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Play by Play Analysis of Ohio State Defense Against Oregon

+80 HS
saltybuck61's picture
September 15, 2021 at 6:35pm

I sometimes find it therapeutic after a loss to go and re-watch a game to figure out exactly what went wrong. While normally a second watch is enough to tell me enough about a game, I wanted to see what would happen if I analyzed every single defensive play from the Oregon game to see what I could see about the Ohio State defense, and whether or not these issues are fixable. Also, I wanted to see if the commentariat’s observations were correct. I am considering doing an offensive one as well, if there is any interest.

The format I am using is borrowed from Mgoblog’s “Upon Further Review” which is also a play-by-play analysis of the previous Michigan game. Yes, I know, I too feel icky about it. Here is the most recent one from them, which, you will note, is done much better than mine: Upon Further Review 2021: Defense vs WMU | mgoblog. I know very little about football scheme and am learning what I can on the fly. I am especially sketchy on the offensive plays. If you notice something different, feel free to correct me. I would love the feedback.

You are welcome to look through every single entry in the play-by-play chart, but it isn’t necessary. There will be a write-up to summarize afterward. This is more for checking my work if you would like. To explain a little bit of the grading system, I graded the players based on their performance both negative and positive. The bigger the number, the more important the player’s performance was to that play’s success/failure. So if a player posts a +2, they were a big reason why the play was a success. If they post a -2, they were a huge reason why the play was a failure. I would have posted clips from the game as well, but the Youtube video I was using has been removed. Feel free to ask questions on what any of this ultimately means if it is confusing. I am worried about the size of this table, but we will give it a shot.

