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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USArmyBuckeye's picture

Is it just me or has this week dragged on and on and on and on like no other? I'm jonesing, can we kick off tonight instead?

+13 HS
Dmac3212's picture

Is it pathetic that I am struggling to fall asleep at night because football is on my mind?

+1 HS
Dmac3212's picture

Is it pathetic that I am struggling to fall asleep at night because football is on my mind?

saluki2007's picture

I'm really impressed with the way these young men seem to handling all this shared P/T and the competition.

+1 HS
Frimmel's picture

Seems like a silver lining of Brax's injury. The loss of Brax makes the idea that you could go down very "real." It suggests to me a very team focus and attitude of "we all have to be ready."

+4 HS
apack614's picture

I love the rotation it is going to be great and allow 100% at all times. Teams WON'T be ready for us, especially when the 4th Qtr comes around

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

+6 HS
rekrul's picture

I am now on board with the gray area on the depth chart after reading this.  Young players on the big stage for the first time you never know how they are going to do.  If they have someone that is even with them for playing time for 1 spot, there is a higher probability for complete focus, intensity but also pressure.  Nothing like putting the youngins in the pressure cooker early to get them ready for some Nat'l Championship runs.

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

+1 HS
SLVRBLLTS's picture

I love Meyer's leadership style: If you make a mistake that's fine, just make it going full speed. Mistakes are on the coaches.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

+4 HS
allinosu's picture

Experience. Will need those youngsters as the season progresses.

CC's picture

Honestly in this game I just hope we can play disciplined football.  Anyone who has played against the tripple option know how frustrating it can be.  If we are disciplined we win, if we are luck we see no more 11W articles about surgery.

+1 HS
Buckeye BadDog's picture

Being on stage in front of that many people is no easy thing - and some people do not adjust to it right away. It will be the same for all of these freshmen when they take the field as starters. I was Cadet Company Commander for the ROTC at one home game of the when we carried the flag down the center of the Horseshoe. Not everyone was in their seats yet, and this was back in 1982 before the additional seats had been added, but I remember it like it was yesterday - and you do not hear 95,000 people as much as you feel their presence. It's like walking into a dry heat sauna - at first it takes your breath away and then it prevents you from getting another full breath. And it's not the same as being on the sideline or at the Spring game. From the sideline you get the sense of the oppressiveness, but because not everyone if focused on you, it's just peripheral. The first few series of the first quarter will no doubt be shaky. The question is, how does this team respond to the pressure.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Albert Einstein

"Nothing that comes easy is worth a dime." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Considering the rotation on the D-Line, and LJs comments of having 10 guys on the D-Line alone, 19-20 guys playing on Saturday isn't that big of a stretch.  Against that option, I can see a lot of rotation with the LBs too, with hopefully the Chef getting some burn, and I would love to see him and Curtis out there together blowing up the FB and destroying some plays.

It's also supposed to be in the 80s, so keeping players fresh and hydrated will also be key.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

ibuck's picture

It's also supposed to be in the 80s, so keeping players fresh and hydrated will also be key.

Agreed. I'm glad there are a bunch of ORs in the depth chart. Rotating players to keep them fresh could be a huge factor later in the game.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Hovenaut's picture

I'm a big fan of depth (and talent), and Ohio State is not lacking in either.

I'm hopeful both pay big come the end of the year.

+1 HS
sivaDavis's picture

So I was watching the Navy game against Army last year. I took a couple things from it and was waiting for the right article to post in.

I noticed that Navy rarely huddles and does the whole Ohio State tempo where the offensive line will be on the line ready to go, they might go or they might look to the sideline for a call. My question would be how is this going to effect Coach Johnson's idea of rotating players in. 

Another thing, Navy had few problems with Army's defensive line, where they beat Army soundly was the dive against 3 down lineman, the LBs would shadow one side, over pursue and end up giving huge plays up the middle to Reynolds and the Fullback. Sometimes were stopped but it was when the LBs guessed and got it right. I think the Buckeyes will be able to keep the 4 up front and get a push allowing Perry, Lee and most importantly Grant to make plays on their keys. Most of Navy's big plays were up the middle, meaning the front 4, especially the middle 2 and Curtis Grant need to be solid. Navy had trouble on the edges running the ball, Army didn't have the fastest players but they all would take their keys and stop the outside runs. Passing the ball Navy had some success against the coverage. Our DBs will need to be aggressive in the press and will likely be asked to jam the WR at the line 95% of the time. Some plays, just an extra split second allowing them to either read their teammates and notice run or pass. 

Defensively Navy was pretty good up front. The defensive line didn't really allow a lot up the middle. They did get torched the first part of the game on the outside. Rushing and passing wise. I noticed they also started to cheat up their safeties and that should be really good if the Buckeyes can get a couple PA passes over the top. I think Ohio State will be able to do everything offensively. Navy's defense plays hard but I think our offensive line will be more ready than people think. Same with JT and the playmakers. 

42 - 13 


"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

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

I like your analysis: good points about tendencies, etc. I hope OSU's coaches are aware of them too.  I sure hope the Buckeyes' revamped D is better than a 3-9 Army team that ranked 103rd last season against the run, yielding an avg gain of 5.1 yds/rush.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

904buckeye's picture



TURD_BUCKET's picture

There are always questions about who will start at a several positions every year, especially going into the first game. Unlike some years, I believe it is a positive this year. Close competition among a deep and talented roster should be a good thing. It keeps the players motivated as well. Besides, if its that close and remains close then a lot more players will play and that should also be a good thing. Offense and defense, I just believe the Bucks will keep coming and coming and coming and smother teams. 


“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden