Stops Behind the Line of Scrimmage: How the 2013 Silver Bullets Stack Up Historically

By Jeff Beck on February 21, 2014 at 11:30a

Urban Meyer likes to build defenses that can get into the backfield and disrupt plays before they start. For anyone that needs a reminder (click at your own risk). Since he arrived his staff has made a point to recruit defensive athletes who exhibit the ability to break through the line of scrimmage in a hurry.

This year’s iteration of the Silver Bullets left a lot to be desired, but as the weeks wore on it was apparent the glaring issues were emanating from the secondary (a unit thought to be one of the team’s strengths heading into the season) while the defensive line (viewed as a deficit to start the year) became a terror for opposing teams.

As they say, everything starts in the trenches and the Buckeyes’ group of Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, and Adolphus Washington were no exception. The unit was the driving force behind the Buckeyes’ 90 tackles for loss and 41.5 sacks on the season. Those numbers look solid, but how do they stack up against Silver Bullet squads of recent memory? The answer…pretty darn good.

Here’s a chart of total team tackles for loss and sacks over the last nine seasons:

Year TFL Sacks
2005 82 43
2006 93 38
2007 96.5 40
2008 76 27
2009 78 30
2010 74 23
2011 66 32
2012 64 30
2013 90 41.5

Right away, the 2007 team jumps off the page in terms of tackles for loss with 96.5. That number was powered by All-Beast-Everything, Vernon Gholston, who tallied 15.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks (No. 1 in the OSU record book for a season).

Other notables on that squad included James Laurinaitis (8.5 TFL, 5 sacks), Larry Grant (9.5 TFL, 5 sacks), Cameron Heyward (10 TFL, 2.5 sacks), Anderson Russell (7 TFL, 3 sacks) and Marcus Freeman (9.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks). The group was more than good at making their presence felt in the back-field and also managed to put the quarterback on the ground 40 times during the year, good enough for third over the last nine seasons.

Right behind the 2007 group in tackles for loss is the 2006 team with 93. Many of the same players listed above made an impact in the undefeated regular season run. Add Quinn Pitcock to that list (12 TFL, 8 sacks) and you have a squad that was hitting ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage with consistency.

Believe it or not, your 2013 Buckeyes come in next on the list with 90 tackles for loss on the season. Ryan Damn Shazier is to thank for 23.5 of them, but that shouldn’t downplay the role other Silver Bullets played in stuffing the opponent.

Noah Spence tallied 14 TFL, Joey Bosa had 13.5, Michael Bennett notched 11.5 and the oft injured Adolphus Washington had 4. For those counting at home that’s 48% of the team’s TFL production coming from players who will be returning next season.

Bosa put in work behind the line.

When looking at total team sacks the picture gets even rosier. Leading the charge in terms of sacks over the course of the last nine seasons is the 2005 team that tallied 43 on the year. That squad was led by senior, A.J. Hawk who had 16.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Others getting in on the action were Mike Kudla (11.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks), Bobby Carpenter (10.5 TFL, 8 sacks), Donte Whitner (9 TFL, 4 sacks) and David Patterson (7.5 TFL, 4 sacks).

But, coming in just behind those household names are…you guessed it, your 2013 Buckeyes with 41.5 sacks on the year. Let that soak in for a second. The team last season ranks second in sacks over the past nine years. Remember that whole Urban wanting players who get into the backfield thing? It’s becoming a reality.

But, unlike other teams on the list above, the 2013 team spread those sacks out. Last year there were no 14 sack Gholstons. The 2013 squad (much like the 2005 team) got to their second overall ranking by generating major production from a number of different players. In total, four different Buckeyes put together 7+ sack seasons (Shazier, Spence, Bosa and Bennett), while five more tallied more than one sack (Curtis Grant, Washington, Jamal Marcus, Steve Miller and Chase Farris). Of those nine individuals, seven are returning in 2014.

Why is this good? Because the opposition has a lot of heat to account for. With so many players able to get pressure, it creates nightmares for an offense while opening up a myriad of defensive play-calling possibilities, particularly at the second and third levels.

