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Akron - Defensive Play by Play Analysis

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saltybuck61's picture
September 30, 2021 at 5:11pm

This is the defensive play-by-play analysis for the Akron game. I started this series after the Oregon game because it was fun to look at each individual play and grade the individual players to see what was working and what wasn’t. Also, this format is borrowed from MgoBlog, though I have made several adjustments already. Last week’s post can be found here.

I also want to thank people for reading and commenting on this series so far, as it really does mean a lot to me. I do read all of the comments, and even if I don’t respond, I do appreciate all of the kind words. Doing this series has been a lot of fun for me, so I am glad other folks can get to enjoy it as much as I have.

For a quick recap of what the talk has been for the defense, the biggest storyline has been the disaster that was the defensive performance against Oregon, and what changes, if any, the Buckeyes have been making with the new coaching arrangement. The other big storyline this week was the K’Vaughan Pope situation, which I don’t really feel the need to talk about, as it has been talked about enough elsewhere.

Here is the Play-by-Play:

Defensive Play-by-Play Analysis vs. Akron
Time Yard Line Down Distance O Formation D Package Front High Type Rush Play Player Yards Notes
First Quarter                          
15:00 AU 25 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 RB Flat Simon 13 Simon (-2) doesn't get over to his zone fast enough. As soon as the backfield empty's, he needs to be able to get out to the flat. OSU actually disguised this coverage, so I can't tell exactly what they were running. Almost looks like quarters.
14:35 AU 38 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Switch Martinez 6 Martinez (+1) gets immediate pressure (+1) on a corner blitz while dropping JTT, but can't bring down the quarterback (Martinez -2, tackling -2). Shaw (+0.5) takes a great angle to push the runner out of bounds.
13:52 AU 44 2 4 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Run   Power Harrison 1 Harrison (+0.5) squeezes down and makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage. Jackson (+0.5) also plugs up the middle. 
13:19 AU 45 3 3 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 TE Hitch Mitchell 0 Mitchell (-1) gets to the TE late, but the QB makes a bad throw. Punt.
12:06 AU 45 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 6 Omaha Rollout Martinez  0 Irons rolls out and throws a poor pass. Martinez (-0.5) doesn't get out to the flat fast enough.
12:02 AU 45 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Smash Scramble Simon 16 Garrett (-0.5) gets a great push, but allows Irons to break the pocket.  Simon (-1) misses a tackle in open space (tackling -1). 
11:31 OSU 39 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 2 Pass 4 Swing Pass Garrett 2 Garrett (+1) hustles over to make a tackle on the sideline after Mitchell (-1) misses the tackle in the backfield (tackling -1).
10:54 OSU 37 2 8 Pistol 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Run   Counter Harrison  1 Harrison (+0.5) and Tuimoloau (+0.5) gets to the runner immediately.
10:10 OSU 36 3 7 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Spacing Burke 8 Burke (-0.5) has decent coverage, but can't prevent the tight end from getting the first down. 
9:36 OSU 28 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Run   Power Mitchell -2 Mitchell (+1) gets there on the Double A gap blitz. Simon (+1) blows up the tight end in the hole. Timeout.
8:47 OSU 30 2 12 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Field 1 Pass 4 Flood Hickman 9 Hickman (-0.5) gets caught up in the middle instead of defending the flat. He does make up good ground to limit the gain. 
8:12 OSU 21 3 3 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Pass 4 Mesh Banks 17 Banks (-2) can't cover the wide receiver to his side, and then misses a tackle (tackling -1). 
7:37 OSU 4 1 4 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 0 Pass 4 Motion Flat Banks 4 Akron uses the same play that Alabama used with Devont'a Smith in the National Championship to isolate Banks (-1), who allows a touchdown in man-to-man. I don't know if he isn't running hard on these, or what. Another corner had one of these later for a stop. Banks never seems to get to these. Touchdown.
5:27 AU 25 1 10 Gun 4W Trips 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Verticals Garrett -5 Haskell Garrett (+2) gets pressure (pressure +2) up the middle, and cleans up for the sack.
4:44 AU 20 2 15 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 1 Pass 4 Spacing Chambers 10 Chambers (-1) is late getting over to the zone. He waits too far in the middle, covering empty space for too long.
3:58 AU 30 3 5 Gun 4W 4-2-5 3-3-5 Stack 1 Pass 5 HB Swing Harrison 10 Harrison (+1) comes hard off the edge and comes up with a sack, but Banks (-2) has a defensive holding call.
3:32 AU 40 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 2-4-5 Field 2 Run   Inside Zone Chambers 0 Chambers (+1) makes a great stop, preventing any more yardage from occuring (tackling +1).
2:53 AU 40 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Verticals Garrett -4 (Pressure +2) Garrett (+2), Harrison (+1), Tuimoloau (+1) and Jackson (+1) all collapse the pocket. There was no chance to escape.
2:05 AU 36 3 14 Gun 4W 3-1-7 Stack 2 Pass 3 Dagger Young 3 Coverage (+2) is good all downfield. Craig Young (+1) is effective as a spy and limits the quarterback to three yards, though it was a little aggressive.
0:11 AU 25 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 RPO 4 RPO Glance Hickman 0 Coverage (+1) is good, so even if the throw was accurate, Hickman (+0.5) was in position to make the hit.
