Meyer: Defensive Overhaul On Target

By Kyle Rowland on March 25, 2014 at 7:29p

Offense is Urban Meyer’s baby; there’s little doubting that. But the Ohio State head coach has taken a liking – maybe that’s the wrong word – to defense this spring. When a unit performs as poorly as the Buckeyes’ did the final three games, it leaves the coach no choice.

The overhaul began in earnest following the Orange Bowl. New coaches, new philosophy (and a lot of new players). Larry Johnson’s duties on the line are far less strenuous that what Chris Ash has in store. Ohio State’s line emerged last season as the defense’s top weapon. The secondary? Not so much.

Under Ash, Ohio State will get back to a fast, aggressive scheme. It’s what Meyer’s pined for since he arrived in Columbus more than two years ago.

“I have a vision for our defense,” Meyer told CBS’ Jeremy Fowler. “I made it clear what I’d like to see. I’d like to challenge every throw and run like hell, to have a defense like we played at Florida. I want to see it. I'm more involved than I've ever been.

“What Chris Ash is able to do, we’re overhauling it entirely.”


  • The defensive overhaul between Chris Ash and Luke Fickell is “going well” Meyer said the backend of the defensive is being completely reworked.
  • The Injury to Vonn Bell set back the defense a little bit. But Meyer is happy with Cam Burrows’ progression.
  • Dontre Wilson has assumed the starting H position, which used to belong to Philly Brown. Wilson is now a full-time receiver and no longer meets in the running backs room.
  • Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Johnnie Dixon were all names Meyer mentioned when asked which wide receivers have caught his eye. That’s the pecking order at the position.
  • Jeff Greene needs to “keep pushing,” according to Meyer.
  • The wide receiver position needs to be a strength, Meyer added.
  • Meyer said the defensive line, wide receivers and tailbacks are the deepest positions on the team.
  • Tyvis Powell, Nick Vannett and Pat Elflein were the champions from Saturday’s scrimmage. The defense won.
  • There is no battle at the right guard position – Meyer said Elflein has earned the starting job.
  • Meyer said Joshua Perry is one of the top five most improved players on the team.
  • Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said it’s telling that Cardale Jones is still taking a majority of the reps with the ones. The competition isn’t over, but Herman said he hasn’t done anything to lose hold of the backup spot.
  • The offense will have a different flavor this year, Herman said. The power run-game probably won’t be relied upon as much as it was past two years. Offensive line has to continue improving and be a strength.
  • Herman said Ezekiel Elliott still plays like a freshman, “which is unfortunate.” But he raved about Corey Smith’s ability at wide receiver, saying he could be Ohio State’s best pass-catching weapon. “He’s a super-talented kid.”
  • Both Meyer and Herman were complimentary of Rod Smith for his performance in Tuesday’s practice.
  • Cardale Jones had a few nervous moments in Ohio State’s Saturday scrimmage. But Herman brushed it all aside, pointing out it was the most pressure-packed situation Jones has been in at OSU.
  • Herman said Dontre Wilson wasn’t capable of playing WR last season at 175 pounds. “He didn’t know what the hell he was doing.”
  • Not having Braxton Miller on the field is frustrating, Herman said. But the QB is now being asked to stay engaged, take mental reps and coach up the backups.  Herman said Miller has
  • The offensive line is a big concern, according to Herman. But he said it’d be a bigger concern if he didn’t believe in Ed Warinner and the group of players vying to replace four starters.
  • Herman spoke glowingly of how far ahead the current linemen are compared to two years ago.
  • Through six practices, Herman said the center position is a toss-up between Jacoby Boren and Billy Price. 




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Buckeye06's picture

I don't mind this comment.  He is a freshman, and will make mistakes.  He will be on the field, but I don't think people should expect him to get 70% of the snaps

+8 HS
kmp10's picture

He (Elliott) isn't a Freshman. He's played an entire season, had a full year with the coaches and a full year with Marotti. That Herman said "Ezekiel Elliott still plays like a freshman, which is unfortunate” is a blunt assessment of where Elliott apparently is. It's disappointing in that he was the clear second choice behind Hyde last season at tailback… I guess I'm just surprised, disappointingly so.

+2 HS
bethesdabuck's picture

He's in the Spring semester of his freshman year of college. He's a freshman. 

