The Impact of Braxton Miller's Injury on Ohio State's Defense

By Tim Shoemaker on August 21, 2014 at 2:05p
Doran Grant is one of Ohio State's returners on defense

A year after Ohio State ranked 46th in the country in total defense and 112th in pass defense, head coach Urban Meyer knew something needed to change.

Meyer, now in his third year leading the Buckeyes, has since brought in Chris Ash as the team’s new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach and Larry Johnson was hired to guide the defensive line. All of training camp, coaches and players have talked about a much improved, much more aggressive Ohio State defense.

But after senior starting quarterback and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller was recently ruled out for the 2014 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, all of that discussion has switched over to Ohio State’s offense, and rightfully so.

But while losing Miller will have an immediate impact on Ohio State’s offense, it will also have an effect on the Buckeyes’ much maligned defense to perform at a much higher level than it did a year ago.

“I don’t think there’s more pressure (on the defense),” senior linebacker Curtis Grant said on Wednesday. “We can’t look at it as more pressure, we’ve got to look at it as a good thing as we’re moving forward.”

“If we look at it as more pressure then we get stressed out and things won’t go the way we want them to go because we’ll be all pressured and be worried about making mistakes. We still go out there, have fun and play the game because that’s what we’re here for.”

Ohio State’s offense put up 45.5 points per game last season, while the defense allowed 22.6 points per game and surrendered an average of 377.4 yards per contest. Without Miller, those offensive numbers from a year ago can expect to decline, so there’s some definite cause for concern the defense may not be able to make up for that loss.

 “We just have to step up. Plain and simple, just have to step up,” senior cornerback Doran Grant said. “That’s the only thing we can do is step up and move forward and get the job done.”

Ohio State does have the benefit of having some veterans on its defense, though, and will be playing with one of the best defensive lines in the country in Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett. But there are still some question marks at linebacker and in a secondary that ranked 11th in the Big Ten last season in pass defense.

 “People can count us out all they want, but it’s about what we can do as a team,” said Curtis Grant, who also noted he had been taking all of the reps with the first-team defense at middle linebacker. “If we don’t stick together then that’s our fault, but we’re determined to stick together and keep moving forward. We have faith in our two quarterbacks that are behind Braxton.”

After losing one of its senior leaders, Ohio State is doing its best to move on. The season has not even started yet and the Buckeyes still have their eyes on winning the Big Ten and qualifying for the first-ever College Football Playoff.

“We’re not changing our goal. We still have the same expectations,” Doran Grant said. “It’s definitely a chip on our shoulder, but with all the critics and everything, we just have to come together and play ball.”


Comments Show All Comments

TMargo's picture

This article sums it up nicely. After last year's performance and now Braxton going down the Defense MUST step up to a top 10 national level if we want to win the Big Ten. There is no question the talent is there....just need to play up to their abilities. I believe they will.  Still believe this team can accomplish great things.  Go Bucks! 

+1 HS
Vberger's picture

The Defense was going to need to step up and perform better than last year regardless if Braxton went down or not.  I just hope everything I hear about a much improved more aggressive defense is true.  We learned in 2002 that you don't need to score 45 a game to win a National Championship, so long as you have a great D!

+5 HS
tussey's picture

I really liked what Curtis had to say.  It sounds like he is really trying to set up and be a leader among the linebackers and on the defense.  Hopefully he goes out there and just plays and doesn't put too much stress on himself

+2 HS
OHinTN's picture

Agreed.  I think we've all been waiting on Grant to develop into the beast we thought he would be from day 1.  Hopefully the new defensive scheme will help him play a faster more reactive game with less thinking involved.

JohnnyKozmo's picture

I also find it telling he's taking all of the 1st team reps.  As high as Meyer is on the Chef, Curtis must be bringing it.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+1 HS
What Would Troy Smith Do's picture

It's not just the expected offensive dropoff that would put the defense at a disadvantage. It is also the extra time spent on the field if the offense can't keep the ball. They will absolutely need to step up.

BuckminsterFullback's picture

Johnson's philosophy, of rotating players on the D-Line, should help in this regard.

Nutbuck1959's picture

also with the defensive backs.

DCBuckeye33's picture

Man, Ive seen it many times but it still shocks me every single time I see OSU had a defensive unit ranked 11th in the big ten alone. Crazy.


Vinsaniti's picture

I think we are one step closer to having a dominant defense, maybe thye will step up and dominate like the defenses we are used to. Remember Defense wins championships!

CTBuckeye's picture

The defense, most especially the secondary, was already going to improve this year, and it sounds like they're viewing this as a chance to step up even more, which is great to hear.  While I know we would all like the additional offensive cushion, this allows our defense to shine again.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Hovenaut's picture

From being substandard (that's a nice way of saying they were terrible at parts) the past couple of years, to being that much more relied upon as the offense faces a crisis...

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Your move, D.

SpielmanForPres's picture

How about the defense give up 100 yards less per game this year (277) to make up for the 100 or so yards per game beyond the play design they'll lose because of Braxton's absence. That'll suit me just fine. 

+1 HS
Adambob's picture

If the offense can be half as good as last years offense and the defense can be back to being an Ohio State D, this team could still make the playoffs. 

Darryl H's picture

Time to Ball cuz. D. Grant let's Go.

Darryl H

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Love it!  Great attitude.

Go Bucks!!

ARMYBUCK's picture

I hate to say it but it angers me buckeye nation is doubting their team so much. I understand some doubt. Braxton is amazing but OSU doesnt recruit less than amazing. My expectations have not changed. GO BUCKS

+2 HS
73buckeye's picture

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!!!!!! (every time the Bucks step on the field).  


+1 HS
Matt M.'s picture

I still want to see some Malcolm Jenkins type of fire from someone. He was ready to body slam someone every play. God, I miss that kid. We need that PASSION from everyone, but especially the CBs. Bring the circle drill attitude to the field!