Buckeyes Dig Deep to Replace Bryant

By Kyle Rowland on October 1, 2013 at 9:15a
The Dear Leader

In the lead up to a season filled with Everestian expectations, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer didn’t fret about teams on the schedule or whether an undefeated Buckeye team would be left out of the national championship game. He worried about distractions and how his team would react to adversity.

After a series of suspensions in July, Ohio State held together like Elmer’s Glue. But their resolve will face its biggest test on Saturday against another ranked opponent, and the rest of the season. All will take place without safety Christian Bryant, a senior leader and captain who was one of the defense’s top players.

It moved Meyer enough to have his voice crack when he delivered the announcement to the media following Saturday’s 31-24 win over Wisconsin. At the same time, he smacked the podium with every ounce of his strength. Meyer loves his leaders and understands the importance Bryant has to the Scarlet and Gray.

“We lost our captain,” Meyer said in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Nearly 36 hours later, Meyer’s emotions had barely subsided. “This is not an easy one,” he said.

Added Meyer: “The sign of a good team is always that someone must step up in his place. The issue is going to be not just as a player but who he is. That’s one of the greatest things you get to do as a coach is watch and witness a young guy turn into a man. And he has. I can’t say enough good things about Christian Bryant and what he means.”

It was an early morning and busy day inside the regal Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Meyer met with his defensive staff at 7 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. The topic was the same both times. What to do in the secondary without Bryant?

Meyer admitted a year ago would have resulted in a far different picture. He would have micromanaged the situation, putting his hands all over the final product because his relationship with many assistants was still in its infancy.

“I didn’t really know [safeties coach] Everett Withers very well,” Meyer said. “But he’s an excellent football coach, and when we met this morning, I wanted opinions from the coaches. I want to hear what they are going to do, and I give my opinions.”

No. 16 Northwestern will stretch the Buckeye defense and force them to tackle the Wildcat playmakers in space. It’s been the type of team that’s given Ohio State all it could handle during a nation’s best 17-game win streak.

Week 1 Post Bryant could yield a permanent starter, or it could be done by committee. But the Buckeyes must pick a direction and go with it. Waffling in the middle of the season will be no good for anyone.

“First of all, anytime you lose a player, it’s a loss,” cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. “Anybody who doesn’t acknowledge that would be foolish. Christian is a guy who has no hesitancy in standing in front of the team and addressing them. There are only a handful of guys who are able to do that with credibility in any locker room. He’s one of them.”

Bryant is a three-year starter who’s appeared in 36 career games, starting 27. He was the team’s third-leading tackler through five games of the 2013 season – 22 stops. As a sophomore, Bryant was Ohio State’s second-leading tackler before finishing with the third-most tackles during the undefeated season of 2012.

“I wish you guys could hear some of the speeches he gives us in the locker room,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “He’s a huge leader on the field, and he’s a huge leader off the field. It’s a hard loss, but it’s Ohio State. We’ve got guys that will step up and fill that role.”

There’s a trio of candidates the coaches will watch practice this week before deciding on which direction to go in. Pittsburgh Brown is the odds-on-favorite, but Tyvis Powell and true freshman Vonn Bell also are in the discussion.

The defense is complicated and requires constant communication between the players. Going from a handful of plays to almost every defensive snap is a tall order. Not to mention, there are shoes the size of Shaq’s to fill.

“Christian is the heart and soul of our defense,” wide receiver Phill Brown said. “He’s a big energy guy, a dude that’s out there making plays. When we’ve got Christian out there and the defense is on those long, eight- and nine-play drives, Christian’s the guy who can keep the defense up.”

Pittsburgh Brown’s experience and familiarity with the defense should make the coaches rest more easily than having a redshirt or true freshman in the backfield. The rest of the secondary – Doran Grant, Bradley Roby and C.J. Barnett – can play more freely as well.

For four seasons, Brown, a five-star recruit, has languished and been lost in the shuffle. The dawn of a new season has delivered so much promise. Many have believed in Brown for years, and he’s finally making strides during his senior season. He has 21 tackles, fourth-most on the team, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a deflection.

“As we sit here this afternoon Pitt Brown will go in there and play,” Coombs said. “I don’t know exactly the configuration of how all those guys are going to fit going into the week. Some of that will be developed and discussed during practice.