Defensive Plays
Time Yard Line Down Distance O Formation D Package Front High Type Rush Play Player Yards Notes
1Q 11:07 UO 31 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 RPO Power 4 Cover-1 Eichenberg 11 Haskell Garrett gets a good push (+1) (pressure +1); Mitchell gets read on backside RPO to the flat; Eichenberg (-1) is too slow to his gap; Shaw (-0.5) out of position. 
1Q 10:36 UO 42 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Over 1 QB Draw 4 Cover-1 Garrett 9 Mitchell bites on the fake swing to the running back; Garrett gets blown off the ball (-2)
1Q 10:07 UO 49 2 1 Gun Trips Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 PA HB Swing 4 Cover-1 Ransom 7 Ransom (-1) does not recognize that the receiver he is covering is inelligible, leaving him in a weak position.
1Q 9:43 OSU 42 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Curls/Spacing 5 Zone Blitz Smith 0 Smith (+2) (Pressure +2) completely blows by the left tackle to hit the QB immediately.
1Q 9:41  OSU 42 2 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 1 RPO Glance 5 Cover-0 with Safety Blitz Burke 0 Blanket coverage from Burke (+1) (coverage +1). Smith (+1) and Vincent (+1) (pressure +2) beat their man immediately. Eichenberg (-0.5) was completely sealed if there was a hand-off. Mitchell read on the play.
1Q 9:36 OSU 42 3 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 HB Screen 4 Cover-1 Hickman 0 Hickman gets downhill quickly to prevent yardage (+1).
Missing Plays                          
1Q 2:55 UO 5 2 6 Pistol 12 4-3 Over 1 Inside Zone 4 Cover-1 Eichenberg 8 Harrison (-0.5) gets a decent push, but is ultimately sealed off by the TE. Garrett (-2) gets blown off the ball. Eichenberg (-2) covers the completely wrong gap. Good run by Verdell to re-gap.
1Q 2:25 UO 13 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Dig 4 Cover-3 Brown 19 7-Man Protection. Brown (-0.5) has good coverage initially, but it's thrown more quickly than he is expecting. Tough play.
1Q 1:57  UO 32 1 10 Gun Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 PA HB Swing 5 Cover-3 Blitz Mitchell 10 Fake Speed option to freeze Smith. Mitchell (-1) gets picked on a play, but he should be headed toward the flat anyway. Play Calling -1
1Q 1:24  UO 42 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 RPO Power 4 Cover-3 Garrett -1 Mitchell read on RPO. Garrett (+2) gets through free. Vincent (+2) beats a triple team. Both players taken out after this play!
1Q 0:49 UO 41 2 11 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 Mills 4 Cover-3 Burke 0 Tuimoloau worried about screen, and gets caught up, though contains Brown. Burke (+2) (coverage +2) with blanket coverage downfield. Jackson (-1) held up by a single guard. Ransom (-1) caught up on ineligible receiver. No pressure (pressure -2)
1Q 0:44 UO 41 3 11 Gun 3W 3-3-5 Stack 1 Flood 5 Cover-3 Blitz Hickman 20 Hickman (-2) (coverage -1) doesn't get over to the flat and takes a bad angle. Good play call against the constant Cover-3. Play Calling -1
1Q 0:12 OSU 39 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 RPO Power 4 Cover-3 Jackson 8 Mitchell read on RPO. Hamilton (+0.5) stands up to double team. Jackson (-1) easily handled by single guard. Eichenberg looks to attack gap, but Jackson is pushed too far inside. D-line slanted toward field, Verdell cut back. 
End of Quarter                          
Missing Play                          
2Q 14:52 OSU 14 1 10 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Under 1 Inverted Veer 4 Cover-3 Harrison 14 Harrison (-1) read; takes QB instead of containing RB. Cody Simon picked and held by Oregon tight end. Play Calling -1. Touchdown. Ransom (-1) covers an ineligible receiver
2Q 13:12 UO 1 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Dig 5 Cover-3 Blitz Burke 0 Burke (+2) (coverage +2) had perfect coverage. Defensive line (-1 pressure) had nothing, even with five blitzers, though it was a 7-man protection.
2Q 13:05 UO 1 2 10 Pistol 12 4-3 Under 1 Inside Zone 4 Cover-1 Simon 2 Vincent (+1) and Jean-Baptiste (+1) plug up middle. Simon (+1) (tackling +1) has a wide open gap and doesn't miss.
2Q 12:14 UO 3 3 8 Pistol 12 4-3 Under 1 RPO TE Flag 4 Cover-3 Simon 16 Gaoteote (-2) and Simon think they have the same tight-end, leaving the other one wide open. I am pretty sure this is Gaeoteote's guy.  Play Calling -1
2Q 11:48 UO 19 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 QB Power 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 3 Mitchell (+0.5) clears a block to guide Brown out of bounds.
2Q 11:18  UO 22 2 7 Gun 3W 4-2-5  Over 2 RPO Power 5 Cover-3 Blitz Williamson 2 Reads Mitchell. Good blitz call and a disguise of a coverage. A little obvious that it would be Cover-3, but it was nice to see a change. Smith (+1) beats a double team inside, while Williamson (+2) (tackling +2) makes a great open field tackle. Simon (+0.5) there to clean it up.
2Q 10:42 UO 24 3 5 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Over 1 Curls/Spacing 4 Cover-1 Brown 0 Nowhere to go for the QB (coverage +2) with Brown (+1) cleaning up. Smith (+1) (pressure +1) got pressure quickly. Perfect time to switch coverage. Play Calling +1. Punt
2Q 8:42  UO 35 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 PA Comeback 4 Cover-3 Burke 12 Defense plays mostly soundly. Chambers (+0.5) made this a tougher throw than usual. Burke (-0.5) could close quicker, but that is asking a lot. Play Calling -1
2Q 8:15 UO 47 1 10 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 Power 4 Cover-3 Tuimoloau 0 Tuimoloau (+2) blows up tackle; shuts whole thing down. Tyleik Williams (+2) breaks through a double team.
