How Will Teams Defend Ohio State in 2015? Ezekiel Elliott Says Defenses Will Have to 'Pick Their Poison'

By Tim Shoemaker on July 21, 2015 at 1:15 pm

With a running back who ran for nearly 2,000 yards, NFL-caliber talent at wide receiver and a dual-threat option at quarterback — whoever winds up winning the job — it’s not much of a secret Ohio State’s offense is going to be just as dynamic, if not more, than it was last season during its national championship run.

The Buckeyes averaged just over 511 yards per game in 2014 — good for ninth in the nation and tops in the Big Ten — and scored 44.8 points per game, which was fifth-best in all of college football. It was one of the most explosive offenses in Ohio State history.

And, with most of the starters on offense returning sans Devin Smith and Evan Spencer at wide receiver, it’s widely expected the Buckeyes will be even more explosive in 2015, which begs the question: If you’re an opposing defense, how do you stop Ohio State?

“I think defenses are going to have to pick their poison,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “We have a lot of weapons on offense. I don't think they can just play the run. I don't think they can just play the pass because we're such a balanced team.”

Elliott, the star tailback who gained 1,878 yards on the ground last year and scored 18 touchdowns, has a point. Should teams load the box to try and shut down the run, the Buckeyes’ premier talent at wide receiver and quarterback should surface and they’ll hurt an opposing team through the air. If a team is afraid of the aerial assault, that frees Elliott up to do what he did during Ohio State’s three-game run to the title.

It’s a true dilemma for opposing defensive coordinators. It’s almost sure to cause a few headaches, as well.

“I think next year we're going to see a lot of different schemes, a lot of different fronts,” Elliott said. “People are going to pull out everything they got with they play us. I think our coaches will prepare us well and we'll be ready for each game every week.”

There was one team which stifled Ohio State’s offensive attack last year, though. Virginia Tech came into Ohio Stadium in Week 2 and used a Bear front, Cover 0 style defense which the Buckeye coaching staff admittedly was unprepared for.

The result was a 35-21 win for the Hokies, who sacked Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett seven times, forced three turnovers and limited the Buckeyes to just 327 yards of total offense.

It seemed, at the time, Virginia Tech exposed Ohio State and displayed the blueprint for how to beat the Buckeyes. But every team that tried to play that same defensive style following that Week 2 game, didn’t have nearly the same success. Ohio State found a way to counter that style.

When it was brought up to Elliott recently, he insisted the Buckeyes would be prepared for that style should the Hokies opt to display the same type of defense when the two teams square off again in the season-opener Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va.

“We worked on a lot of that no deep stuff, Bear no deep in the spring ball but obviously we're watching film and stuff already,” Elliott said. “We're just ready for the season.”

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