Chris Spielman Disagrees With Perceived Decline of Ohio State's Linebackers

By Patrick Maks on July 29, 2014 at 8:30a
54 Comments

CHICAGO – For the better part of the last two seasons, Urban Meyer has lamented the production and depth of his linebackers.

“Without question, the position that’s not up to standard is linebacker at Ohio State,” Meyer said last February while on his Columbus radio show.

“A lot of mistakes have been made. There are players that have not been developed. I could go on and on and on.”

Chris Spielman insists otherwise.

“I don’t agree with that,” Spielman, a former Buckeye star and Pro Bowler, told Eleven Warriors Monday at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.

“I thought the tackling was improved from Urban’s first year to last year, much better. Especially Ryan Shazier. I think the tackling as a whole improved on defense because that first year, it was awful. I think they would all tell you that.”

The Buckeyes were good at stopping the run, but finished 112th in pass defense last season. And after surrendering more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Clemson last season, Meyer vowed to be more involved with the defense and promised an “overhaul” of a system that ultimately doomed his squad’s Big Ten and national title hopes.

“I'm used to hearing about Laurinaitis’ and A.J. Hawks and those guys and we weren't at that level,” Meyer said Monday while addressing the media.

Spielman, though, pointed to former All-American, first-round NFL Draft pick and Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier as an encouraging sign for maligned unit.

“(He) made a million plays. Joshua Perry will be pretty good. The young kid, the Raekwon McMillan, he’s supposed to step in and play. If Curtis Grant is healthy and can play, they’re solid there,” he said.

Plus, they’ll be playing behind what’s supposed to be one of the best defensive lines in the country with the likes of Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington.

“They have a good defensive line back. Linebackers are only as good as guys in front of them. I wasn’t very good if I didn’t have good guys in front of me,” Spielman said.

“If guys were playing well, I was playing well. If they were playing bad, I was playing bad. They’ll be pretty solid up front which should help the linebackers.”

Meyer remains optimistic. too.

“It's the best the group's been right now. And that's just as far as chemistry, as far as trust, as far as operating as a unit. So I'm anxious to see them play,” he said.

“We took three freshmen there. Dante Booker, Raekwon McMillan and Kyle Berger ... Josh Perry's done a great job at leadership and so has Curtis Grant.

“So it's about time we played linebacker ball, linebacker play the way Ohio State is used to. I think you're going to see it this year.”

54 Comments

Comments

yrro's picture

I think it really shows how much the defense is about being on the same page. We haven't had that the last few years.

I think the 2009 and 2010 defenses were some of the best we've had here. Look at how few of those guys were drafted high. But we didn't have any real weak links. The last two years we've had some good players, and some holes, and some guys not playing together. And it didn't matter how otherworldly Shazier was, because you only need one hole to get a big gain.

+5 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

The offseason is filled with so much hope.  I just "hope" to see it materialize.

Read my entire screen name....

+9 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Living up to your name.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+16 HS
northwest_buckeye's picture

I tend to agree with both Meyer and Spielman, or at least with parts of their stance. One need only look to the last two games of last year to see that our LB's got exposed on several plays, certainly not in the "romanticized" way we view guys like Hawk, Laurinaitis, etc. We tend to look at the past with a much rosier lens than very recent events. Those guys weren't perfect either, but revisionist history is what it is. I'm certainly optimistic with this group... As I am with nearly every LB core the Buckeyes put on the field. 

I've never said I 'hate' anyone because that would imply I had any emotion for them whatsoever.

+1 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I believe the LBers will improve, but I would have loved to have Shazier back for his last year.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

The biggest problem last year were the DBs not the LBs...

+2 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I thought it was Fickell

Read my entire screen name....

+8 HS
brylee's picture

wait...we didn't fire fickell?

+4 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

wait...we didn't fire fickell?

Nah. 9Route took the fall for him.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+4 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Aaaaand Further more!!   Missed font... Sry! 

+2 HS
cw823's picture

This BS needs to stop.  If you want to blame someone for the secondary, blame Tressel.  there was so little talent back there the last two seasons, it's ridiculous that Fickell should take the blame.  Our "best" cornerback (Roby) was awful last year.  If we hadn't had Shazier it might've been two of the worst years in history when it comes to talent at LB.

Blaming Fickell for the last two years of defense is like praising Tressel for winning without giving recognition to John Cooper (for having recruited the majority of those (2002) players)......it just doesn't make sense.