2Q 7:45 UO 47 2 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 PA Flood 5 Cover-1 blitz Brown 24 Brown (-1) (-1 Coverage) can't stay with his man. Good call for PA Flood Play Calling -1. Steele Chambers is the only linebacker I have seen that plays fast, even if he screws up.
2Q 7:00 OSU 23 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 RPO Glance 4 Cover-2 Hickman 7 Reads Chambers, who crashes for the first time today. Hickman comes down hard, but gets there a second late. This might be on Chambers, but it was a tough catch.
2Q 6:20 OSU 15 2 3 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 Zone Read 4 Cover-1 Garrett 1 Reads Harrison (+0.5). Chambers (+0.5) has good coverage on backside throw. Garrett (+2) and Vincent (+1) blow thorugh the line, with Garrett getting held.
2Q 5:39 OSU 15 3 2 Pistol 3W 4-3 Over 1 Inside Zone 4 Cover-1 Garrett 1 Garrett (+2) beats a double team. Vincent gets penetration (+1). Chambers takes a double team, Eichenberg (+0.5) cleans up.
2Q 4:57 OSU 14 4 1 Gun 4W 4-3 Over 1 Pitch 4 Cover-1 Gaoteote 14 Gaoteote (-2) is following his man, who picks Eichenberg. Harrison slants hard inside, playing to spill. Craig Young (-0.5) also gets caught inside, though he is held. Touchdown.
2Q 2:32 UO 39 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Field 1 Verticals 4 Cover-1 Brown 0 Brown (+2) (+2 coverage) in perfect position to break up the pass. Smith (+1) (+1 pressure) gets in the backfield quick.
2Q 2:27 UO 39 2 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 2 Wide Zone 5 Zone Blitz Jean-Baptiste 7 Jean-Baptiste (+1) gets push in the middle. Proctor gets pushed back on the tackle. Mitchell late to his gap (-0.5).
2Q 1:47 UO 46 3 3 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Over 1 Mesh 4 Cover-1 Ransom 3 Might be an Illegal Formation for Oregon, but it isn't called. Pick route on Burke, but Ransom (+1) smartly hits the crosser as they are still within 5 yards of scrimmage. Smith (-1) (+1 pressure) beats his man, but doesn't keep contain. 
2Q 1:38 UO 49 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Dagger 4 Cover-3 Burke 0 Burke (+2) (coverage +2) had perfect coverage. Proctor (-0.5) gets caught looking in the middle, but Burke cleaned it up.
2Q 1:32  UO 49 2 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 PA Glance 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 17 Mitchell (-1) gets read for an easy completion.
2Q 1:22 OSU 36 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Stick 4 Cover-3 Simon 0 Whole defensive line gets no pressure (pressure -1), with Sawyer (-1) as the most ineffective. Simon (+1) drops back exactly at the right time.
2Q 1:32 OSU 36 2 10 Pistol 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 PA Drive 4 Cover-1 Sawyer -10 Holding on Jack Sawyer (+1) (pressure +1)
2Q 1:08  OSU 46 2 20 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Stick 4 Cover-3 Brown 0 Brown (+2) (+2 coverage) in perfect position to make an interception, but it's broken up by the receiver. Defensive line doesn't get any pressure (pressure -1).
2Q 0:50 OSU 46 3 20 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Power 4 Cover-3 Harrison 5 Good penetration by Harrison (+0.5) Punt
End of Half                          
3Q 14:54 UO 16 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 PA Flood 4 Cover-3 Hickman 2 Great job by Hickman (+1) of getting to the zone in time.
3Q 14:30 UO 18 2 8 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 QB Draw 4 Cover-3 Harrison 3 Harrison (+1) is able to stay unblocked to get Brown before too many yards were lost. Eichenberg (-1) went the completely wrong direction not expecting a run. Ransom (-1) doesn't seem to recognize inelligible receiver, but they don't test it.
3Q 13:50 UO 23 3 3 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 Zone Read 4 Cover-3 Eichenberg 77 Eichenberg (-2) chooses the wrong gap. Shaw (-2) (-2 tackling) takes a horrible angle that results in a touchdown. Expecting a safety to beat a running back head-on is unreasonable, but expecting them to prevent a long touchdown is reasonable. Ransom (-1) plays press-coverage on an inelligible receiver. Brown (-1) (-1 tackling) misses a touchdown saving tackle.
3Q 10:25 UO 25 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 QB Sweep 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 13 Mitchell (-1) takes a bad angle underneath the guard. Hickman (-1) (-1 tackling) misses a tackle.
3Q 9:49 UO 38 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 RPO Glance 5 Zone Blitz Hickman 9 Good read by Brown to throw it out on a corner blitz. Play Calling -1. Hickman (+0.5) has a good recovery.
3Q 9:18 UO 47 2 1 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 Power 4 Cover-3 Garrett 15 Garrett (-2) gets blown off the ball. Bad angle and tackle by Hickman (-1) Cavazos (-0.5) Eichenberg (-1) (tackling -2.5). Good hustle by Smith (+1) saved about 10 yards. Facemask on Eichenberg.
3Q 8:53 OSU 23 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Tight 1 Flood 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 12 Mitchell (-2) (coverage -2) is covering air here. Smith (+1) (+1 pressure) beats his man easy and provides a little pressure.
3Q 8:09 OSU 11 1 10 Gun 12 4-3 Over 1 PA Flood 4 Cover-1 Jean-Baptiste 0 Jean-Baptiste (+1) (pressure +1) gets immediate pressure. Coverage from Proctor (+1) (+1 coverage).
3Q 8:05 OSU 11 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 QB Draw 4 Cover-1 Jackson 5 Jackson (-1) gets pushed around. Proctor (+1) aggresively makes a tackle and saves some yardage, but breaks his leg. Huge loss.
3Q 7:51 OSU 6 3 4 Gun 3W 4-3 Stack 1 Inverted Veer 4 Cover-1 Jean-Baptiste 6 Jean-Baptiste (-2) fails to set the edge. Mitchell gets crack-blocked. Touchdown.
