When Ohio State tight end Gee Scott Jr. was asked Monday for his biggest takeaway from the Buckeyes’ first scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday, his immediate response was about what he saw on the other side of the ball.
“The thing I took from it was that defense looks really good,” Scott said. “That whole defense looks really good. I'm excited for them.”
That was a popular sentiment during Monday’s media availability at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center even though it did not feature any defensive players or coaches.
On a day where all six of Ohio State’s scholarship tight ends met with reporters, every one of them had good things to say about the Buckeyes’ defensive improvement under first-year coordinator Jim Knowles. Mitch Rossi, like Scott, said the defense’s growth was what stood out to him most in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I think that our defense is presenting a lot of good challenges,” Rossi said. “They're very multiple, they disguise things well, and I think that it's really good work for us. I think that we're used to kind of getting after them, and it's good for us to have that competition up, for sure.”
Ohio State did not release the score or any statistics from Saturday’s scrimmage, but it was apparent from Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson’s comments Monday that the Buckeyes’ offense faced more resistance from the defense than they might have faced in scrimmages over the past couple of years.
“Defense created several good turnovers, which is good for them, not good for us,” Wilson said. “Gotta run it better, wasn't our best running day, need to run it a little bit better as we go.”
While the Buckeyes still have plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball ahead of their season opener against Notre Dame in less than three weeks, Wilson is excited about the progress he’s seen from Ohio State’s defense, even if that’s made life more difficult for his unit in practice.
“They're deep, and they just keep coming at you in waves, and they just keep coming over the walls,” Wilson said when asked specifically about the defensive line. “You just feel the defensive presence. I think (linebackers) Tommy (Eichenberg) and Steele (Chambers) and Cody (Simon) are starting to play with a lot of confidence. I think the secondary guys are starting to understand those fits and they’re so much more quicker in the hole, and I just think you feel a very early confident defensive bunch. Long way to go, I'm sure Coach (Knowles) would tell you that. But man, out there, it's a dadgum fistfight.”
The Buckeye tight ends believe going up against Ohio State’s new-look defense every day in practice is making them better in their own preparation for the season.
“They're giving us great looks, and I'm excited to see them actually in action,” Scott said. “Every single part of it is great. One, they're playing great, so I can't wait to see them playing against another team. And two, we're getting so much better playing against them. And so I just can't wait till we got somebody else on the other side, and I can let this out on somebody else.”
“I just think you feel a very early confident defensive bunch. Long way to go, I'm sure Coach (Knowles) would tell you that. But man, out there, it's a dadgum fistfight.”– Kevin Wilson on scrimmaging against the defense
Nobody had higher praise for Knowles and Ohio State’s defense on Monday than projected starting tight end Cade Stover, who described Knowles as “the smartest mind on the defensive side of the ball I've ever seen in my life” and said going against Knowles’ defense gives him “all the confidence when we go to game day.”
“That's the top of the line dude right there. I would go to war with that dude any day of the week,” Stover said. “And just the way he's got those guys playing over there, how fast and how confusing; I mean, there's looks and looks and looks and looks and looks. They're unbelievable.”