+1 HS
CGroverL's picture

Besides, Fickell has been the LB coach or co-DC for as many defenses that finished in the top 5 than he has been a part of defenses that have finished outside of the top 5 when it comes down to total defense. Fickell has been "labeled" the co-DC for years now, but the other co-DC has always had a job title like Withers had, which was co-DC/asst. Head Coach. It seems like the defense belongs to Fickell, but it never has. He has always had one man in front of him and never has been the outright DC. Besides, the Buckeyes should have thought about moving Fickell to DL coach/ DC. At that position he will be coaching the heart and soul of the defense, while calling ALL OF THE SHOTS at the same time. I think it would turn the Buckeyes into a defense like the 1985 Chicago Bears. They had a DL so good that QB's didn't have time to get a pass off and the Buckeyes seem like they may have those kind of defenses for the next 3 years at the least.

Changes need to be made and I still like the idea of bringing back the Leo and Star positions as the leaders during the play. Our defenses used to seem to have a Leo that could hardly ever be located by the defense and a Star that hit as hard as LB's during running plays. It's been quite a while since our defense has had a true Leo or Star and with Noah Spence as a prototypical "7", Leo, or Viper (all of them are the same position) then adding a hard hitting and healthy Vonn Bell at Star could bring the Buckeye defense back to what we watched when Fickell's boss was Jim Heacock.

Luke Fickell is what a Buckeye is. Besides 3 years of his life, he has lived in Columbus, been a Buckeye fan, been a Buckeye D-Lineman, or being a Buckeye coach in some fashion...and the coaching part started back in the Cooper days. Getting rid of Fickell is not the correct answer. It is transgression first off and it takes away the whole family, honor, and everything else that Urban Meyer is trying to instill in our recruits' heads.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+1 HS
brylee's picture

uh um...  sarcasm alert~~~

+3 HS
Larryp713's picture

I think we had talent, but I don't think we played our best guys (it seemed that Vonn Bell would have been a better fill-in for Christian Bryant than Pitt Brown). Roby was good, not great. Besides the Abbrederis debacle, I am annoyed Roby was blamed for everything. I also think technique was lacking. Rewatching that B1G champ game, how many times is the corner chasing the receiver with his back to the QB. Those are easy interference calls. It comes from not turning your hips quick enough when I guy blows by you. 

The defense has to work together to be successful. A active and fresh D-line and disruptive LB play will help the pass defense significantly, but the D-backs need to play aggressively and confidently. I don't mind them getting beat deep a couple times per game if they offset those with turnovers. 

Respectfully,

Larryp713

brylee's picture

wow...would you look at that!!!

Plus, they’ll be playing behind one of the best defensive lines in the country with the likes of Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington.

+2 HS
Earle's picture

What does Spielman know about linebacker play, anyway?

Italics are for emphasis.

+25 HS
Ghbuck23's picture

Haha 

Win Baby , Win

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

Shazier's play alone made them one of the better linebacking groups in the conference.  Except for 2012 when Boren was forced to play and did a hell of a job for being thrown into the mix.

A down year at linebacker for Ohio State is still tops in the B1G so they can only go up from here, IMO.

+3 HS
Tater_Schroeder's picture

I like to think they're both correct. Spielman says it wasn't as bad as Meyer says, and Meyer says it's better than before. 1+1 = 2 and our linebacker play will be good to great this year.

How Firm Thy Friendship

+3 HS
southbay's picture

I'm excited about the emergence of Darron Lee, the new scheme at linebacker, and all the other changes on the defense.  But I'm also wondering if Trey Johnson is going to make a push during fall camp.  We'll know soon.

+4 HS
OSUStu's picture

I agree.  I feel like we really know relatively little about Darron Lee and we really don't hear much about him.  With him being penciled in as a starter, I will have an eye on him during fall camp and the beginning of the season.  I hope he impresses...he has big shoes to fill.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

+1 HS
bucks_symphony's picture

I believe Joshua Perry is actually stepping into Shazier's old position and Darren Lee is penciled into Perry's spot. Either way I'm excited to see what Darren Lee does as well! 

+2 HS
OSUStu's picture

Thanks.  I must have missed this somehow.  I believe they were talking about Lee starting at Will during the Spring.  

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Completely stoked for a boat load of blow outs this year!  If the defensive backfield steps up to a level even remotely better than last year - with our offensive fire power - look out folks!