3Q 3:43 UO 8 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Pitch 4 Cover-3 Hickman 3 Hickman (+1) sheds a block while Mitchell helps clean up.
3Q 3:05 UO 11 2 7 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 1 Zone Read 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 1 Mitchell (+1) sheds a block and makes a nice tackle at the line. Garrett (+0.5) stays alive long enough to cause issues.
3Q 2:21 UO 12 3 6 Gun 5W 4-2-5 Stack 1 Mesh 4 Cover-3 Simon 15 Simon (-1) gets sucked up by a crosser. Ransom (-0.5) needed to stay in the middle longer to help out. 
3Q 1:55 UO 27 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Stack 1 Shot 4 Cover-3 Vincent 5 Offsides Vincent (-1).
3Q 1:49 UO 32 1 5 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 Power 4 Cover-3 Hickman 3 Hickman (+1) hits gap hard.
3Q 1:03 UO 35 2 2 Pistol 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 HB Dive 4 Cover-3 Vincent 3 Vincent (+0.5) gets some disruption while Hickman(+0.5) stays in there to make the tackle.
3Q 0:26 UO 38 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 PA Flood 4 Cover-2 Ransom 0 Ransom (+1) makes a nice play in coverage (coverage +1). Same play for Oregon as the play before.
3Q 0:14 UO 38 3 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 1 Stick 4 Cover-3 Pope 0 In one of the few good linebacker coverages all day, Pope (+2) makes an outstanding play on the football (+2 coverage). One of the best zones of the day. Chambers (+0.5) gets a little pressure (+0.5 pressure). Punt
End of Quarter                          
4Q 12:46 UO 26 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 Zone Read 4 Cover-1 Harrison 3 Harrison (+1) forces a give and makes a nice tackle. Garrett (-1) gets double teamed and can't hold up.
4Q 12:05 UO 30 2 6 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Flood 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 30 Garrett (-2) beats his man with a chance for a sack, but thinks it is a screen since he gets by so easily, slipping and falling. Mitchell (-1) (coverage -1) has to cover two men due to the play call, but should be playing the deep curl rather than the flat. Cavazos (-1) (tackling -1) tackles with a horsecollar penalty.
4Q 11:41 OSU 25 1 10 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Under 1 Split Zone 4 Cover-3 Ransom 4 Ransom (-1) covering an inelligible receiver. This is making it harder for the linebackers and defensive line to be responsible for their own gaps.
4Q 11:12 OSU 21 2 6 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 RPO Flat 4 Cover-3 Cavazos 0 Cavazos (-2) (coverage -2) is covering nobody and isn't ready for the quick pass, which is dropped. This would be more forgiveable outside of the redzone. Smith (+0.5) (pressure +0.5) beats his man immediately, but the pass is too quick. The potential holding wouldn't have changed anything. 
4Q 10:53 OSU 21 3 6 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Inverted Veer 4 Cover-3 Harrison 7 Harrison (-1) read; takes QB instead of containing RB. Mitchell and Cavazos do a decent job of contain to hold him to a six yard gain after a Hickman tackle.
4Q 10:21 OSU 14 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 RPO Flag 4 Cover-3 Shaw 14 Harrison (+1) is read, and does a better job of reading the play. He has an open route to the QB, but Shaw (-3) (coverage -3) passes the tight end off to nobody, as he is the deepest person on the boundary. Especially frustrating since he saw the tight end, hit him, and didn't cover him. Maybe he thought Hickman was back over, but he had moved over to the field side. Touchdown.
4Q 7:55 UO 25 1 10 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Under 1 Split Zone 4 Cover-3 Jean-Baptiste 3 Mitchell (+0.5) keeps the edge and Jean-Baptiste (+1) forces a handoff before making a tackle. Garrett holds up at nose tackle.
4Q 7:28 UO 28 2 7 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 Flood 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 0 Mitchell (+1) and Simon (+0.5) cover the curl/flat zones that linebackers are supposed to in Cover-3.
4Q 7:20 UO 28 3 7 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 1           False Start
4Q 7:20 UO 23 3 12 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Wide 1 Flood 4 Cover-1 Ransom 0 Ransom (+1) with good coverage (coverage +1). Even if the receiver had caught the ball, Ransom was in good position to make the tackle. Punt.
4Q 5:44 UO 22 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Under 1 QB Power 4 Cover-3 Mitchell 2 Mitchell (+2) gets to the sideline quickly and makes a tackle, fighting through a couple blocks. Hickman (+0.5) sets an edge. Simulated pressure.
4Q 5:00 UO 24 2 8 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 1 RPO Comeback 4 Cover-3 Tuimoloau 0 Tuimoloau (+2) gets through a tackle and gets a big pass deflection.
4Q 4:55 UO 24 3 8 Gun 5W 4-2-5 Wide 1 Mesh 4 Cover-1 Simon 0 Another simulated pressure. While it would be nice for a linebacker to blitz out of it every once in a while, it is at least something. Harrison (+0.5) gets in the backfield quick. Simon (+1) (coverage +1) plays excellent man to man.
4Q 2:50 UO 35 1 10 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 Power 4 Cover-1 Garrett 4 Ransom (-1) covers ineligible receiver. Garrett (+1) gets through line quickly to make the tackle.
4Q 2:45 UO 39 2 6 Gun 3W Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 1 QB Power 4 Cover-1 Harrison 3 Ransom (-1) covers ineligible receiver. Harrison (+1) keeps contain and makes the tackle. 
4Q 2:42  UO 42 3 3 Gun 3W Unbalalnced 4-2-5 Over 1 RPO Flat 4 Cover-1 Simon 10 Simon (-2) doesn't cover the tight end and instead falls for the run. Ransom (-1) covers ineligible receiver. End of game.