Meyer is recruiting fast and agile high-schoolers to play on his defenses moving forward. It’s no coincidence that three of the team's top six leaders in TFL and sacks are Meyer recruits. That’s major production from players who are in just their first or second seasons in the program. If that trend continues, it’s going to be hard for opposing teams to cross the line of scrimmage for years to come.


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rdubs's picture

Frankly this is unsurprising.  Our Dline was our best unit and is usually responsible for these stats.  Also we had one of the best blitzers in the country in Shazier.  The problem came when they couldn't quite get to the QB on pass plays, then the back end was not ready to do their job.  The one area that the Dline could have improved was in screen recognition.  Bosa is just a freshman, but I remember seeing him come screaming in unblocked because his OL had given him the ole to go set up for a screen.  Of course Bosa didn't get there and the space behind him was set up perfectly for a quick screen.  He certainly wasn't the only one either.

+5 HS
robinson819's picture

Not shocked at all. I think this team up front was pretty good and with a more disciplined back end those numbers would be higher. I expect them to be higher next year. 50 sacks and 100 TFL. They have the talent and hopefully they have the coaching to pull it off.

seafus26's picture

Arrrrrgg, I remember what Urban's D front did against us. When Tressel did decide to commit to the run I think it was a 4 play drive, all Pittman, and we hit pay dirt. The very next drive, we threw it 3 straight times and went 3 and out. I'm sure said pressure had alot to it. Our OL seemed to regress and look fatter after 30 days off, their DL (entire team for that matter) seemed to take it to another level in the time they had from SEC champ to the NCG.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

JLP36's picture

2nd down and 13 is great unless you give up an easy 18 yard pass or 2 consecutive 9 yard completions to the TE.


+7 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

By playing 15yds off the ball the next 2 plays.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+2 HS
Brandon26841's picture

I knew the numbers were great, and it was definitely the best unit of the defense (by default, of course), but I remember being underwhelmed at times with a consistent lack of a pass rush. They would get sacks of course, but they seemed to have come in bunches or in garbage time. I'm sure the lack of coverage in the back end and the primary way that teams attacked the Ohio State defense (throw 8,123 quicks WR screens a game) played a big role in that, but I thought this was kind of interesting:

This was the same website that ranked Ohio State's offensive line as being the best in the country, FWIW. They've got the d-line ranked 96th. Seems a little low, but I think somewhere in the middle seems about right. Next year they've definitely got the potential to be one of the best though, but I think the numbers are a bit misleading. Shazier had 24 of those tackles for loss and 7 of the sacks too.

+3 HS
TobyMagic's picture

I'd be interested to see opponents drop backs included in that stat matrix.  Logic says teams looked to attack this group through the air, therefore more drop backs and more TFL/sack opportunities. Not to mention more plays with the evolution of the Hurry up.

+3 HS
45OH4IO's picture

That was my thought. How many more plays did the D see this year versus in the past? With offenses running more plays, defenses have more tackles to make.

+2 HS
Earle's picture

So much pressure from the front four.  So many big plays in the passing game.  Could it be that the secondary was actually even worse than we all thought?

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.

+3 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Sadly, that is how I read this.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Hovenaut's picture

Wouldn't mind seeing a repeat of the Bosa pic later this year. A few times over, in fact.

+2 HS
1MechEng's picture

I'd be curious to know how many third and longs were completed against the Buckeyes when we didn't bring pressure (i.e. dropped 7 or 8 into coverage). Our corners seemed especially slow and susceptible to double moves when there was no pressure on the QB.

+1 HS
keep_it_down's picture

No doubt the D-line was impressive at times, I'm actually shocked that the numbers where as high as they were considering everyone from Oct on was throwing flanker screens and quick release passes against us. The offense putting 40 per game may also played a factor as often times we were ahead in games and teams had to throw the ball and abandon the run.

Defending the boarder

+1 HS
mobboss1984's picture

This shows why man to man coverage would be absolutely devastating to opposing teams. Imagine with the corners we have playing press coverage with the safety over the top . Quarterbacks wouls see spence, bosa, washington in their nightmares. Also my underrated favorite Marcus.