0:08 AU 25 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2         -5 False start.
0:08 AU 20 2 15 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Smash Williams 0 Williams (+1) immediately gets pressure (pressure +1) and forces an inaccurate ball with a well covered wide receiver by Martinez (+1). Coverage +1
0:04 AU 20 3 15 Gun 3W 4-1-6 Field 2 Pass 4 Scramble Hickman 3 Hall (+2) blows through the line and gets immediate pressure (+2), though he can't finish the tackle. The spy Young (-1) (tackling -1) can't wrap up the tackle, though the play is broken and Hickman (tackling +1) makes a nice tackle in space.
Second Quarter                          
10:23 AU 25 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Run   Zone Read Tuimoloau 13 Tuimoloau (-1) squeezes a bit too hard; he may have underestimated Irons' athleticism. Shaw (-0.5) gets there a bit late.
9:53 AU 39 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Run   Belly Zone Mitchell 2 Mitchell (+1) gets downhill quick and hits the running back, but can't come down with the tackle (tackling -0.5). Williams (+1) is able to stop the run quickly after.
9:19 AU 41 2 8 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 Scramble Wiliams 4 Pressure +1.5. Williams (+1.5) and Tuimoloau (+1) gets pressure, with Williams getting the tackle.
8:41 AU 37 3 4 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Spacing Simon INT Cowan (+1) and Ty Hamilton (+1) gets pressure (+2) to force a quick throw, which Simon (+2) picks off (coverage +2).
7:16 AU 25 1 10 Gun 3W Trips Bunch 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Pass 4 Spot Cage -6 Sawyer (+1) and Cage (+2) put pressure (+2) on the quarterback with Cage getting the sack.
6:36 AU 19 2 16 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Spacing Scramble N/A 6 Irons rolls out and all of the receivers are covered (coverage +1). He gets a small gain on second and long.
5:54 AU 25 2 10 Gun 3W Trips Bunch 4-2-5 Wide 1 Pass 4 Spot Hall 15 Irons is pressured immediately (pressure +1) by Hall (+1) and Harrison (+1) and is forced to throw to a covered receiver (coverage +1) by Martinez (+1). Facemask by Hall (-2) extends drive.
5:45 AU 40 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 RPO 4 RPO QB Scramble Sawyer 2 Sawyer (+1.5) forces the keep, and then brings down the QB despite being read. Excellent play.
5:04 AU 42 2 8 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 Checkdown Harrison 0 Harrison (+1.5) gets a hand on Irons but doesn't bring him down (pressure +1.5). Irons is forced to throw to the checkdown, who can't catch it.
4:56 AU 42 3 8 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 1 Pass 4 Shallow Cross Hickman INT TD Harrison (+1.5) again gets a hand on Irons (pressure +1.5) and forces a throw to the TE, who is covered by Hickman (+2). Hickman gets a pick six off of excellent coverage (+2).
4:43 AU 25 1 10 Pistol 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Run   Split Zone Mitchell 3 Mitchell (+0.5) makes a nice tackle in the hole (tackling +0.5). 
4:05 AU 28 2 7 Pistol 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 PA Ohio Jackson -5 Jackson (+2) gets pressure (+2) after beating a double team. He's been playing well recently.
3:20 AU 23 3 12         Penalty   False Start   -5 False Start
2:59 AU 18 3 17 Gun 3W Trips 3-1-7 Under 2 Pass 4 Curl Chambers 0 Chambers (+1) has great coverage on a receiver (coverage +1) leading to a punt. Hickman (+0.5) there for help.
0:37 AU 6 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5     Penalty   False Start   -5 False Start on Akron.
0:37 AU 3 1 13 Pistol 3W 4-2-5 2-4-5 Wide 2 Run   Split Zone Chambers 2 Chambers (+0.5) stuff the RB at the line of scrimmage (tackling +0.5).
0:31 AU 6 2 10 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 3-3-5 Tite 2 Run   Belly Zone Hickman 6 Hickman (+0.5) makes a nice tackle after a few yards (tackling +0.5).
0:25 AU 12 3 4 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 2-4-5 Stack 1 Run   Belly Zone Simon 1 Simon (+1) and Garrett (+1) makes the tackle after a yard. Simon looks injured. Punt.
Third Quarter                          
13:17 OSU 46 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Run   Pin and Pull Eichenberg 0 Eichenberg (+1) gets to his gap and makes an excellent tackle (tackling +1).
12:44 OSU 45 2 9 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Pass 4 Flood Garrett -6 Tuimoloau (+0.5) is a free rusher, and would have gotten the sack if Garrett (+2) hadn't gotten there. Pressure +2.
11:55 AU 49 3 15 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 3-3-5 Tite 2 Pass 4 Spacing Eichenberg 0 Eichenberg (+1.5) gets immediate pressure and forces an incompletion (Pressure +2). Punt
10:54 AU 25 1 10 Gun 4W Trips Bunch 4-2-5 Field 1 Pass 4 Slant Eichenberg 0 Williiams (+1) gets quick pressure (+1). While the throw is inaccurate, Eichenberg (+1) was right there to make the hit. Best he's looked.
10:52 AU 25 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 RPO 4 RPO Omaha Cavazos 11 Irons makes a good read. Cavazos (-1) isn't expected to cover the man, but he does nearly miss the tackle, and even when he stops him, he probably gets 5 more yards than expected.
10:18 AU 36 1 10 Pistol 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Run   Zone Read Williamson -2 Williamson (+2) reads this beautifully, and makes the tackle in the backfield. Mitchell (+0.5) cleans up.
9:42 AU 34 2 12 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Shallow Cross Cavazos 2 Cavazos plays the shallow zone perfectly and stops the receiver right where he catches the ball. Play-calling +1 for bringing out Cover 2 at the right time.
8:44 AU 36 3 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 3-3-5 Under 1 Pass 5 Flood McCall 10 McCall (-1) can't get to the comeback in time to prevent the first down.
