The Ohio State defense came out of the gate quickly against Illinois. The Buckeyes forced two turnovers, including Bradley Roby's interception return for a touchdown, in helping the Buckeyes to a 28-0 lead. Just when it looked like the Buckeye defense officially turned a corner, however, Ohio State suffered repeated lapses in allowing Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to gain yards through the air and on read plays in allowing 28 points.
The Buckeyes created pressure against the Illini, but when Ohio State defenders did not get home Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was able to move in the pocket and make plays against the Buckeye second level defenders.
The Buckeyes' inconsistent defensive performance can squarely be put on the linebacker play. A unit that was already thin and underwhelming to begin with was decimated with the absence of Josh Perry and Curtis Grant. Ohio State also missed Joey Bosa once he left the game.
Entering this season, the Buckeye defense was the unit with inexperienced players and question marks. Yet the defense is the group that has been beset with critical injuries, reducing its effectiveness. Below I examine the Buckeye coaching staff efforts to cover up linebacker deficiencies, the inability to do so, and the trade-offs the Buckeye coaching staff must consider going forward.