“I think the exciting thing about Pitt Brown is he’s an extremely versatile player. You can plug him in at a lot of roles, whether it be nickel last year, dime this year. He’s always consistent as a safety in practice. We use him all over in special teams. Pitt’s versatility is a big key to his and our success. I’m looking forward to him getting out there and playing.”

What can Brown do for you?


Comments Show All Comments

Baroclinicity's picture

Would love to see Pittsburgh shine in this opportunity.  Always thought he has been a little under-used.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

RunEddieRun1983's picture

My choice would be Von Bell, but I was so ennamered with that kid during recruiting that my judgement on the subject is a little clouded.  Not sure where we go in this, it's a huge loss, and the guys they have in the lineup to back him up aren't going to do the job the way he would have done it.  Should still be a good situation though still have a ton of faith in our guys.

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

dan_isaacs's picture

You like shiny things, do ya?  :)

Pittsburg was rated nearly as high as Bell, and he has a LOT more experience.  He can make plays.  I want to see Bell, too, but I trust Brown.

Dan Isaacs

ejoceans's picture

Yea, I was going to say... This is a great chance for Pittsburgh to show his stuff and keep the bucks on track.  I know it will not be the same but I hope he can step up and do the job.  I'm not to sure about Bell just because he is a frosh and hasn't played in any games and surely not in a game like this.  but hey, he might be as good as he looked in hs but prob not.  I really think if anything will motivate these boys this will. I mean play the rest of the season for Bryant because he deserves it and you owe it to him(not really but I would use that as fuel).  O  H

Lets do this Brutus

BuckeyeFreak4844's picture

I don't think we completely replace him with one guy at this point and time.  But certain guys can step up and replace some of his skills and attributes.  This is a horrible loss but im excited to see who steps up and makes plays.

Michigan Sucks!

BoFuquel's picture

That's why you have a two-deep chart.It's whomever has been gittin'er done step in and takes over. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

GoBucks713's picture

I know this isn't a possibility, but could you imagine RDS flying around out there playing full contact center fielder? What about Cameron Johnston?
Personally I think Corey Brown will step up and the coaches will let Vonn Bell get some time in to help him develop. Moving Tyvis over against Nerdwestern could be a bad idea, considering there would be two players in a new starting position, as opposed to one. I think the development of the spot plus the star will start to develop for a few games after the Nerds.

-The Aristocrats!

Jonnferrell's picture

I bet Mr. Brown is getting a lot of work in practice this week.  I hope Christian Bryant is still going to be giving those speeches--I think we are going to need them all year.

"I miss Brady Hoke."

73buckeye's picture

I guess I look at this situation a bit differently. Losing Bryant certainly will be felt on the field. As always happens in these cases, next man up is the key, and he will be expected to perform. These guys all have significant physical talent, or they wouldn't be Buckeyes.
Luckily, Bryant's leadership attributes are still intact. I would expect him to be even more of a leader now than he was before he was injured. He can coach his replacement(s), he can still motivate his team mates. John Simon didn't play against TTUN last year, but you can bet he was an example to the others and was leading just as hard from the sidelines as he would have been from the field. Christian Bryant has a great role model for how he needs to "perform" for the rest  the season. 


ChazBuckeye's picture

I hate seeing this Saturday night with Bryant on the ground.  I knew it was bad when he couldn't get up.  Nothing worse than a Senior getting hurt.  However I can see the back ups doing an effective job to be honest.  Pitt Brown, T. Powell, and Bell will be fine.  It just really sucks to see a leader like Bryant be done for his career at OSU.  Sad, sad day indeed.  I can see why Urban was upset during the presser.  It sucks!

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Seattle Linga's picture

One thing is for sure - this will motivate the living crap out of the SILVER BULLETS !

mshaf's picture

Next man up !

SaddleRiverBuckeye's picture

Keep Calm and Trust

Civilized life ends in Toledo

TraptnMI's picture

Browns got all the physical tools and mental make up for an ss, but I don't know if he has the confidence in himself to let GO and play like a play making kid, like he's always been. I think starting is the most important part of that process. The confidence of the team in him will get Pitt rolling!

" It's real good whatcha done Anthony, real good ! "