Wednesday Practice Updates: Purdue

By Kyle Rowland on October 17, 2012 at 7:35p

Struggling the past two weekends on defense, Ohio State welcomes Purdue’s spread offense to Ohio Stadium on Saturday – exactly the kind of outfit that has made the Buckeyes’ defense look less than average. 

Teammates, coaches and fans missed Nathan Williams.

“Spread offensives are really exposing us right now,” head coach Urban Meyer said after Saturday’s 52-49 win. “We have got to get something fixed.”

A major contributor to the poor defensive showing has been a rash of injuries. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett missed the season’s first four games, cornerback Bradley Roby missed a game, safety CJ Barnett has been slowed by injuries, linebacker Etienne Sabino is out with a broken fibula and defensive end Nathan Williams, coming off of microfracture surgery, has been sidelined multiple games, though his latest problem was a concussion.

Ohio State didn’t have Williams at Indiana or any of its linebacker depth, prompting Zack Boren’s move to defense. Boren will stay on that side of the ball for the foreseeable future.

  • Injury updates: Nathan Williams will play, Jordan Hall and Etienne Sabino are out, Ryan Shazier is sore (will play) and Joshua Perry is fine.
  • Boren will start. Meyer said he could play both ways once Sabino returns.
  • Boren’s future is brighter if anything. Meyer said NFL scouts are always looking for all-purpose players. Since Boren can play fullback and linebacker, he has more options to work with.
  • Curtis Grant still has a ways to go, according to Meyer.
  • Meyer said the recent struggles against Purdue have not been brought up this week.
  • The Leaders Division race also hasn’t been a topic of conversation, Meyer said. He said the early part of the week was chaos because of Saturday’s game. Buckeyes had more pressing matters.
  • Williams could play linebacker when Ohio State is in the 3-4. Meyer said Noah Spence’s play Saturday made that possible. He’s comfortable with them using the 3-4 because Spence has played so well and Williams has past experiences at linebacker.
  • On Monday, Meyer said he was looking for tough guys. He said the whole team took to that message and had good practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Meyer said the defense has been fired up, adding that Boren’s presence over there helps.
  • The defense will be improved, according to Meyer, because there has been such an emphasis on four to six seconds, tackling and getting leverage. He said it will be fixed.
  • Braxton Miller said his body is fine. The only time he’s been scared this season was when his leg buckled at Michigan State.
  • The offensive line has contributed greatly to Miller and Carlos Hyde’s success. Miller said the body types have allowed the line to play better this season.
  • Corey Linsley is the leader of the unit, according to Miller. He pointed out that he is the guy who calls the signals when they line up.
  • Miller said he hasn’t played a complete game yet. It would include more balance and a high completion percentage.
  • Bradley Roby said if Miller played a complete game, Ohio State might score 100 points.
  • Asked about the Heisman, Miller said he had no idea he was in the discussion. Don’t know if I believe that.
  • Purdue’s front four presents a big challenge, according to Miller, especially Kawann Short.
  • Boren said he is never nervous before games, but last Saturday he said he was extremely nervous. It took him two series to get calmed down.
  • Having a week of practice under his belt and more knowledge of the playbook has made Boren feel much more comfortable entering the Purdue game.
  • Boren lost 20 pounds before the start of the season.  He said that has been a big help in his move to linebacker. In fact, he said he probably couldn’t have done it without that.
  • Boren’s father, Mike, was a star linebacker at Michigan, but Zach said he leaned on Luke Fickell last week. He did say his dad was excited about the change.
  • Winning is the most important thing to Boren. He said he didn’t care if he played safety as long as Ohio State is undefeated.
  • Meyer said he would be more involved in the defense this week; Boren said he’s been more interactive with them.
  • Roby said Ohio State maybe hasn’t taken Purdue so serious in the past. He said the field is subpar and there are a lot of empty seats at Purdue, as well, making it hard to get pumped up.
  • But he said you can’t take anyone lightly and have to treat every game the same.
  • At Indiana, Roby said Ohio State checked out in the fourth quarter. He said they have to play a full 60 minutes.

