The Evolution of Ohio State’s Defense

Written August 10th, 2010 by Jim

Ohio State’s defense has consistently been one of the best in the country during Tressel’s tenure as head coach. And thank goodness for that.  Field position, solid special teams play, and a suffocating D have crushed opponents and earned Ohio State the W time after time. Even in years when the offensive fire power is… lacking, Ohio State’s defense has led the team to some very successful seasons.

What is the secret to Ohio State’s defensive success? Versatility.

In this post I look at some of Ohio State’s innovations on defense, the players that make those innovations possible, and what the added versatility allows Ohio State to do defensively. Read More

Top 25 Buckeyes of the Decade: #20 Bobby Carpenter

Written June 14th, 2010 by Jim

The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer.  Every Monday through May and June, Jim will be announcing a new player.  Starting in July, we will be announcing new additions on Monday and Thursday.  Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th.  Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins.  For a look at the rest of the Top 25, click here.

Bobby Carpenter (2004-2005)

Quite the dynamic duo.

Bobby Carpenter was a two year starter at strong side linebacker for the Silver Bullets. Along with A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel, he was a part of one of the best linebacking corps in the country in his two years as a starter.

Although Carpenter was overshadowed when it came to national recognition and awards by Hawk, Carpenter’s contributions should not be overlooked. Most importantly, Carpenter revolutionized the LEO position on defense.

Prior to Carpenter, Ohio State had dropped a defensive end into coverage on occasion (most notably with Will Smith), but when Carpenter put his hand in the dirt as a pass rusher in 2005, the way Ohio State utilized its rush ends would never be the same.

You can see Carpenter’s influence in guys like Thaddeus Gibson and Nathan Williams. Both were primarily linebackers in high school and transformed into rush ends/ linebackers at Ohio State. The LEO position at Ohio State is Carpenter’s legacy and that is something to take note of.

A Buckeye through and through, and a great linebacker to boot.

Another thing that I remember about Carpenter was The Game in Ann Arbor in 2005. Carpenter was a senior and was clearly looking forward to one last thrashing of arch rival Michigan. Sadly, he broke his leg on the first play of the game. Unable to play, Carpenter was clearly upset, however, he stayed on the sidelines and cheered his team on for the remainder of the game, highly emotional and highly involved the entire time. That act showed what type of person, teammate, and Buckeye Bobby Carpenter is and I will always remember him for that.

The silver lining of Carpenter’s injury was that it allowed a young freshman by the name of James Laurinaitis to see his first significant playing time in a game, and as we all know, good things happened from there.

Carpenter was drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2006 NFL draft. His time in Dallas was somewhat disappointing, but this off season he was traded to the St. Louis Rams, where he will be joining none other than James Laurinaitis. Small world.

Hopefully this fresh start will allow Carpenter to break out of mediocrity in the NFL, but no matter what happens, Carpenter’s legacy at Ohio State is secure, and for that he is #20 on our countdown.

Looking at the Linebackers: Week 4

Written September 23rd, 2009 by Jim

And now it is time for the much anticipated return of my look at the various position groups this season.

[crowd cheers loudly]

Thank you.

I wasn’t sure which group I should go back and look at first, or when I should go back and re-evaluate each position, but I figure after three games we are starting to get a pretty solid idea of what we have at most positions this year, so what better time than now? As for what position to start with, what the heck, I might as well go back and look at my favorite position, the linebackers.

Linebackers

Ah, linebackers, how nice is it to always be awesome at something. Seriously, when was the last time Ohio State has not had a bad ass linebacker?

I will answer my own question.

Bad ass.

Bad ass.

There was three time All-American James Laurinaitis from ’05 to ’08, two time All-American A.J. Hawk from ’02 to ’05, All-American Matt Wilhelm from ’99 to ’02, All-American Na’il Diggs from ’96 to ’99, All-American Andy Katzenmoyer from ’96 to ’98, two time All-American Steve Tovar from ’89 to ’92, two time All-American Chris Spielman from ’84 to ’87, All-American Pepper Johnson from ’82 to ’85, All-American Marcus Marek from ’79 to ’82, two-time All-American Tom Cousineau from ’75 to ’78 and two time All-American Randy Gradishar from ’71 to ’73.

