Ohio State's Pass Defense is in Shambles After Failing to Replace Some Major Departures

By Johnny Ginter on September 10, 2017 at 1:06 am
Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette

One of the things that made Ohio State so remarkable on defense for the past several years is that the Buckeyes were able to not only confront several tough offenses and limit their output, but more specifically that the secondary was able to keep some high octane passing offenses in check, even after some major attrition defensively due to the NFL Draft.

In April, the Buckeyes saw Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore head to the league, all justifiably drafted in the first round. The trio had 15 interceptions between them in addition to 141 tackles and made up the core of a passing defense that ranked 7th in the country last season. The assumption among many Ohio State fans was that their replacements would appear just as they had: seemingly out of thin air. As it's turned out, it has been much harder to replace their production than anticipated.

One of the biggest problems has been that while players like Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette haven't lived up to expectations in 2017, they've also been left vulnerable by more experienced linebackers who have frequently put them on an island that they're not prepared to man. Experienced journeymen like Chris Worley and Jerome Baker bit repeatedly on playaction and misdirection from the Sooners, setting up easy passes from Baker Mayfield across the middle to streaking tight ends and wideouts.

The numbers reveal the damage.

In two games, albeit against two very good quarterbacks, the Ohio State passing defense has given up 806 yards of passing and six passing touchdowns. Last season, the Buckeyes didn't reach that number of yards allowed until their sixth game of the season, and didn't allow their sixth passing touchdown until their seventh game of the season. 806 yards of passing accounts for 36% of the total amount of yardage given up through the air in 2016.

It is unmistakable then, that the Ohio State passing defense, which had improved dramatically every year since 2013, has now taken several major steps back. If Urban Meyer and Ohio State have aspirations that include a Big Ten title and a possible playoff run, there will have to be equally dramatic improvements in a much shorter period of time.

Next week comes Army, a team with 10 passing attempts through two games.

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