8:06 AU 46 1 10 Gun 4W Trips 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Run   Belly Zone McKenzie 3 McKenzie (+1) sheds his block and makes the stop quickly.
7:22 AU 49 2 7 Gun 4W Trips 4-2-5 Field 2 RPO 4 RPO Flat Ransom 0 Ransom (+0.5) and Williamson (+0.5) in good position.
7:12 AU 49 3 7 Gun 4W 4-2-5 4-1-6 Boundary 1 Pass 4 Mesh Cavazos 0 The pass is inaccurate. Cavazos (+0.5) comes down once he sees the crosser. Pressure -1. Punt.
4:14 AU 25 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 3-3-5 Under 2 Pass 4 Rollout Flat Williamson 2 Chambers (+1) gets pressure (+1) on the blitz, and is forced to throw it to the flat, where Williamson (+1.5) flies in to make the tackle.
3:32 AU 27 2 8 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Run   Split Zone Chambers 11 Chambers (-1) can't get off his block, which leads to the long gain.
2:59 AU 38 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Pass 4 PA Streak McCall 0 McCall (+2) shows excellent coverage by puching the ball out right as the receiver touched the ball. Coverage +2.
2:49 AU 38 2 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 2-4-5 Over 2 Run   Split Zone Chambers -1 Chambers (+1) flies into the hole and makes a great stop.
2:11 AU 37 3 11 Gun 3W 4-2-5 3-3-5 Wide 1 Pass 3 Mesh Cavazos 0 Cavazos (+1) plays the receiver well so that, even with a catch, it would have been short of the first down. Punt.
Fourth Quarter                          
14:10 AU 16 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 RPO 5 RPO Outside Zone Williamson 5 Williamson (+2) chases the running back down from the backside and punches the ball out for a forced fumble, though it goes out of bounds. McCall (+1) lays a huge hit on the ball carrier.
13:35 AU 21 2 5 Gun 3W 4-2-5 2-4-5 Stack 2 Pass 6 Slants Williamson 4 Williamson (+1) closes on the receiver quickly and makes a good tackle (tackling +1).
13:03 AU 25 3 1 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 2-4-5 Boundary 2 Run   Inside Zone McCall 21 Based on where the rest of the defensive line is attacking, I think Sawyer (-1) is not in the correct gap. Martinez (-1.5) does not take a good angle allowing for an extra ten yards. McCall (+1) makes a good tackle in space (tackling +1).
12:45 AU 46 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 1 Pass 6 Ohio Kourt Williams 15 This was a great call against a zone blitz. Play-calling -1. Ohio State executed, but it was a great call. Kourt Williams isn't getting over in time. There was a little confusion before the snap, but not horrible.
12:04 OSU 39 1 10 Gun Twin TE Unbalanced 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Run   Split Zone Kourt Williams 4 Kourt Williams (+1) makes a stop from the safety position by getting into the gap quickly. Tackling +1.
11:23 OSU 35 2 6 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Pass 4 Streak McCall 0 McCall (+2) makes a great play on the ball by getting his head around and breaking up the pass late. Coverage +2. He didn't get a hand on it, but it was tight coverage.
11:08 OSU 35 3 6 Gun Twin TE Unbalanced 4-2-5 Over 2 Run   Split Zone Hall 1 Hall (+1) has a great stop shedding a blocker. Unfortunately, he follows it up with a throat slash. Classic. Hall (-2).
10:48 OSU 19 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Field 0 Pass 4 Hitch Ransom 8 Akron runs a pick route, but Ohio State gets through it. Irons throws it to the picker though, which is interesting. Gaoteote is there first, but Ransom (+0.5) is the one who wraps up the receiver.
10:26 OSU 11 2 2 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Under 0 Run   Belly Zone Sawyer 3 Sawyer (+0.5) does a better job of getting off of his block, but he can't prevent the first down.
9:52 OSU 8 1 8 Gun Twin TE Flex 4-2-5 404 Tite 0 Run   Split Zone Gaoteote 1 Gaoteote (+1) fills his gap nicely and gets a nice stop.
9:06 OSU 7 2 7 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 0 Pass 4 Curl Flat Sawyer -3 Sawyer (+2) is able to get out of the pocket quickly, which helps him corral Irons once he can't find anyone. (Pressure +2) (Coverage +1).
8:11 OSU 11 3 11 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Wide 1 Pass       -5 Delay of Game
7:36 OSU 15 3 15 Gun 4W 4-2-5 2-4-5 Wide 2 Pass 6 Verticals? Tyleik Williams -10 Whole defense gets pressure (+2) with Tyleik Williams (+2) getting the sack.
2:47 AU 25 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 1 Pass 4 Omaha JK Johnson 22 JK Johnson (+1) lays a huge hit on the receiver, but then gets a taunting penalty lol. Johnson (-2).
2:23 AU 47 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Run   Split Zone McKenzie 0 McKenzie (+2) blows up the run from the inside. Watts (+1) gets downhill and cleans it up.
1:47 AU 47 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Pass 4 Checkdown Kacherski 6 Kacherski (+1) quickly tackles the checkdown.
1:10 OSU 47 3 4 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 Flood Carrico 18 Hooker (+0.5) and JK Johnson (+0.5) combine on the tackle. Carrico (-1) gets caught up looking at the QB instead of dropping back in his zone.
0:51 OSU 29 1 10 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 Under 1 Pass 4 Scramble Dunn 0 Dunn (+0.5) gets an open field tackle. Tackling +0.5
0:29 OSU 20 2 1 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 Hitch Carrico 6 Henry-Young (+1) gets good pressure (+1). Hitch is still completed downfield, tackled by Carrico (+0.5).
0:20 OSU 14 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Pass 4 Verticals Hooker 0 Maybe should have been a touchdown, but dropped.
0:09 OSU 14 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 2 Pass 4 Verticals? Ty Hamilton -1 Ty Hamilton (+2) gets great pressure on the QB with Tyleik Williams (+1). Pressure +2.
0:04 OSU 15 3 11 Gun 4W 4-2-5 2-4-5 Field 1 Pass 4 Verticals Tyleik Williams -6 Tyleik Williams (+2) gets the sack with help from Henry-Young. Pressure +2
End of Game                          

