Bud Foster turned out to be the lone defensive coordinator who officially stymied the train that was the Ohio State offense during its 2014 national championship season.
He got paid a handsome salary to do so — the highest among college football assistant coaches last season — and earned every penny after he implemented his 46 Bear Cover 0 look against the inexperienced Ohio State offense led by J.T. Barrett and an essentially new offensive line.
Monday night Foster met with the assembled media in Blacksburg, Va., and via Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times, the Hokies defensive coordinator is confident in his unit regardless who trots out for the first snap at quarterback for Ohio State Labor Day Night at Lane Stadium (if you watch the video in that link, you'll hear Foster misspeak on the name of one of Ohio State's quarterbacks):
"They both throw it extremely well," Foster said. "You can talk about Cardale Jones being a better thrower, but (J.T.) Barrett, he threw it every bit as well. Can throw a long ball. Has a live arm. Probably a little bit more athletic, but as you guys saw in the bowl games and the championship game, the Jones kid has a lot of ability as well.
"Our plan does not change," he added. "They run their offense. That’s what they do. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Braxton Miller in there as a Wildcat, but he has the ability to throw it too. We’re anticipating some of that too."
Urban Meyer said Monday Miller's "darn near ready" to be the starter at H-back for the Buckeyes, impressing his coaches in recent practices at his new position. The jury is still out on how exactly Ohio State plans to use the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year at H-back in place of Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, but Foster even went as far as to say he could see some sort of gadget play involving Miller next Monday.
"They don’t need to do that, but they’ll do something if they can," Foster said. "But yeah, I can see him running the speed sweep and throwing back to the quarterback and those type of things."
The Bear defense shut down Ohio State's offense one year ago, something Foster alluded to being something he could try once again this year in the rematch.
"I don’t think we’ll ambush them at all," Foster said. "We did maybe last year just because we hadn’t shown that scheme but a handful of times. And just to go do it, sell out on it, like I told you guys last year, I put all my eggs in one basket and was just hoping it was going to work because we didn’t have an answer after that."
Their defensive philosophy worked against Ohio State because its wide receivers struggled getting open against the press-man coverage on the outside. Whether it be a bit of gamesmanship or actual plan, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said the Hokies could play more zone this time around.
"We don’t want to make it real easy for them," Gray said with a chuckle. "We may play more zone. We could be very dangerous and play a lot more man. But you’ve got to kind of mix it up a little bit. You can only live on the edge so much before it hurts you."
Foster's sure to have a backup plan if that is the route he decides to go again, something that sounds smart with Ohio State's offensive line, running game and quarterback having loads more experience than they did the last time they faced the Hokies. Yes, depth at wide receiver is not what it will be the rest of the year due to suspensions, but there's one guy that worries Foster.
"That No. 3, that receiver, he's a preseason All-American," Foster said of Michael Thomas. "He’s a big, athletic kid and you know, he can go get it."
Foster's an intelligent and successful defensive coordinator, so he knows exactly what's coming his way this time around when the Hokie defense takes on an Ohio State offense with more experience to aide the talent that was present last year.
"I mean, they scored 90 touchdowns last year, guys, and they’re going to try and score 90 on Monday night just because of what happened last year," Foster said.