+15 HS
kmp10's picture

Academically? Yes. From a football standpoint, which is what we're talking about here, he is a second year player. 

cw823's picture

30 touches is hardly playing an entire season.  Meyer is just giving him some motivation

+12 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

Have to think this is to keep him from thinking he is the #1 so he will continue to progress! Same about Green IMO 

+7 HS
swainpm's picture

On the positive side at least Rod Smith seems to be stepping it up. The dude is a force if he can hold onto the ball. I wouldnt mind him being the number one. Zeke can still take the spot for 2 years.

+2 HS
Jeremypreemo81's picture

Swain-Smith is definitely a force.  He brings something to the table that the other backs dont bring...and no I am not talking about ball security issues.  He is 6'3 220+ and runs like a tank on turbo.  He's a one cut north and south runner.  Maybe we can get Zeke and Smith in the backfield at the sametime.  That would be exciting

+1 HS
Wesleyburgess1's picture

I would only consider him a sophomore if he enrolled early. Basically football wise he is still a freshmen because I don't think he enrolled early.

-1 HS
Statutoryglory's picture

Worst case scenario Zeke is the 3rd down back and KR with Dontre.

labuck's picture

I have been thinking all along that Zeke played last year to give him a taste of what it is like.  They knew Rod Smith would be the guy this year and that Bri'onte would be right behind him as long as he developed and learned the offense.  Rod was too much like Carlos last year which is why he didn't play as much.  Bri'onte didn't have a place either so they red-shirted him.  Now that Carlos is gone I believe it is Rod Smith's job to lose and Zeke, Bri'onte and Ball will get all of the left over carries.

+1 HS
CGroverL's picture

I agree that it is Rod Smith's job to lose. I always thought that Smith, who ran times in the 40 similar to El Guapo while being just 5 pounds lighter than Hyde, would emerge as the #1 RB before now. Of course, he had problems holding on to the ball which locked him in the dungeon but if he can hold on to the ball, there are few differences between him and El Guapo. Hyde was .2 seconds faster in the 40 but Smith is better at making guys miss while he is still a load at 230-235 pounds. Beyond that, I believe Smith to have an extra gear that Hyde never had. Smith can make DBs miss while Hyde had to lower his head to get a few extra yards.  I think that Smith has to be the best option and what we are hearing from the coaches are simply things to get the guys behind Smith to better themselves. Smith is the man, but I believe that we should have a "running back by committee" with the H-back involved to open the playbook a bit and to show different looks as the Buckeyes "play towards their strengths".

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.



Knarcisi's picture

It all sounds good. 

+1 HS
buckeyeboy31's picture

Thanks for the update.....sure is good to be a buckeye fan these days

cw823's picture

Well, unless you like the basketball team

+2 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

Meyer said Joshua Perry is one of the top five most improved players on the team.

My favorite line from the practice update.  With Shazier gone we need to see some big steps forward from Perry and Grant.

+4 HS
biggy84's picture

Glad to see Elflein doing so well. I remember a lot of people thinking his commitment was being honored by Urbz because he stuck with the program through the turmoil. I remember some sites even stating that he was strictly a "practice body". Good for him!

+7 HS
HeuermanTheFireman's picture

I wouldn't be surprised if Coach is using his mind powers to try to get more out of Zeke. He probably wants him to practice harder. Just my 2cents.

The person responsible for toes clearly wanted you to stub them.

+4 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

The wide receiver position needs to be a strength, Meyer added

I'm hoping we field a group of receivers that can get open and make plays, and do it quickly. I don't trust Braxton has improved enough to go through progressions or throw open receivers, and we'll need a competent passing game to ease the burden on our new O-line and RB's. I feel like we relied too heavily on our power running game (miss you already Carlos!) last year, and while we have a lot of talent on O, we can't rely on them right out of the gate. 

Can someone clarify, now that Dontre is exclusively a WR, will we be employing someone else in the Percy Pivot position this year, maybe a Jalin Marshall or Curtis Samuel?

Edit: there is supposed to be a strike through on "Percy", but it's not showing up when I post. Oh well.



+2 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

Slot Back(WR) IS the position Harvin played at Florida, the position that.Wilson can now play if he's put on 15 pounds of muscle, learned how to block down field and learned how to run crisp routes. 90% of Harvin's touches came on receptions. 10% came on jet sweeps and option plays after being in motion.OR coming in motion and taking a position in the backfield beside the RB.

bigDbuck's picture

Agree. Just not super confident Brax will learn to read and deliver.  I hope he does, but too many times something breaks down.  I do think he will improve, just not sure if Brax is up to RG3, A luck levels. Which is what we all want and expect from 4 yr player.    

+1 HS
Lawver_5's picture

I'm not sure if he necessarily needs to be as good as Andrew Luck, they are completely different quarterbacks 

+2 HS
GrayDay's picture

Brax may not improve tremendously, but think how much easier his life can be if the defense finally gets it together.  Even with his limitations last year they scored a ton.  If we can get back to holding most teams to under 20 points a game, its huge.

brylee's picture

Dontre currently occupies the H (Hybrid) position, which is the percy pivot position...

OfficerRabbit's picture

Haha, the "Percy" in that statement was supposed to be in Strike Through, but that function doesn't seem to be working on the website (tried on both ipad and laptop). People get all bent out of shape when you call it the "Percy Position", I was trying to poke fun at that.

I guess I thought the H position entailed taking some snaps in the backfield, and as Dontre is no longer working with the RB's, I wondered if they may be making room for another guy to come in.

I'm honestly asking, is there no way to put two "H" positions on the field, maybe in a 4 wide set with two traditional receivers as well?



Chief B1G Dump's picture

Hoping that Herman just made a psychological move to push EzE...
Otherwise, nice to hear good news and not have any "clown shows."

+1 HS
ChazBuckeye's picture

After I read this below, I didn't read one word more!

“What Chris Ash is able to do, we’re overhauling it entirely.”

        This is pure gold^^^^^^^

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.

+3 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Hopefully they don't overhaul EVERYTHING.... kinda like leading the conference in sacks and only allowing one 100 yard rusher.... just fix the DBs

Slingin' swag since 1970


+2 HS
UrbanCulture's picture

These can be misleading.

Lead the conference in sacks because people passed so much against us.

Only gave up 100 yard rusher because no one needed to rush against us.

I think statistics like sacks per pass play would be more telling. I could be completely wrong, maybe we are still really good at sacks!

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Give me more of that action ---- CHAZ

Toilrt Paper's picture

I have absolutely no problem with Smith being #1 and Zeke 2, 3 or 4. Zeke better get engaged, there is A LOT of talent at the RB position.

+1 HS
Kingbuck12's picture

This might be an unpopular comment, but i really want to see Dunn start this year over Zeke. He has  an extra year in the system, he's a big boy like Carlos, and most importantly is that he is from OHIO of course. Hope he kills it this year. Love Zeke too. 


+9 HS
whobdis's picture

I don't think most people realize it but Elliot is bigger than Dunn. He's listed at 225 and Dunn is at 218...both listed 6'. I will say Dunn's running style is more in line with Carlos...he's not the elusive type. But don't sell EZ short in the power department..he's going to suprise some people. We've had some great backs but it's been awhile since we've had THIS much depth. I though Ball would be a star and he's buried on the depth chart.

+7 HS
45buckshot's picture

This is the line that scares me:

"The offense will have a different flavor this year, Herman said. The power run-game probably won’t be relied upon as much as it was past two years."

Hyde at one point was almost threatening to quit the team because they wouldn't give him the damn ball. I don't know if it's Meyer or Herman, but one of them hates the power run game. I love the power run game! Hyde was dominant last year; what's wrong with that? Can't they see that having a big scary back running down the middle makes the stuff on the edges work? Or didn't they see Stanford beat Oregon again?

If we don't have a big guy that scares people up the middle the offense gets predictable, and we're back to losing big games against good defenses (did we ever leave?)

That being said, if Cardale ends up with the job, he's got the size to run up the middle... a la Timmy T

And fwiw, i think Ball is getting overlooked. If Smith doesn't grab the job, I'm pulling for Ball; he seems to run angry (like Eddie George, like Beanie, like Hyde)

“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

rufio's picture

Stanford also lost to Michigan State. We need substance on offense regardless of style. The offense needs to move the ball, make first downs, and score points. Any style of offense that gets that done and doesn't completely screw the defense over should be beautiful to us.

Relying less on the "power running game" is probably a move that they are making to suit the players we have. Namely, Braxton Miller and the plethora of fast WRs/"Percy Players" that we've been recruiting. 4 of 5 OL are gone, Hyde is gone, and that's probably why we'll run the ball less.

If the offense scores points and wins game no one should care.

buckeyes1934's picture

We won't run the ball less than last year, we'll just run a different style of run plays. We've been known the past two years to run power (with a pulling guard), and inside zone. We didn't run a lot of outside zone because we had a bruising RB. This year we'll be seeing a lot more outside zone, and inverted veer (bash) run plays. I also think Dontre will be utilized in a triple option type look as well. Urban liked to use that while at Florida.

As far as the previous comment about either Herman or Urban hating the power run game, that couldn't be more false. Herman strictly ran that offense while at Iowa State, and power is what Urban is known for. His offenses at Florida were extremely simple. It's the same concept as Gus Malzhan's offense at Auburn. Gus has probably the simpliest offense in America, but they run it at a tempo that's hard to stop.

Squirrel Master's picture

The power run-game probably won’t be relied upon as much as it was past two years

I took that in a totally different meaning than you. The Zone Read game will still incorporate the power run, it has too. What I see Herman actually saying is that we don't need to use the power run game as our crutch. I think Herman, and myself included, believes the power run game was leaned on a bit too much last year as the main means of moving the ball. He would like to see the offense be more diverse even though the power run is still there.

I think the whole team knows it can run the ball between the tackles and isn't concerned about that, they want to be able to move the ball in other ways with the same efficiency. Having the power run as a tool instead of the only tool.

Plus I see the RB and slot players still getting their power run plays. I think we will see less Braxton running up the middle as often as we did last year.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

TheBadOwl's picture

Hyde was fed up during Fickell's season, when he was behind Boom Herron and Jordan Hall, and never got the carries he deserved. That had nothing to do with Herman or Meyer, it was all Bollman.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

TheBadOwl's picture

As much as this community loves to hate Fickell, I'm not sure that he should really be held accountable for how awful the offense was that year.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

mtrotb's picture

Over time Price will be the starting center probably by fall camp.


Kingbuck12's picture

I wonder who is faster, Dunn or Zeke. I guess we are spoiled to have both. Plus Ball too. Depth depth depth. Love being a buckeye. 


ab1993's picture

I was interested so I looked it up. Zeke - 4.40, Dunn - 4.69 those have probably changed now but I doubt Zeke is slower

Kingbuck12's picture

Wow I wouldn't have expected Zeke to be bigger and faster. I stand corrected. Thanks everyone for the info on our backs. Cant wait to see them both run. We are in good hands it seems. 


nm_buck's picture

zeke is the man... you don't fall out of favor that quick.  Sounds to me like they're just tweaking him a bit.  He might have done something the coaches didn't like... or more likely has been carrying himself like he already knows he's the starter.  It's all motivational,  He'll be the starter come August.

The news on Greene is a bit disappointing.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

+1 HS
Silver Bullet 10's picture

Urban said Zeke was doing great. 

sivaDavis's picture

I love the group of WR's that were named. Devin, Thomas, Corey Smith and Dixon. Whewww. Talk about a group of receivers. I just hope Green continues to work hard and gets to be in some type of red zone package. Him and Mike Thomas. We got the big boys and backs to line up stacked in the red zone with a WR out wide to keep the defense honest. If it's 1 on 1, throw it up to Thomas or Green. If it isnt, let Brionte or Rod or EzE pound it in. I think this is the most excited I've been for OSU football. The year Urban came I was excited but wasn't expecting slot considering the 6-7 record a year before. Then this past year I was excited again but saw a lot of questions on defense. This year though, Chris Ash and LJ added to the staff, defensive focus, great spring reports and some great players that were brought in. Not to mention guys like Meechy, Webb, Smith, Lattimore, Jamarco, Booker!! Crazy talent coming in. I hate having to wait this long!!!!

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
The Clean North's picture

I don't think that Zeke has proved himself yet even though everyone assumes he will be the no 1 running back this season. Look at last season, the 2 games he actually had some stats to look at were against the 2 worst teams we played. Probably 2 of the worst teams in all of America. Mark my words, he won't be the starting back come season opener against navy. 

Barnsey69's picture

Man I don't know why, but my gut says this defense tears the B1G a new one this fall.

Go Bucks!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

raki's picture

Lets Hope, I will not buy into the Hype anymore unless and untill they beat a top ten team.

+2 HS
TraptnMI's picture

We all know Dunn and Ball have great hands, but what about Eze and smith? Got to have great hands in this offense like Hyde does, don't they?