One of the first things about the new defense is how often they are lining up with 2 high safeties, which basically never happened when Coombs was at the helm. Barnes does it fairly frequently, and at the beginning of the game, was running more 2-high sets than 1-high sets. Through the first ten plays, they lined up with 2 high safeties eight times, which is more than I have seen them do in years. Throughout the game, they ran 1-high safety 35 times, and 2-high safeties 37 times. Compare this to the Oregon game where they were 1-high 63 times and 2-high 8 times, and even when they were 2-high, they would just “disguise” a formation so they could send a corner blitz and move right back into 1-high. It was ugly. This has become a much more balanced team with regard to where the safeties are positioned, with Ronnie Hickman now being used as more of a traditional strong safety. They also disguise the coverage they are going to run on the play, and Matt Barnes has been clear that he thinks disguising coverage is essential to having an effective defense. So far, so good, though we won’t know really how well it works for another couple of weeks.

Also, I started adding more information to the fronts that they were running. While they almost always have 4-2-5 personnel, occasionally mixing in 3-3-5 and 4-3, they change the look of their defense often. For example, even if they have the 4-2-5 package out there, they might line up in a 4-3, or sometimes, they will stand up a defensive lineman or two and show a 3-4 or a 2-4-5. The defense is now creative in how they line up and the looks that they show opposing teams. While I didn’t point it out this week, I will try to point out when they give blitz looks as well, as they have been running simulated pressures, which they did not do against Oregon at all.