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Bruce Lee

+3 HS
mobboss1984's picture

Vonn Bell would have 7 or 8 picks.

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Bruce Lee

+1 HS
Yeddy's picture

Interesting stats. 2013 stats are not really an apples to apples comparison to the teams in the past when you count total numbers. We played one more game this year than any other previous year. I wonder how the averages look? I would also wonder how many more opportunities we had for sacks and TFL with teams obviously attacking our weakness' on the corner and in the secondary. I would guess the opponents pass attempts against had to be close to a record high.

+1 HS
bukyze's picture

Still can't figure out why Gholston never amounted to anything in the NFL.

buckskin's picture

His college game hinged upon brute strength, mostly bullrushing.  That's where most of those stats came from.  I believed he played DE and in the NFL you need to have some speed and moves to play on the outside, not just force.  I'm with you though, I thought he would play much better in the NFL.

buckskin's picture

I knew our sacks and TFL were good because of the D-line and Shazier, but it stacks up better than I thought it would against past silver bullet defenses.  Let's hope Ash and Johnson can get the D to be more complete this coming year.  One thing they have to do is get better at making adjustments.  I got so tired of seeing the WR screens that I about threw my TV out the window.

buckz4evr's picture

I think one of the things that was lacking on this team was the game changing 3rd or 4th down sacks toward the end of the game when a sack was critically needed. I'm not saying the defense didn't have those moments, but the defensive line seemed to fall short in that area. I always had the sense that pass was going to get in the air and it did.

BuckeyeB9B82501's picture

Buckz4Evr..... I think 1 of the reason behind falling short of that late 3rd or 4th down sack late in the games was b/c (about the only knock on Vrable I had) we didnt sub in enough DLinemen during the game. And these guys gave all out every play. Which by the time 3rd and 4th qtr came around they were drained big-time; almost dead; flat out beat tired. We had the talent AND the depth at that position to have been able to rotate in more guys. But 4 some reason Vrable didnt do it and that is what I thought he could/should have done more of. I will bet the house that LJSr will do that. We will more than likely see a fresher more explosive DLine in 2014 b/c that is 1 thing LJSr does, if he has the players/depth he will use them. I can almost bet that LJSr has not ever had or seen the kind of talented depth that he will have at his disposal this year. He will rotate guys in and out at all times. And he could very well have 3 different full lines to rotate in. Thats 12+ guys. You can bet that he WILL use them all thus having fresher guys going all out through the end of the game. Thats 1 thing Vrable did NOT do. Thats why I think our D Line is the best in CFB and it will over power every team they go up against in 2014 and beyond. Cant wait for the season to get here!!! Still love Vrable but thats 1 thing he will learn as his coaching career continues on. GO BUCKS!!!!!
and Meshitcan still sucks :-D

Buckeye Dynasty starts in 2014 baby !!!!!! GO BUCKS !!!!!!!! O - H - I - O

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

I expected the TFL and Sack numbers to be good. Comparatively, they are outstanding. The obvious difference is our DBs and sometimes LBs in coverage. We've never been beat for big plays as badly as we did this year. 

FitzBuck's picture

Wait so the D line and LB were good to great but people still want to fire Fickell?  He had nothing to do with the secondary so maybe this is why Meyer wanted to keep him.  

I've brought this up in the past but this points out all of the positives came from the parts of the defense Luke was responsible for.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+1 HS
45OH4IO's picture

Don't start this conversation up again! I'm neutral about him myself, but Luke is Ficked if the D has another bad year. It's not Urban he should worry about though. It's the 11W commentariat that will run him out of town with pitchforks and torches!

Nutinpa's picture

People, rightly or wrongly, wanted Fick to be relieved of his duties, because, despite the gaudy statistics this article points to, there is another fact that this D, his D....including the DLine had to own up to: by Buckeye standards, they were flat out terrible. While the theme of this article is that of sacks and "minus yardage" which they were good at, they were known collectively for their terrible performance against Michigan, Sparty, and Clemson. Or in other words...when it counted. That is why Fick took a disproportionate share of Buckeye Nation grief...because his Defense sucked.