So, that was bad. It didn’t feel like 2018, where that defense would play mostly sound, but have 7 huge busts that would lead to a big play touchdown. It didn’t feel like last year/2013, where the run defense was good, but the pass defense would give up everything underneath. This was a whole new animal.

The first thing that stands out about the defense, even when you are watching it live, is how vanilla the scheme is. Joel Klatt wouldn’t stop talking about it on the broadcast. I will say, I don’t think the defense was quite as vanilla as he was saying. He was talking about how they refused to leave Cover-1, when realistically they were switching between Cover-1 and Cover-3, and they looked to me like they were running mostly Cover-3. Additionally, at least early in the game, they blitzed a lot more than was talked about as well. In fact, they stopped blitzing in the beginning of the third quarter, only having simulated pressures toward the end of the day.

While I don’t mind them running a base Cover-1/Cover-3 scheme, that was all they ran. Well, save for the few blitzes, particularly corner blitzes, which were run at the beginning of the game. For example, with 11:48 remaining in the second quarter, Ohio State ran a corner blitz with Marcus Williamson. However, this was one of the only plays they lined up with two high safeties all game, with the other ones also covering up blitzes! Lining up with two high safeties was a big blinking sign that said “WE ARE GOING TO BLITZ” Oregon figured it out pretty quickly. Even when they didn’t blitz out of the two high safeties, they still moved it into a Cover-3 immediately after the fact. It didn’t fool anybody. It was almost a different look just to be different, rather than to fool the offense. They only started to change this a little bit toward the end of the game, when they started doing some simulated pressures on the last few series. One even had a blitzing Steele Chambers with a dropping Javonte Jean-Baptiste. It was at least something! Why they didn’t do this earlier is beyond me, because it actually worked pretty well, even though it gave me flashbacks to Greg Schiano’s 2018 unit.