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

Breakawayspeed's picture

OSU has always recruited talented players but talent isn't enough.  Many thought we had enough talent to win last year and I believe we did but talented players alone didn't get the job done!  These guys need to get coached up ( individually and collectively) and then we will see who rises to the top.  I think we had as much, if not more talent than MSU but we got out-coached, NOT out-talented.  Herman- Meyer and Fickel- Ash need to mold all this top 5 talent into a kick ass team.  The offense was up to the task and the coaching was nearly there.  The defensive talent was there but the coaching was woefully inadequate.  We can have all the talent in the world but if the coaches cant use the talent they have effectively, it won't amount to Jack shit.  Meyer is right with his vision for the defense and  Ash was hired to fix the defensive "clown show" we saw last year.  Aggressive line play has to be in sync with linebackers that fly to the ball and backs that press the opposing QB into making near perfect passes.  We had the talent last year and prolly do again this year too.  

RunEddieRun1983's picture

Not at all surprised about Elliot.  I posted a few months back (and got pelted with down votes) that I spoke with Maurice clarrett who had been in for a lot of the off season stuff.  I met him at a signing and asked him who the starter would be this year and if Elliot was ready and he said no way.  He said zeke was not ready and that Dunn or smith should run away with the starting job with ball behind them and Elliott last on the depth chart because according to moe, he just isn't ready yet.  Moe said he's a good player with a ton of potential but he just isn't there yet.

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

+2 HS
Horvath22's picture

Thanks for the info, RER.

RedStorm45's picture

I keep hearing "defensive overhaul, defensive overhaul."  Urbs, you kept your top defensive coach! And you said last year it wasn't the fault of the players...soooo....

Crimson's picture

Fickell is still here, and Withers is not.  Fire Fickell is not the only conclusion.

+2 HS
RedStorm45's picture

He said to CBS that the reason the D played slow last year was because of schemes, terminology, etc.  Are we to believe Withers was 100% in charge of the defense?  If so, why is Fickell making so much damn money?

Crimson's picture

He's gotten a pay cut recently.  Does that help?

Also, Fire Withers is not the only other explanation.

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

Why is Fickell making so much damn money?

  1. Because we can afford to pay him so damn much money, and
  2. Because he's pretty much the longest-tenured coach on the staff.
+1 HS
RedStorm45's picture

AV - those are not legitimate reasons to make him one of the highest paid assistants in the B1G.

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

Oh, I don't know... If you don't pay your current assistants well, you'll never attract the best assistants in the future. Also, in almost every industry, the longer you serve a company, the more money you expect to make. Ergo, both reasons are legitimate. You're basing your evaluation of his current pay on the concept of coaching salaries as a meritocracy of sorts, which in a sense it is, but Fick was not going to take the type of pay cut I think you're picturing when he stepped down as interim HC, which is a big part of the reason why he's also at his current pay level.

Plus, the #FireFickell narrative has completely ignored the fact that Luke was summarily heralded as one of the top assistant coaches in the game prior to his post-Tatgate promotion, and no one seems to be arguing that he's still a helluva position coach and recruiter. Ergo, he's probably not all that far out of the realm of expected earning outcomes. If anything, one might argue that other members of the staff deserve more than we can argue the Fick deserves less.

+1 HS
woodcocklives@osu's picture

Well put...and I summarily agree.   The biggest mystery to me is HOW did an Ohio State defense become so fundamentally flawed?  We're talking historically bad OSU defense under a $5M/yr. coach who has been nothing but successful throughout his career.  Something doesn't add up.  It's odd.............

+1 HS
rufio's picture

I don't know about last year, but I would bet my paycheck that Ash will be in charge this year.

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Is it safe to say that Ash is now running the defense?  

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Luke is still on this coaching staff, IMHO, because Urban understands the complexity of the problem that plagued the defense over the last few years and isn't so quick to lay it all on Luke.  Not to mention that he bleeds nothing but Scarlet and Gray and is a killer on the recruiting trail which Urban covets greatly!  When Urban first put together this staff, he admitted that he wasn't sure how they would gel together and perhaps the departing of certain coaches is evidence of that!  I'll give Luke a few more years to see if things greatly improve before jumping on the fire Fickell wagon!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

The Rill Dill's picture

A few more YEARS?  smh, ygtbsm

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Sorry Rill but I trust Urban a ton more than I trust your coaching and recruiting abilities!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

+1 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Defensive overhaul was just what the doctor ordered.  Getting the guys playing fast, instinctively, and getting to the ball quickly will solve 80% of the problems this team had on defense last year.  Given what has been said about the defensive overhaul so far, it just makes it even more of a put up/shut up year for Fickell.

Class of 2010.

woodcocklives@osu's picture

Given the offseason hires/changes, wouldn't it make a put up/shut up year for the entire defensive staff and the Head Coach?

-1 HS