Comments Show All Comments

dbit's picture

Good stuff, Kyle.  These practice updates might be my favorite aspect of this site.

painterlad's picture

I have never played college level football. Hell, I barely made it at the high school level. But every week there seems to be a player or two that talks about the team letting down or not playing a complete game. Why is this happening? At an ultra-elite program such as OSU, they are getting top-notch athletes that come from winning high school programs. Certainly the concept of executing for a full 60 minutes (or 4 hours if the game is on BTN) isn't foreign to these guys.
I will say this...Roby is right about Miller. If the entire offense is clicking and Miller plays at his highest level, they could score 100 points.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

NW Buckeye's picture

You would think that any college player would play a full 4 qtrs.  Perhaps this is just a little different philosophy than they were used to under Tressel and Bollman.  We all used to have heart palpatations when the team went into Tressel ball mode with a 20 point lead.  Many games were closer than necessary, and it really caught up to them last year.  Old habits are hard to break.  The let downs this year have mostly come when we are ahead.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Tressel and his record, it's just that it is easy to pick up bad habits with any style of coaching, and that could have been one of the consequences of the last regime.  Heck, the UFM approach is pedal to the medal, we learned that in the NC game against FL - he never took his foot off the gas.  It is something that takes a little getting used to.  Even some of the fan base had a tough time with the final TD in the Nebraska game. 
As for Miller, I think he more or less means he wants to be on top of his game for 4 qtrs.  As Meyer has said, Brax is very critical of himself. 

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

Top-level players are sometimes very critical of themselves and, it is quite possible, Brax will never believe he played a "complete" game.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

lippertini's picture

I believe Braxton has yet to grade out as a "champion" in any game, so it's not just him.  ;)

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

For the Bucks to score 100, Roby and the defense would have to play a complete game too... if you allow the opposing offense to go 80 yards and burn 5-7 minutes off the clock, you'll never have enough possessions to score 100.

Hopefully we see such a game on the last week of the season!

Phoenix824's picture

As I read more about Boren and his leadership and selflessness he has quickly become my favorite player on team.      I hope NFL scouts see it and he has a productive career in the league.

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

Not to mention Boren is the most excited player I have ever seen when he gets in the endzone.  I love it.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

buckeyedude's picture

It just occurred to me while reading this article that maybe what the defense has lacked is leadership. There seems to be plenty of leadership on the offense, so maybe that is what UFM needed to boost this D.

Miller said the body types have allowed the line to play better this season.

Can someone explain to me what this means, exactly?
Also, I hope this doesn't seem like a stupid question, but I wonder when the Boren family goes to the game, are they wearing scarlet and gray?



NW Buckeye's picture

I think he means that the line is leaner this year.  I could be wrong, but that is my best guess.  It allows them to get off the ball faster and have better foot work.  I think that is evident when comparing this year's OL perfromance vs last year's. 

Squirrel Master's picture

That was a direct point to the S&C of Marotti and the Oline being much leaner and more active. The Oline has probably played 10X better than they have had in the past 2-3 years and that line had 2 All-Conference players.
Fragel has probably been the biggest surprise this year. He has owned his position and really helps Brax and Hyde get yards on his side. Have you noticed most of the big runs come from his side of the ball. Not all of them but more often than not. Its the same on the defense, most of the biggest runs come on the opposite side of Simon.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

theDuke's picture

this whole thing with the defense is so fuzzy and gray... it makes me wonder what they did during the spring and fall camp. Weren't they were practicing against our spread? Did they think teams were just going to try to run at them? I mean, I don't think its a secret that our Dline is the strength of the unit. hmmm. Oh well. I guess if we keep winning, what does it matter?


bigbill992001's picture

But it DOES matter.    A saying in the Patriots locker room......"if you dont learn from your wins, then you're destined to learn from a loss."

sirclovis's picture

Boren ends up getting drafted by the Patriots. Belichick loves these type of guys

Larryp713's picture

I can definately see Belichick drafting Boren. He definately has the leadership qualities and attitude that the Pats look for.



Squirrel Master's picture

I can see New England drafting both Boren and Simon next year. They might not be the best talents but what they do is what Belichick and NE wants. Not to mention they both meet somewhat needs for NE. 3-4 DE type player, or OLB. Boren either at FB which would add to so many more wrinkles for them on offense, or another body for those 2 ILB positions. Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes are excellent ILB but they need depth behind them. Boren is the perfect fit.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

jestertcf's picture

agreed. They drafted a buckeye who's name I still don't know in the 6th round last year (I think) for his role on special teams.

~Because we couldn't go for three~

slicksickle's picture

Who, BTW, plays safety now. Belichek def looks for hard players and can teach the positions.

bucknut24's picture

I rewatched the IU game just now and noticed one big thing with the safeties in Cover 4.  When IU went 3 or 4 wide, the safties were at least 10 to 15 yards deep and covering the slot receivers so the receivers would just run about 5 to 8 yards stop and be wide open because the safeties would be back peddling to not get beat deep.  I think they did a similar thing against Cal and that is why the underneath stuff was open.  The LB's did ok for the most part so it seemed the secondary was more of the problem but not sure who is calling the coverage.
What did surprise me is that the scecondary along with Shaizer could have had at least 5 to 6 picks if they could catch the ball.  There were alot of opportunities.  Just an observation I saw and was wondering if the Cover 4 is really a good coverage since they are giving up alot of underneath stuff.

