Imagining the Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for the 2019 Ohio State Defense

By David Wertheim on April 20, 2019 at 8:45 am
Robert Landers and Chase Young

On Tuesday, I took a look at the Ohio State offense, and some of the best- and worst-case scenarios that the Buckeyes could be facing on that side of the ball in 2019. I figured it was only fair to look at the other side of the ball, and here it is: the best-and-worst case scenarios for the Ohio State defense in 2019.

Young, old and talented is the mix, just like offense, and that's ideal overall. The Buckeyes will be led by veterans at defensive end and tackle, specifically Chase Young, Davon Hamilton, and Robert Landers, with younger guys such as Taron Vincent and Tyreke Smith mixing in.

Everybody from last year's much-maligned linebacking corps returns, although the Buckeyes did get a new coach at the position: Al Washington.

Similarly, the secondary returns everyone with the exception of Kendall Sheffield, and also gains a new coach in Jeff Hafley (and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes).

It will be a new, fresh look for the Ohio State defense which replaced every single member of its coaching staff, save for Larry Johnson. Let's take a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for 2019.

Best Case

The best-case scenario is that most everything flips from what happened last year.

The Buckeyes' defense was gashed at several points last year, most notably against Purdue, where Rondale Moore and company ran right over and through the Buckeyes for 49 points. 

In response, when Ryan Day was named the head coach earlier this offseason after Urban Meyer announced his retirement, he changed the staff entirely: Greg Schiano, Taver Johnson, Alex Grinch and Bill Davis are out, and Hafley, Barnes, Washington and Greg Mattison were brought to Columbus. In addition, perhaps the biggest move came in a retention, as Larry Johnson will remain as the Buckeyes defensive line coach.

In terms of personnel, Ohio State's defensive line should be deep and good again. There is a good mix of veterans and younger players, and the defensive line should be the strength of this team once again. 

The best-case scenario is that Young improves substantially on his 10.5 sacks. The school record is 14, and Young has a realistic chance to match or beat that. 

It is no secret that Ohio State's linebackers were not up to their usual standard last year, and that is something that everyone involved in the program has admitted they need to fix.

The talent is there, with everyone coming back (five-star and four-stars galore!) but Washington, Mattison, and Hafley need to work on harnessing that talent. If they can do that, the sky is the limit for this group.

Ohio State's secondary was a unit that produced several first-round draft choices in recent years. They have the talent to return to that. Jordan Fuller probably would have gone in the second or third round had he declared for this year's draft. Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade are former five-stars, and Brendon White was quite good when given the opportunity toward the end of last season. 

The best-case scenario is that everything flips from last year. You can probably guess the worst case.

Worst Case

The worst-case scenario for the 2019 Ohio State defense is simple: more of the same from last year.

The Buckeyes brought in basically an entire new coaching staff to prevent things like that from happening. If they can prevent the big plays, Ohio State will be in good shape. If not, watch out.

Last year, Ohio State's offense was constantly chasing points and having to match the other team due to the defense's simple inability to stop them. I'm not sure that the Buckeyes offense will be as good as it was last year, simply due to who they lost. Therefore, the defense will have to be better, or else Ohio State will be in big trouble.

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