Ohio State Prepared to Use Its Defensive Depth Against Navy

By Tim Shoemaker on August 28, 2014 at 8:35a
Luke Fickell is saying 19 or 20 defensive players could see the field against Navy.

Ohio State's depth chart was released Wednesday and to the surprise of almost no one, the questions surrounding certain position battles were still unanswered.

But ask the Ohio State coaching staff about it and they'll tell you the number of "ORs" on the two-deep are a good thing.

"When you see a lot of 'ORs' on there, you can think one of two things: They’re not sure who these guys are or they’ve got a couple guys they really feel comfortable with," Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said.

So, which one is it?

"I think we’ve got some guys we feel comfortable with.”

Perhaps the most notable "OR" listed on Ohio State's depth chart was at defensive tackle, where senior captain Michael Bennett, who has been named to several preseason watch lists, was listed as a co-starter with junior Tommy Schutt.

At first glance it may seem strange for Bennett to be listed as a co-starter with Schutt, but facing a team like Navy, which is likely to run the ball between 40 and 50 times, will cause for plenty of rotation among the defensive line. Bennett said it's not a surprise to him.

“I got a little dinged up in training camp and Tommy really came on strong and has been doing really well so at least for the first game it’s kind of more of a dual thing," he said. "I’ve said it before: Tommy can start anywhere else in the country. It’s sort of a three-man rotation in the middle, so that wouldn’t surprise me if you guys saw that, but it’s nothing to be alarmed about.”

Ohio State also still hasn't named a starter at the cornerback position opposite Doran Grant or at free safety, either. Eli Apple and Gareon Conley are still battling for the corner spot, while Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows are fighting for the starting position at free safety.

The battle for the second corner spot is one that's very intriguing to Fickell.

“You’re looking at two guys that are young," he said. "We’ve seen what they can do, we love who they are, we love what they’ve done throughout camp, but we’re not sure what they do in front of 80,000 people."

"That’s one of those things that keeps you laying awake at night. There’s a lot of guys on there that might be listed as 'OR' that we’ve got really, really high expectations for but haven’t made a tackle in front of 80,000 people yet.”

That youth on defense is not just at corner, though, it's at several positions, but the sense around the Buckeyes seems to be they will try to get all of their young, talented players on the field.

“We’ve got a lot of youth and sometimes with youth you’re not exactly sure how they’re gonna respond at the start," Fickell said. "We know that we want to play 19, 20 guys."

Nineteen or 20 seems like quite a lot, especially when many of the players listed on Ohio State's two-deep have yet to play significant roles for the Buckeyes. There are 10 freshmen listed on the first depth chart on the defensive side of the ball to go along with four sophomores, but Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer seems confident in his young group.

“As long as they play really hard, which the culture is here, go 4 to 6 and A to B, if you make a mistake that’s fine, just make it going full speed," Meyer said. "Mistakes are on the coaches, lack of effort is something we can’t do, but I think they’ll play really hard.”

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