Speaking of blitzes, they didn’t reveal any new ones this week. They still ran the double A-gap blitz that they ran last week against Tulsa, but that was really it from what I saw. They also ran a zone blitz where one of the defensive ends would run out to cover the flat, and they ran that last week as well. I am curious to see if they expand on what they have done so far, or not. I am thinking they will, but they figured that Akron was a good opportunity to practice the stuff that was installed last week so they can build an identity on defense.

I noticed too that the defense was much more cohesive before the snap than last week, which in turn was much less confused than against Oregon. Against Oregon, it seemed like there were always problems lining up before the snap, where I don’t think I ever saw that against Akron, even with all of the motion that Akron was running. That would have eaten Ohio State alive a couple of weeks ago, but they knew exactly where they needed to be for every type of motion on Saturday, which was good to see. It has only been two weeks, but the quality of coaching looks to be dramatically improved.

Perhaps the best thing I saw were the adjustments that have been made from week to week. Against Oregon, they had no answer for the unbalanced stuff that Oregon was running. Against Tulsa, they looked much more comfortable against unbalanced, but they really struggled dealing with Bunch sets in man-to-man. Against Akron, they seem to have fixed that issue as well, playing well against unbalanced, and playing better technique against the bunch set to avoid pick routes. Ohio State never adjusted last year to the RPO, which had been ripping off big chunk plays every week after Penn State started exploiting it in the second half of that game. It all culminated with Alabama, whose offense is almost entirely based off of the RPO, had nearly no resistance to scoring over 50 points in the national championship game.

