In follow-up, and by request, to my previous topic "A Tale of Two (Offensive) Philosophies" here is a look at our defense over the past 4 years and how we arrived where we are.
Historically Ohio State, like the rest of the B1G, has been known for having shutdown defenses that lock up seemingly explosive offensives and put them in the dirt. When they weren't ranked the top in the nation they were near it. A long line of storied players have come from our ranks and enjoyed long successful careers in the NFL.
Now I am sure you are thinking about the golden days of the Silver Bullets or AJ Hawk, Anthony Schlegel, and Bobby Carpenter body slamming opponents and wonder "How the hell did we get here?" Using the past 4 years for our samples size lets dive in and take a look!
DC: Luke Fickell (CO) Chris Ash (CO)
Defense Scheme: Press Quarters
Total Defense: 9 (311.3)
PYA/G: 13 (184.5)
RYA/G: 20 (126.8)
DC: Luke Fickell (CO) Greg Schiano (CO)
Defensive Scheme: Press Quarters
Total Defense: 5 (300.2)
PYA/G: 6 (172.2)
RYA/G: 20 (127.9)
DC: Greg Schiano
Defensive Scheme: Man Free
Total Defense: 7 (300.9)
PYA/G: 27 (195.9)
RYA/G: 4 (105.1)
DC: Greg Schiano (CO) Alex Grinch (CO)
Defensive Scheme: Man Free
Total Defense: 68 (404.0)
PYA/G: 85 (245.2)
RYA/G: 57 (158.8)
For info on the difference between Press Quarters and Man Free see here:
Overall the fall from grace can't be attributed to just a change in scheme alone. So what are some potential culprits beyond scheme change?
The first was losing Chris Ash. We all recall how rough our defense was in the secondary prior to his arrival (10 yards off the receiver). Chris Ash us back to the Press and we saw immediate improvement.
The second/third was losing Luke Fickell and the Press Quarters. After his departure the linebacker play had a significant drop-off. Out of position, unable to shed blocks, and unable to read the correct gap are just a few of the recent criticisms under Bill Davis' technique. 12 NFL linebackers were drafted under Fickell's tutelage. His leaving also meant the change from Press Quarters to Man Free. Press Quarters uses the law of averages and eliminates route options of receivers thus allowing the defense to dictate the plays an offense might call. Because of this the linebackers are able to play more aggressively on the run-stop.
Third was losing Kerry Coombs. Not much needs to be said here. It was clear the impact he had on the team. The NFL talent he produced on a yearly basis granted us (briefly) the title of DBU.
Of course other factors come into play like losing generational talent to the draft or injury. It can be argued that Schiano's defense would be very successful (see 2017) with high powered talent. However, between secondary and safety coaching this year and level of talent (besides Fuller and White) this year was an utter failure.