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

+1 HS
TobyMagic's picture

I think Urban is just keeping certain units on their toes. We know he's not afraid to praise certain groups for different things (focus, work ethic, trust, togetherness, etc..), but he needs to see it consistently on Saturdays. The off season work needs to translate into tangible production.

I agree with Spielman on the fact that the line will make the unit better.  I loved playing linebacker in a 5-2, see ball - get ball. Once I got older having people in my face changed everything. Wasn't until I moved to safety I truly understood how linebackers need to read keys to put themselves in position to make plays. If one or more of our thoroughbreds up front demands a double team, watch out.

The D lines dominance should and will hopefully have a 'trickle back' effect and make the whole D dominant.

+5 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

Well we have already heard that teams are thinking about doubling on Bosa. We know Noah Spence will require attention. And we know that every team forgets about Michael Bennett until he has a couple of pressures, then they compensate for him.

I have a feeling whoever will plan Middle linebacker is going to have easy lanes to run through on passing downs and running backs will find it tough to have enough blockers to keep the linebackers off him.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

+2 HS
Soggy_McMuffin's picture

I have no idea why, but every time I read Squirrel's Posts I hear it in my head as Sergeant Lincoln Osiris!! It's got to be the Avi for some reason!! Thinking out loud!

Gooz-fra-bah...

buckeyedude's picture

That's a great point. Who(m) of the guys up front should they, the opposition, double team? Spence, Bosa, Bennett, or Washington? I'd hate to have the job of figuring that out.

 

 

Oldschoolbuck's picture

I love Spiels - one of the greatest to ever wear the S&G - but I think he proves UFM's point when he repeatedly mentions Shazier as standing out last year. There were times the rest of the LBs were exposed in games, and I hope it had a lot to do with the conflict about schemes and overall defensive philosophy. Bringing in Ash is seemingly a good move, if the Spring game was any indication. Did anyone else notice that Urban slid in a little "motivation" for Fickel & Co. as well: "There are players that have not been developed..."

Keep on pushing, Zen Master, keep on pushing...

+4 HS
airbuckeye's picture

Correct me if im wrong here but i think i rememeber when Meyer was hired and he hired Winter or how ever you spell his last name. Did'nt a few of the fan's from the team which i can not remember where he came from but did'nt they come on here or maybe it was over on the Scout web site.

But they were saying then how we would not be happy with him because he was not that great of a couch and is defense's always gave up a lot of yards. Ok if that is true and now he is gone and we still give up those yards then Ficklle would have to be to blame would he not?

-2 HS
sb97's picture

There are some Wisconsin fans that were saying the same thing about Chris Ash.

I don't think it is appropriate to assign blame to Fickell for problems that haven't even happened yet.  What if we see a rash of injuries/suspensions?  Or it takes the secondary a while to adjust to the new scheme?  We are going to start the season down three DEs already (Spence, Marcus, Sprinkle).  For the first couple of games I expect to see some problems at that position especially with Navy on the schedule.  Another injury there (especially to Bosa) could really cause an issue for the rest of the defense.

+1 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Fickell would be the easiest target to blame, given that he's the common denominator of the main defensive leadership between last season's defense and this season's defense.  Of course, it's never as simple as "blame the DC", and it depends on why the defense would struggle (like if there are a lot of injuries, you can't blame Fickell for that, but if there's a lot of undisciplined play, then you can blame Fickell for a good deal of that).

Class of 2010.

johnblairgobucks's picture

I don't know if Withers will ever become a great couch.  Lazy Boy? Maybe....

-1 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

BRING IT ON!!! Love me some intense, mean-spirited Linebacker play to shut down opposing offenses. Intimidate the hell out of everyone.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

And giving offensive coordinators sleepless nights.

QBYBuckeye's picture

I can't wait until they start playing so we can stop speculating.

New York Buckeye

+4 HS
Barnsey69's picture

If #36 says we'll be ok, then I think we'll be ok.

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!

+2 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

Great point.

It's hard to break a defense down by units and say "it's all their fault."  Each level affects the other.  If a QB has a monster draped all over him 2.7 sec after the ball is snapped, people may assume the secondary is awesome when, perhaps, they couldn't cover grandma.  We know that line was very talented last year, but Bosa praised Coach Johnson a while back for implementing a rotation because "we were exhausted at times last year."  The LB corps was thin last year.  No getting around that, but there were problems with them reading pass and getting back to their proper depth.  I suspected that a lot of coverage busts were due to the DB's not trusting the LB's to be where they were supposed to be, and trying to do their job plus cover for the LB's.  It was really a cluster of dysfunction.

But part of it was definitely coaching/scheme.  Any good defense has the characteristic of being aggressive.  Against the pass, those guys were too often the 3 man rush, 12 foot cushion type of defense.  I get it that when your offense is hanging 50 on people, you can afford to play softer, but at some point you get into a game where you really have to stop someone.  I can take some bad defense if I have to, but I want aggressive bad, not passive bad.  I don't want to be throwing up in my mouth a little like I had to at times last year.

+2 HS
ralEbuckI's picture

I like how he calls him the Raekwon McMillan. 

+3 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Actually, it's The Raekwon McMillan.

+2 HS
VarsityClubMD's picture

Beat me to it.

Dot this

+2 HS
RunEddieRun1983's picture

really excited about that young corps with the addition of booker finally getting some time at camp.  It should be exciting to see.

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

+1 HS
Jabba1977's picture

I am extremely concerned about the defensive line being down three players to start the season. Hopefully Spence will be back as soon as possible,losing Jamal is a big blow and I do not know what is going to happen about Sprinkle!! Remember the linebackers are better if the defensive line is playing at another level!!

SECHATER77

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Definitely room for concern, but hopefully some of the young pups can contribute, or, as I have brought up in other forums, why not change up the front 7 a bit, and show some 3-4 alignments, getting Grant and Kwon on the field together at the MLB spots.

+1 HS
The Rill Dill's picture

Sprinkle may still have a chance.  LOL

+1 HS
luckynutz's picture

After seeing the way guys like lewis and frazier got after it this spring, Im not so worried about being down a couple guys. Just may be that the rotation isnt as deep until Spence returns, and the Sprinkle situation is sorted out. Either way...you also have Jalyn Holmes and Dylan Thompson figuring in. And if need be, Washington can slide out and plug in Munger, schutt or michael hill in the middle. If theres one position group hat can sustain itself against extended absences from key contributors, its the D line.

+2 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

I think it was more of a scheme problem, than the actual talent level the LB position.  I think the Co-Coordinators, and the mixed signals slowed the players down at LB.  Zach Boren was able to be plugged in easily because he picked up the concepts much faster and easier, than say Curtis Grant.  Physically, Grant may be the best LB on the roster.  I think the schemes and what they were expecting him to mentally digest may have been the reason for not only Grant, but every LB outside of Shazier, to be constantly out of position and a step late.  Simplification of the calls and scheme should promote a down hill style defense, that is attacking instead of reacting, and the D is loaded with athletes at all 3 levels who can bring the pain.

+3 HS
Bourbon Meyer's picture

If the defense sucks this year, Fickell needs to become a South Alabama Jaguar. Plain and simple.

+1 HS
Bucksfan70's picture

i think josh perry is gonna be a beast. he looked much improved over the last 2 games last year. i think he'll go down as one of the great ones by the time he leaves osu.

“Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't.” - Jerry Rice

+2 HS
chirobuck's picture

beat me to it......I think Perry is kinda the forgotten man, no one really talks about him too much and I also think people forgot he was a true sophomore last year and I think the improvement he made as he looked more comfortable out there was obvious from the beginning of the year to the end.....you could almost see the game slow down for him, I'm very excited for his junior campaign

 
^ best post ever ^

+2 HS
Larryp713's picture

Josh Perry seems like a very cerebral guy, and he is physically a beast. I don't know if he was overthinking earlier in the season, but the game started to slow down for him at the end of the year. If he continues to progress and plays fast, he will be great.

Respectfully,

Larryp713

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Hard to argue with the thought that the LB position was not what it should be the past couple of years.  However, I'm confident that it's going to be better.  There is some good young talent, an improving Josh Perry, and if Grant can step up and be a force, then that's a huge bonus for this year.  Regardless of what Grant does, the LB position should have good talent for years to come.  The simpler schemes on defense will help more than just the DBs.

I also noticed that overall, tackling was improved in 2013 from 2012.  Kinda forgotten amongst the other struggles, though.

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

Can't wait to hear what the coaches have to say about fall camp, the improvements, finalize the starting positions, etc.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

+1 HS
OregonBuckeye's picture

Who knows ?  Spielman knows. 

The DL lines in 84-87 were solid and knew how to complement the rest of the defense.