This all makes me feel more confident in the coaching staff, which I think greatly benefitted from the shakeup after the Oregon loss. How did the individual players do? Here is the defensive chart:

Defensive Player Chart
Player + - Total Notes
Defensive Line        
Zach Harrison 7 0 7 Constant pressure. Got a sack taken off the board by defensive holding.
Tyreke Smith       DNP
Haskell Garrett 8 0.5 7.5 Three sacks is tough to beat. Great game.
Antwuan Jackson 3.5 0 3.5 Not crazy disruptive, but did a lot of good, solid things.
Taron Vincent       DNP
Javonte Jean-Baptiste       DNP
J.T. Tuimoloau 3 1 2 Plays decent against the run, but it never feels like he gets much pressure.
Jack Sawyer 5 1 4 Only defensive end with a sack, out of nine total sacks
Tyleik Williams 8.5 0 8.5 Needs to start. They've been playing him at 3-tech though, so it's hard to take Garrett out.
Ty Hamilton 3 0 3 Solid. I am a little surprised he is at 1-tech, but he is playing fine.
Cormontae Hamilton       No charted plays
Jacolbe Cowan 1 0 1 Good pressure on Simon INT.
Jerron Cage 2 0 2 Nice sack early on.
Darrion Henry-Young 1 0 1 Some nice pressure late in the game.
Michael Hall 4 4 0 Facemask and throat slash erase nice play overall.
Jaden mckenzie 3 0 3 coaches seemed to really like him before last year; good to see him healthy.
Total 49 6.5 42.5 Expected score when you get 9 sacks and give up 2 YPC.
teradja mitchell 3 2 1 Not great, considering the competition.
Cody Simon 4 3 1 Very nice interception. Still, not great.
Tommy Eichenberg 3.5 0 3.5 Didn't do much, but didn't make mistakes. One of the biggest improvements across the entire defense.
ronnie Hickman 3.5 0.5 3 Great game. Number is a little low due to lots of rotation and starters leaving early.
craig young 1 1 0 Didn't notice him as much as last week.
dallas gant       DNP
Palaie gaoteote 1 0 1 Pursues nicely.
steele chambers 4.5 2 2.5 He makes plays. They are giving him more and more responsibilities every week.
K'Vaughan Pope       DNP. Wild.
Cade Kacherski 1 0 1 Nice tackle from the walk-on
Reid Carrico 0.5 1 -0.5 Missed tackle on the last drive.
Kourt Williams 1 0 1 I would love to see him in more often, considering the way the coaches talk about him.
Total 23 9.5 13.5 Numbers are low across the board because starters allowed very few yards, an thus, very few plays to grade. Decent grade.
Cameron Brown       DNP
Denzel Burke 0 0.5 -0.5 Was thrown at rarely.
Lathan Ransom 1 0 1 Looks to have been moved to deep safety.
Bryson Shaw 0.5 0.5 0 Played decent. Akron basically never had the chance to throw deep..
Marcus williamson 7 0 7 Never seems to miss a tackle. Always in the right spot. Made switching Ransom to deep safety possible by his great play.
Sevyn banks 0 5 -5 Not good today.
Lejond Cavazos 1.5 1 0.5 He's way bigger than I always remember. Certainly has the size.
Ryan Watts 1 0 1 Don't know why he hasn't played more after Week 1.
Cameron Martinez 3 4 -1 Little up and down. Missed a chance to get a sack. Still love his ceiling, and he is generally in the right spot, especially in coverage.
JK Johnson 1.5 2 -0.5 Looked great. Taunting penalty did not look great.
Marcus Hooker 0.5 0 0.5 I am guessing that he is no longer an option at deep safety if Ransom is moving there.
Jantzen Dunn 0.5 0 0.5 Nice open field tackle at the end.
Demario Mccall 6 1 5 Has no business playing this well.
total 22.5 14 8.5 Very few downfield throws. Many of the negatives were penalties or tackling issues.
Pressure 34.5 1 33.5 Ah. So that's where the pressures have been all year. Defensive tackles did all of the heavy lifting here.
Coverage 16 0 16 Not much downfield. When Akron did go downfield, it was covered.
Tackling 8 5.5 2.5 Tackling in space was better today than the last two weeks, though still needs to improve.
Play-calling 1 1 0 Like I said for the offense: everything worked, so it's tough to say good calls vs bad calls.

