We are 1 of the youngest teams in the country, we're not goin to a bowl game. We are infact building for next year and beyound. The defensive line is playing its tail off, but when u have 3 or 4 men goin against 6 constantly, its hard to generate pressure. that task amplifies when u have offenses lining up in shotgun and releasing ball in 2 to 3 secs. scheme to me is the problem. if a team is running that style at you, you shouldnt be giving a 10 yard cushion to receivers