The other thing that may have been glaringly obvious is that Joe Moorhead seemed to have Kerry Coombs number all day. On rewatch, I expected to see Oregon running perfect counters to whatever coverage Ohio State was throwing out every single play.  This too, didn’t seem to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, Moorhead definitely won the X’s and O’s battle, but he really didn’t have to. He called pretty rudimentary plays, but Ohio State couldn’t execute the basics on the two different coverages they run. They weren’t getting to their zones or getting to their gaps, sometimes picking the completely wrong one to cover. It was honestly difficult to grade at points because there were usually more than one player who wasn’t executing properly on any given play, which made it hard to see what the coverage was supposed to look like.

Regardless, here is the chart for the individual players:

Individual Grades
Player + - T Notes
Defensive Line        
Zach Harrison  5.5 2.5 3 Isolated with reads all day; solid, but unspectacular
Tyreke Smith 9 1 8 Only lineman to get consistent pressure.
Haskell Garrett 8.5 9 -0.5 Elite at 3-Tech, not a good 1-Tech
Antwuan Jackson 0 3 3 Playing at 1-Tech out of necessity
Taron Vincent 6.5 1 5.5 Played well, but I didn't notice him as much as Garrett, both good and bad.
Javonte Jean-Baptiste 4 2 2 Solid
J.T. Tuimoloau 4 0 4 Can (and should?) start right now.
Jack Sawyer 1 1 0 Clearly a great athlete; needs some more time.
Tyleik Williams 2 0 2 Flashed the few plays he was out there at 1-Tech.
Ty Hamilton 1 0 1 Looked capable as 1-tech.
Total 41.5 19.5 22 Solid performance, though mostly against the run.
Teradja Mitchell 5 6.5 -1.5 Really rough early, but seemed to learn from early mistakes. Main read on RPO.
Cody Simon 4 3 1 Played okay, though seemed to know his coverage assignments most of the time.
Tommy Eichenberg 0.5 7.5 -7 Consistently picked the wrong gap, and was rarely in the right spot in coverage
Ronnie Hickman 5.5 4 1.5 Missed a few coverages, but came down hard and played fast for the most part.
Craig Young 0 0.5 -0.5 Limited playing time. Didn't stand out when he was out there, which is probably a good thing.
Palaie Gaoteote 0 4 -4 Responsible for two huge busts in the game.
Steele Chambers 1.5 0 1.5 Only linebacker who constantly plays fast, even though he doesn't know what he's doing. Reminds me of a young Darron Lee, good and bad.
K'Vaughn Pope 2 0 2 Solid in Coverage
Total 18.5 25.5 -7 Really bad. Worse than this score indicates.
Cameron Brown 5 1.5 3.5 Good day in coverage.
Denzel Burke 7 0.5 6.5 Best true freshman corner I have seen at Ohio State.
Josh Proctor 2 0.5 1.5 Huge loss. Was in position most of the day.
Lathan Ransom 3 9.5 -6.5 Covered an ineligible receiver on nine different plays. Unbalanced destroyed OSU.
Bryson Shaw 0 5.5 -5.5 Bad angle on the long touchdown run and left the tight end completely uncovered on the final TD.
Marcus Williamson 2 0 2 Nice open field tackle on corner blitz
Lejond Cavazos 0 3.5 -3.5 Rough Day. Watts/Banks might have helped.
Total 19 21 -2 Brown and Burke are good corners. Proctor is solid, but gone. Otherwise, mass confusion.
Pressure 13 5 8 Pressure on short passes, no pressure on long developing ones with 7-man protections.
Coverage  13 8 5 Corners were good. This section should be worse, but most of the really bad was on the ground.
Tackling 3 6.5 -3.5 Tackling issues from linebackers, but not egregious.
Play Calling 1 7 -6 Would have been worse, but the execution was so bad that creative playcalling was unnecessary.

I am going to address the lone bright spot first, because I think they have caught some unfair criticism. The defensive line was the only spot on the team that appeared to function anywhere close to correctly, though there are some problems here too.

Tyreke Smith beat his man over and over in this game. Oregon had a really hard time containing him, especially early. The biggest reason why this didn’t show up on the stat sheet was that Oregon didn’t need to pass to move the ball, and they certainly didn’t need to use any long developing pass plays to move the ball. When they did have a long developing play, they would usually have a 7-man protection with 3 wide receivers running routes. Oregon was content to dink and dunk with the passing game, knowing that a linebacker would be out of position. They also had free reign to run, as they knew that the linebackers/safeties would pick the wrong gap to run through. Smith was the only defensive linemen to get anywhere near enough pressure, however.