The defensive line really stood out. Between that pressure number, and the individual scoring, that was spectacular. These are the kinds of numbers that are expected when you get nine sacks. They got pressure for the first time this year. There is still concern though. Out of the nine sacks, only one of them was done by a defensive end, which was Jack Sawyer at the end of the game. The others were done by defensive tackles. Now, Haskell Garrett is an All-American, and Tyleik Williams will be a Freshman All-American if he gets more playing time, but I would like to see more production from the defensive ends. Zach Harrison did get consistent pressure today and would have had a sack if it were not for defensive holding on Sevyn Banks. While I thought he played well (many of his pressures resulted in the QB stepping up right into Garrett), I want to see that performance against Big Ten teams. Tyreke Smith has also done a nice job of getting to the quarterback, and in my opinion has been the best defensive end by a pretty good margin. With those two on the field at the same time, you might be able to get more pressure against drop back teams. And to be fair, we haven’t seen those two playing together against a non-RPO team, so they might be great. We just don’t know, which is a weird position to be in this late in the season.

Tyleik Williams, as I just mentioned, can be a Freshman All-American this year. I would like to see him play more as the 1-tech, but the coaches seem pretty set on playing him at the 3-tech, where he has to compete for playing time with Garrett and Vincent instead of Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage. I don’t care where he goes, but he needs to be on the field more. I think he has the size necessary for 1-tech, and I wouldn’t mind seeing what he has there.

If Williams isn’t a 1-tech, though, Jackson and Garrett are probably the best starting pairing. Haskell Garrett is excellent, and Jackson is decent as a 1-tech. It’s hard with all of the double teams you get, but I would like to see more disruption from that spot. Williams/Vincent might be a good second team pairing, if they would be okay playing Williams at 1-tech.

As for the linebackers, there looks to have been improvement across the board. Cody Simon is clearly a starter at Mike, and won’t come off the field unless he is injured, which, unfortunately, has happened a couple of times this season. He isn’t scoring amazingly, but he is solid and occasionally spectacular. I don’t expect the Mike to be a great coverage guy; he’s doing fine.

The Will spot is a little more interesting. Steele Chambers for the last few weeks has consistently been the best linebacker by my grading, and I think I am finally at the point where I can say that he deserves to start. He makes a ton of plays, looks to be the best athlete out of any of the linebackers, and consistently gives outstanding effort. It looks like the coaches are noticing his improvement as well, as he is not only playing more sound with the responsibilities that he does have, but he is given more responsibilities every week with regards to the coverages that he is asked to play and the formations that he is inserted into. He is being asked to do more and is delivering. He made multiple stops at the line of scrimmage, with his tackle with 2:49 left in the third quarter being a tackle for loss. I have said this before, and I will say it again: even when Steele Chambers is wrong, his effort and athleticism help the defense and disrupt the offense. I love that he is getting more playing time. I don’t think he will start, even if I think he maybe should, though. Mitchell is playing fine, and is a senior captain. I could see this being a 2014 situation, where Curtis Grant (who played pretty well) rotated with an extremely talented youngster with Raekwon McMillan. That rotation worked out just fine throughout that season. I think that a similar rotation could be in store this year. Between Chambers, Mitchell, and Simon, the main linebacker rotation looks to be set.

I want to give a quick shout out to Tommy Eichenberg, though, who played his best game as a Buckeye. He didn’t play as much, but on the first four defensive plays of the third quarter, he made three great defensive plays, one in coverage, one against the run, and one blitzing. He didn’t miss an assignment that I saw. This was after Simon’s injury. While I hope that Simon isn’t out long-term, as he is the best option, Eichenberg looked decent. Eichenberg’s problem usually hasn’t been a lack of athleticism or size, at least that I’ve noticed. He has just been consistently in the wrong spot, especially in the Oregon game. Now that he looked to be in the right spots, he may be a much more option.

There were a couple of interesting things about the secondary. The biggest change is that Lathan Ransom has moved from the slot cornerback/nickleback to the deep safety/free safety. I thought that this would be a good change to make after the Oregon game, so it is good to see them make it. While I don’t think he was horrible at slot-cornerback, I have thought that Williamson and Martinez have been much better, and considering he was recruited to play deep safety, where Shaw had struggled against Oregon, the stars seemed to be aligning for a position change. In this game, he split time with Shaw, and I expect him to be the full-time starter by the end of the year. Both of those two played fine in this game, though Akron didn’t test them at all.