I have posted and will go to my grave believing that,the D issues aside, with better Offensive play calling against Sparty, we play FSU for the Natty, but that is water under the bridge.  Also, one of the reasons the D backs were so horrible in pass coverage was at times, due to their pre-occupation with run support, believe it or not as you wish.  Look how many tackles Bradley Roby made at the LOS. This D line put up some gaudy stats as the article showed and Mike Vrabel deserves credit.  But with LJ coming in, I believe these kids will be taught some fundamentals that until now have been lacking.  

There is no doubt: The D line was the best unit on last year's Defense. But all that means... is they were the healthiest weed in the garden. 

+1 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Not really surprised much by this.  I am surprised by how well the numbers stack up to some defenses over recent years that were really very good to great defenses, but I could tell throughout the season that the run defense and pass rush were a strength of the team.  It's just amazing to me that a defense can have all of these TFLs and sacks, and yet it seems like they needed to do it a lot more, because if they didn't do it on pass plays, look out.  Makes the secondary look even worse than they already did.

Class of 2010.

Bigbutterbuckeye's picture

Isn't one of the basic tenets of UFM's offense predicting, reading and controlling what the defense ends do? Stands to reason that having D-linemen that disrupt any attempt to do the same would be what he is looking for.

ESPN starting the SEC channel to concentrate on the SEC is like Baskin-Robbins starting a new store to concentrate on selling ice cream.

PittBuckeye's picture

If the secondary was better the sack #'s could have been insane.

DC-town's picture

Not an apples to apples comparison- I would be interested to see how many total plays we had this year vs years past when we played a different brand of football.

And also Adolphus wasn't a starter, it was Mr Hale out there...hopefully Adolphus breaks out as a full time DT, but everyone seems to forget that wasn't his role last year

'Piss excellence' -RB

Crimson's picture

I hope Adolphus stays at SSDE.  With a good rotation, we can have him and Bosa there, Spence/Marcus/Lewis at WSDE, Hale/Bennett/Schutt/Sprinkle/Carter and some other young guys in the middle.

Also, use the edit button instead of posting multiple times back to back.

DC-town's picture

I'm going to assume Ash is going to make the defense better by installing an identity and fixing the secondary.

Or they'll struggle and it will be the fault of that bum lifelong player coach buckeye Fickell...get the pitchforks ready


'Piss excellence' -RB

DC-town's picture

Pretty sure Fickell has done more for the bucks than anyone reading or commenting, not saying the dude shouldn't get some heat, but it's laughable the degree to which he gets 'scapegoated'

'Piss excellence' -RB

Furious George 27's picture

Sure, he has done more than anyone as a player and a coach. However, as a Co- D coordinator/LB coach he has to take the heat because both functions in his title have not been good. RDS is a freak and kept the LB unit looking respectable. Bottom line is he is responsible for scheme or play calling which was questionable as well at times. Also saying did we win after giving up 40 to an inept michigan team did not help his cause either. I'll back him as a buckeye, but his job is to get results and so far 2/3 of the unit he supposedly runs is not producing as expected or needed.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

ChazBuckeye's picture

We'll see how laughable it is if the same "status quo" continues and we read more about, "Did we win?"  Personally I feel the new defensive staff additions will compliment Fickell more so than Coombs, Withers and Vrabel.  But lets not act like Fickell's doing a knock it out of the park job with the LBs or overall.  Since being the head DC, it hasn't been pretty.  If this year is a turn around year, I expect him to move on and someone else will take over.  His contract is up in 2015 and I can't see Urban keeping him if there's others our there (or in OSU's own locker room) who could do a better job.  Which I feel Urban got Ash and LJ Sr. with incentives that we may never know about.  For instance, a possible HC or head DC jobs.  Just my opinion and hunch btw.  No links or what have you.   

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.