J.T. Tuimoloau also looked excellent, making a couple really nice plays in the run play. He blew up two plays seemingly on his own (2Q 8:15 and 4Q 5:00, blowing up a run and getting a huge pass deflection, respectively). I think that he has a case to be starting right now, especially at the SDE spot that Harrison occupies currently.

Harrison played okay, but was honestly read by the quarterback most of the day. This tells me that Oregon was still concerned about Harrison at the defensive line spot. He did pretty well against the run, but was unspectacular.

The biggest problem for the Buckeyes on the defensive line right now is the 1-tech spot. Normally Haskell Garrett starts here, with Taron Vincent playing the 3-tech. Now, Haskell Garrett is an elite 3-tech. He consistently blows through the line and is consistently disruptive. However, he isn’t big/strong enough to be a great 1-tech. He consistently gets blown up by double teams, leading to huge holes in the run game. The Garrett/Vincent combination is probably the best they have now, unfortunately. Jackson is another guy who has a 3-tech body playing the 1-tech, and it shows. When he is playing there, Garrett can play his more natural 3-tech and dominate, but there is an even bigger dip at 1-tech. The Buckeyes desperately need Jerron Cage back, as he is probably their best option at this point. Having said that, the limited snaps that Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton had were fairly impressive, and they held up to double teams with some regularity. They need more playing time against Tulsa and Akron, as if they can get to a fairly consistent level at 1-tech, Haskell Garrett can dominate in his natural spot, and the running lanes will close up significantly.

As for the linebackers…

They weren’t good. They were consistently out of position and were rarely in the right gaps. In particular, Tommy Eichenberg and Palaie Gaoteote did not perform well. Eichenberg completely cleared out of the box for the long touchdown run at 13:50 left in the third quarter, and missed his gap a ton, especially early. Gaoteote missed his coverage assignment with Oregon facing 3rd and 8 deep in their side of the field with 12:14 left in the second quarter, instead following the tight end that Cody Simon is covering. Gaoteote also follows a tight end into the box, which then picks Eichenberg, leaving the running back all alone for the touchdown. Though I highlight those two in particular, there were no heroes in this group.

Simon, Hickman, and Mitchell should probably be the three out there all the time. Mitchell was read a ton on RPO’s early by Oregon, and he got better throughout the game at responding to them. Cody Simon played well for the most part, with his only big mistake being the very last drive of the game when Ohio State needed a stop on third down. Those two looked more than capable. Hickman also played better than I originally gave him credit for. That also explains why, when it was the fourth quarter, those were the only three who saw the field.

I am somewhat intrigued by Steele Chambers and K’Vaughn Pope, though. Chambers has a little bit of Darron Lee from 2014. As Urban Meyer said at the time, “He has no idea what he’s doing, but he plays hard.” While most of the linebackers looked confused or in conflict, Chambers was aggressive and committed to everything he did. There is a violence to his game that isn’t there for the other guys. For example, with 7:00 left in the second quarter, Chambers crashes on an RPO. While the linebackers have been coached to stay in place to force the handoff, Chambers goes in anyway. Brown has to hurry, as Chambers comes in quick, and barely makes a seven yard reception. It doesn’t look that different, but there was a sense of urgency to Oregon for the first time all day. It actually looked like they weren’t expecting that. It was fun! K’Vaughn Pope does similar things too, but he looked quite capable in coverage, almost snagging an interception. They certainly aren’t polished, but I want to see those two on the second team moving forward, as they play fast like the scheme is designed for.

As for the secondary, the corners actually played great. Denzel Burke is probably the best true freshman corner I have seen for the Buckeyes since I started watching in 2004. Cameron Brown started a little slow, but was also great down the stretch. Both of those guys played very well, and I don’t have any further comments on them.