This move was also made easier because of the play of Cameron Martinez and Marcus Williamson. Martinez is clearly a play-maker, and while I gave him a negative score, much of that was because he missed a sack against an athletic quarterback. Because the game got out of hand early, and because Akron never tested him, it was hard to make up for that mistake. He has been a big bright spot for the defense though, especially in coverage.

If there is one issue where Martinez has struggled, though, it is with tackling in the open field. I mentioned this last week, but Martinez gets juked way too often to be considered a great tackler. He is quite good in coverage, and he does make plays. I would like to see him make more tackles. This is where Marcus Williamson has excelled. He was my highest graded player in the secondary for this game, mainly due to his consistent open field tackles, and his willingness to play aggressive when hitting an offensive player. If you ask me, he is the best tackler on the team right now. I don’t know how the coaches will use him in the future, but I think a platoon between Martinez/Williamson might make sense, depending on the type of play they are expecting or depending on the team they are playing. He has been a revelation for the depth at that spot, and he is allowing them to move Ransom to deep safety. This is all of the sudden a secondary with depth, which is not something I would have said at all two weeks ago, and Williamson is a huge reason for this.

I also want to highlight two other guys, one bad, and one good. I want to end on a good note, so I will start with the bad. Sevyn Banks had a rough day. He extended a couple of drives with poor coverage and tackling (Mesh with 8:12 in the first quarter), poor effort (the very next play, the Jet Motion Counter Flat thing for a touchdown that Bama ran with Devonta Smith in the NC game), and penalties (defensive holding on third down with 3:58 to go in the first quarter on the very next drive. It was a rough time for him out there. I don’t know if he played after that, but it wasn’t good. At first, I thought that the touchdown pass on the motion was just a good play design, as Banks never seems to get there, but then I saw Lathan Ransom play the exact same play, and he almost always stops it immediately. I even think Denzel Burke had a similar play, and he stopped it too. Banks isn’t even close on these types of plays. I still think he is talented; he played better than anyone else last year. This was not his best game, though.

The second guy that I need to highlight is Demario McCall, who played really well. He broke a couple of passes deep down the field, one with him breaking up a well-thrown ball, and the other, while the receiver probably could have caught it, he had tight coverage on him. He also came down and got a huge hit on the running back with 14:10 in the fourth quarter on the play when Williamson forced a fumble. He played with a lot of effort, and he was fun to watch. He looks competent. I think he played better than Cavazos and Banks, who have been getting playing time ahead of him. It could be a one-off; I believe that practice says a lot more than one game, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Overall, I don’t think this game against Akron can tell us much good about the overall effectiveness of the defense, as Akron is genuinely bad. Great individual performances, especially when it comes to execution, may not translate to better competition. Bad individual performances, absolutely may translate to better competition. It is hard to tell if the defense is actually better based on just the performances.

But from watching the defense, especially before the snap, it is clear that so much work has been done behind the scenes in the last two weeks. They are communicating much better, they are lining up in the right spots, and they generally know what their assignments are now, which is not something that was true against Oregon. Not only are they executing better, but the coaches are throwing more at them as well, so the complexity and the quality of the defense has improved, which is something that I didn’t expect at all. It is hard to put into words how big of a difference there is between the defense against Akron and the defense against Oregon. There are more coverages, disguised coverages, and overall better execution of whichever play is called.

Most shockingly, the only really significant change in personnel has been with the coaching staff. A reshuffling of the coaching staff has genuinely produced an entirely different looking unit, and I have no idea how they pulled this off. I have always said that the quality of coaching is the single most important thing in improving the quality of play. So far, this looks to be correct, though Rutgers should tell us a little bit more. Even though Rutgers is not a good offense, they do put defenders in conflict a lot with read options and RPOs, which is the first time this defense will have really seen an offense like this since Oregon. Their performance in this game will be telling. Rutgers is still more of a quiz though, where Maryland will be a genuine test considering the play of Tagovailoa. The next two games will be essential to the development of the defense into a Big Ten Championship caliber defense.

Thank you for reading. As a side note, I may be a little late next week due to some of this weekend’s activities, but I will still be doing this series. Thanks again!

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