NW Buckeye's picture

The theory of this defense is that it is supposed to produce those interceptions.  But, the guys gotta catch the ball!  I haven't rewatched the game yet, but my feelings during the game were along the lines of 'how many times are we going to shoot ourselves in the foot?'  As you pointed out there were at least 5 or 6 pics that should have happened, even if you get just half of them it changes the ball game.  And the dropped TD passes were equally frustrating - I recall at least 3.   That game was a lot closer than it needed to be, but that is an obvious statement.  Would be great if they would play a complete game where they actually make all of those catches. 

timdogdad's picture

not sure if i like the thoery of trying to get interceptions. they only happen once in a while and are usually a lucky bounce.   would rather force the issue instead of play soft.  in the meantime the d gets pass after pass completed on them.  i dont think a d should rely on a pick to bail out drive afer drive.  need to get to 3rd and 7s or 8s and  make their o do something they don't want to.

Maestro's picture

I would say 5-6 is a bit of a stretch.
No defense is going to stop everything.  IU was leading the B1G in passing before the OSU game for a reason.  They completed more passes at a higher percentage for 3 TD's against the vaunted Spartan defense.  The cover 4 is driven by the personnel of this team and the coaching philosophies.

vacuuming sucks

45buckshot's picture

There's a great article by Chris Brown about how Nick Satan doesn't have his DBs backpedal; you can read it on his smart football website
Theres no particular coverage which is good or bad; it just depends on how well the players can execute. But if they can't, they you have to try something else. 
But Alabama uses press coverage and mixes up their back end coverages to keep the offense guessing; they also change the corners from applying inside or outside leverage--all of which to confuse the opposing Qb.
Im not sure we're doing that...
Also, all the missed tackles come down to being coached "to make a big play" rather than being coached to play fundamentally sound defense. This also probably has something to do with the drops (they're thinking "I have to make a big play!" which causes them to lose focus).
So I have to admit, I'm not real impressed with our defensive coaches. Of course injuries have had an impact...

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
—G.K. Chesterton

Larryp713's picture

You can see Roby's confidence growing. I would not be surprised to see him have a very strong 2nd half of the season.



Ethan's picture

So now we're going to incorporate a 3-4? Wasn't the whole problem with our defense that our linebackers haven't produced? Not seeing the logic on this one.

cbusbuckeye's picture

Better coverage against the spread since the ball will most likely be out of the QBs hands before the pass rush gets there. Nate Williams in a 3-4 will probably play more as a DL even if he lines up as a LB

Jdadams01's picture

We've played a hybrid 4/3-3/4 for years. That's the idea of the Leo/Viper position. Half LB, half DE.

rmichael.smith's picture

The best prescription I ever saw for stopping a spread offense was what we did to Oregon in the Rose Bowl.  Arkansas was also shut down by the same approach.  In neither game did we give up on getting to the quarterback.  We had blitzes that worked, whether by linebackers or off the edge.  the qb never knew where it was coming from, only, for sure, that it was coming.  We can't give up on that approach or , dare I say it?  we need Heathcote back in the booth?  ungh. its killin me.  If we were fast enough to do it then, we should be able to do it now.  study the films, see what we did & who (what position) made it work.  Part of it may be that we don't have great man coverage, which means noone free to blitze.  One other point: I applaud Boren, but when he has to pick up a reciever coming across the middle, he's likely to get beat by a really fast one.  It will take a while for his instincts to really get honed. 


Roman Brutus's picture

I'm guessing you mean Heacock and not Heathcote. Basketball schemes probably wouldn't help this defense too much.

BuckeyeinAnnArbor's picture

Somehow I don't think an "emphasis on 4-6 seconds" is going to fix our LB play.

BeijingBucks's picture

oh wait... coach didn't mean the 4-6 second break between plays?

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Buckeye06's picture

I don't think anyone on here thinks the "silver bullets" are going to give up less than 20 in a game for the rest of the year, and I'm fine with that, since I believe our O can eclipse that every time. 
The 3-4 is only put into place so Williams and Spence are on the field at the same time with Simon, Hankins, and Goebel as the 3...that's my guess although it may be Hankins, Goebel and Spence as the 3 with Simon/Williams playing the OLB spots??

ARMYBUCK's picture

One more thing Braxton needs to work on...honesty.  NO idea he was in discussions about the Heisman??  CMON MAN.

osubuckeye4life's picture

I love these updates that give us somewhat of an idea about the team after the Tues and Wed practices. 
Coach Mick has been a huge asset to this team as a whole. I definitely can see a leaner and meaner team on both sides of the ball. Granted, the D has been having many issues (such as some players not giving a full effort for 60 minutes). However, without Coach Mick I don't see this team undefeated.