The safeties are a bit of a different story. Proctor, despite playing injured, played well when he was in. He was able to minimize a lot of the garbage that was happening at the linebacker level. His injury was enormous, because the guy behind him isn’t quite the same playmaker at this point in time. Bryson Shaw had two bad plays that resulted in touchdowns, which is how life goes as the deep safety. On the long run from CJ Verdell, he takes a horrible angle which completely erases any chance of taking down the ball carrier. I don’t expect him to tackle him in the hole and plug the gap. That’s asking too much. I do expect him to be able to push him to the sideline, and potentially bring him down further down the field, kind of like he did last week with Mo Ibrahim. The other play was the last touchdown of the game, where he engages with a tight end, and passes him off to…nobody. This was the only play I marked a -3 the whole game, because he was solely responsible for this touchdown.

Finally, I want to have a separate discussion for Lathan Ransom, as he consistently covered an ineligible receiver, which was wild, because Oregon did it a lot. Now, I am not saying to completely vacate the area. I don’t expect the coaches to just put him in the box, as that would open up screens toward the receivers. But pressing the ineligible receiver? Following the receiver? If you know the receiver is ineligible, you should be looking for the run or a screen. There were a couple of times where, if Ransom had understood the situation, he could have immediately attacked the screen/swing pass. Alternatively, the coaches could have put him a little closer to the box as an overhang defender to improve numbers in the run game, thus allowing another defender to better protect against the boundary run, which is how Oregon scored three of its touchdowns, and more first downs than I care to count.

Honestly, the Lathan Ransom thing tells me very little about him as a player. He played pretty well in coverage! That is something that needs to be taught from a coach, and this is an adjustment that can be made in-game. The fact that nobody mentioned this to him, or nobody had the idea to make that adjustment to use him as an overhang defender, lets me know that there is a problem with coaching. Those three touchdowns to the boundary side were far more a coaching issue than a player issue, even though the execution wasn’t great either.

Furthermore, I cannot understand how far things have fallen in just two years when it comes to attacking gaps and getting to zones quickly and aggressively. The whole reason you run a base Cover-1/Cover-3 system is so that everyone knows what they are doing all of the time, so they can react and play fast instead of thinking. The Ohio State coaches supposedly make this extra easy by rarely disguising their coverage. Yet it seems like most of the back-7 doesn’t know their responsibilities on any given play, or at the very least are thinking way too hard about where they need to be. You can play a simple system and have it work; the 2019 defense was incredible with the exact same scheme. The players cannot be constantly thinking about what they need to do though, they have to know immediately.

There are some possible fixes for the rest of the season. The ultimate fix is to get a new defensive coordinator, but that will not happen until after the season. For the rest of the year, a couple of things can be done. First, having and keeping the simple scheme is smart. While it may be easy to figure out, that is also good for the defensive players, who, as of right now, have not figured out how to play this type of defense. If Day is getting involved more with the defense in the future, we very well may see improvement in improving the fundamentals.

Second, the rotation needs to be shortened everywhere, except perhaps on the defensive line, where it has succeeded and is succeeding currently. The linebackers usually learned from their mistakes, but by the time a situation would arise like that again, a different linebacker was already in. For example, Teradja Mitchell would make a fixable mistake in zone coverage one series, and toward the end of the game, he had it figured out. However, between then, Tommy Eichenberg was making the exact same mistake since he hadn’t made the mistake the first time. A tighter rotation, as shown at the end with Simon and Mitchell, showed that players can get better after making early mistakes, and improve as the game goes on.

Finally, it might make sense to throw a couple of wildcards into the lineup. Tyvis Powell was in a Lettermen Row video recently with Jeremy Birmingham, and Tyvis mentioned that Chris Ash said to him, “Okay Tyvis, we have two guys on this defense who we have no idea what they are going to do: Darron Lee and Joey Bosa. Your job is to make them right.” Tyvis said that these guys are necessary for a good defense. Bobby Carpenter also mentioned the need for one of these guys, though he used a different metaphor. I would be interested to see Steele Chambers or K’Vaughn Pope in there more often as well. Even though these guys didn’t do what all of the other linebackers were doing, that was actually a good thing against Oregon. Additionally, because they were unpredictable, you could tell that Anthony Brown was not nearly as comfortable when those two guys were in the game in the third quarter. They caused chaos, and caused Oregon to have to improvise. I am not saying that either should start, but I think both of those guys are worth some added development time.

I feel better now. Please feel free to add feedback, or ask any questions.

This is a forum post from a site member. It does not represent the views of Eleven Warriors unless otherwise noted.

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