Brutus1972's picture

The Defensive Line was without a doubt the strength of our defense. However, I would be very curious as to how many plays this defense was on the field compared to defenses of the past. Giving up more third and longs than any Buckeye defense in the past half century certainly creates more opportunities for sacks and tfl's. Fickel is ours, he isn't going anywhere but lets not act like the LB corps was any better in coverage than the secondary. The good news is that the defense will be drastically better or we wont have to argue about who gets fired. I seriously doubt Urban lets the defense lapse for another entire season before pulling the trigger on someone.

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Interesting stats, good job Jeff.  Would be interesting to see a chart of total yards allowed by year, I'm thinking the 2013 team would "win" that one.  I believe I remember reading something along the lines of this last season the offense scored the most points in the history of the program and the defense gave up the most yards ever.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong about that.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Qujo's picture

I seriously doubt Urban allows the D to perform as bad as it has the last two years. This a result of Coombs taking direction from Ash, LJ and his ability to add to what Vrabel did and then some and finally a real secondary coach that will align with the D coordinator and be in unison with the total D game planning. No longer will Fickell be trying to align a D with the dis functional way he was handed a new D coaching staff. If Urban wanted to he had the ammunition to fire Fickell after last year. Instead he gave Fickell more tools to work with instead of the dysfunction of EW (co D) and a pseudo DB coach in Coombs. Urb is as much to blame for the poor D the last two years as anyone by creating the dysfunctional setup. He gets it and helped make the changes necessary. And no, Fickell wasn't one of those changes to the dismay of many arm chair D coaches.

Our arch rivals.... 11 National Championships, 10 before 1949 - eight of eleven shared. Trying to respect them... trying.... Ugh!

bull1214's picture

sack numbers can be deceiving. like some have said, at times they come in bunches and then disappear.

not positive, but I wouldn't be surprised if the #'s showed that teams dropped back and tried to throw against this defense more often than the others. which could lead to more sack opportunities.

HoosierBuck's picture

It would be interesting to know how many times a tfl chance was missed by over running the ball carrier/QB! Sometimes speed doesn't wrap up.

ChazBuckeye's picture

If I remember correctly, OSU's defense was #3 before the MSU game in sacks in the nation.  So this doesn't surprise me.  What will surprise me is if OSU is in the top ten or even top five in overall defense in 2014.  All that needs done is shoring up the holes that were given up by the secondary.  Personally I think OSU's defense will be why OSU wins it all, if they do.  The talent is there, it just needs to be tapped into and if that happens, then the skies the limit IMO.  Especially with the addition of the 2014 class, which I expect at least two to see a lot of playing time in the secondary (Lattimore and Webb with the potential of Smith too).  I'm excited to see what the new coaches on defense bring to the table.  It should be an interesting time if you're a fan of good, aggressive, smash mouth defense.  I know I'm ready to see it again;-)

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.

HaVy NuTs's picture

Our numbers on the field should continue to be good from our Dline for years to come, now if we can get our DB's to come around, which they will, I could easily see us having one of the top defenses in the country as we once had. With all the youth in the denfensive backfield I could see us struggling for another year, but the future looks bright with guys like Bell, Burrows, Webb, and Apple. As others have posted we gave way too much cushion for plays to develop this past year, but our speed in the defensive backfield will catch up with the speed of our offense in due time.

m5987usus's picture

Im sure with our run defense being good and our pass defense well being ummm well you know, teams were dropping back throwing ball far more and gave our defense a chance to get the sack.


Crimson's picture

Please, supermods, help kill the repeats.  Is the new site any better in this regard?  Who should we report to?

m5987usus's picture

Im sure with our run defense being good and our pass defense well being ummm well you know, teams were dropping back throwing ball far more and gave our defense a chance to get the sack.


m5987usus's picture

Im sure with our run defense being good and our pass defense well being ummm well you know, teams were dropping back throwing ball far more and gave our defense a chance to get the sack.


chemicalwaste's picture

All of this with a lame secondary. Imagine if there was a secondary that could cover wide receivers and allow more time to get to the qb.