So I guess technically the last time Ohio State has not had an All-American caliber bad ass at LB was in ’95. Still, Ohio State has had a (future or current) All-American linebacker on the roster in thirty of the last thirty-eight seasons. Not too shabby.

I know I sound like a broken record on this one, but Ohio State’s linebacker tradition is as good or better than any other school in the country.

I will probably be taking a look at Ohio State’s linebackers through the years  versus a certain other school that thinks they have had some good linebackers as well. It should be interesting at the very least, so you can look forward to that.

Back to this year, while I am not sure that any Ohio State linebackers will be All-Americans in 2009, I am sure that two players are emerging as All-American caliber players. They are #51 Ross Homan and #36 Brian Rolle and so far they have both been looking very capable of continuing the tradition of Ohio State linebacking badassness.

First I want to look at the middle linebacker spot, where Brian Rolle has emerged beyond my wildest expectations. The “somewhat surprising” and “experimental” move to put Rolle in the middle that I discussed in my first look at the linebackers appears to be permanent and can be described as nothing short of a huge success.

Through three games Rolle is the leading tackler on the team with 25 stops and he has made the play of the year (so far) with his game saving interception and return against Navy.

Carrying on the #36 tradition.

Carrying on the #36 tradition.

Rolle’s quickness in the middle has allowed him to avoid blockers with ease and to get to the ball in a hurry with bad intentions.

My prediction that Rolle would see the field a lot and be a fan favorite is working out beyond anything I had envisioned and if Rolle continues to play at the level he is currently at (and he might even improve!!) I can definitely see him getting some serious consideration for post season Big Ten accolades and he could even be a legit All-American candidate heading into 2010.

Good stuff, Mr. Rolle, keep it up.

Also worth noting is that true freshman #32 Storm Klein has moved into the two-deep at middle linebacker on the depth chart released for the Illinois game. I mentioned previously that Klein had impressed during spring ball and had been running with the second team in fall camp. Given his recent move up the depth chart, it looks like Klein continues to impress and it should be fun to track his progress throughout the year and into the future. Klein definitely looks to be a future stud at LB for the Buckeyes.

Next up is the weakside linebacker position and the second player that is on the verge of reaching bad ass status; Ross Homan. Homan was the only returning starter on the linebacking corp, so I was expecting quite a bit from him this year and up to this point I would say that he has exceeded my expectations.

Homan has always had a nose for the ball, so the fact that he is tied for second on the team with 20 tackles is not that surprising. What is surprising is the quickness and playmaking ability that Homan has shown so far this season.

Homan has shown a knack for making plays with an interception and two fumble recoveries through three games, but the biggest surprise from Homan (at least to me) is the speed and quickness he has shown moving sideline to sideline, particularly this past weekend against Toledo and the spread offense that they employed.

Ross Homan is angry.

Ross Homan is angry.

[While it is true that Homan got burnt on a crucial third and long play against USC, you show me a linebacker that can cover McKnight one on one and I will show you a #1 overall draft pick.]

If Homan continues to play this well for the entire season he will also be a strong candidate for post season Big Ten accolades and a possible All-American candidate for 2010.

One thing that could hold Homan and Rolle back from the spotlight and national accolades is each other. It will be interesting to see if the pair is given the Laurinaitis/Freeman treatment, with one recieving a majority of the media attention and the other being largely ignored. Another possibility is the Hawk/Carpenter/Schlegel treatment, with the group of linebackers largely recieving accolades as a whole (even though Hawk still received all of the individual awards).

I am getting ahead of myself (as usual) by speculating about post season awards, but the point is that Homan and Rolle are emerging as a helluva linebacking pair and it looks like they are both going to have big years. Awesome.

Backing up Homan on the weakside going into the Illinois game is sophomore #42 Andrew Sweat. Sweat is a highly regarded young prospect and has managed to record four tackles so far this year. He is another young linebacker to keep an eye on going into the future.

Next up is the strong side linebacker position being manned by #38 Austin Spitler. While Homan and Rolle have been great so far, I would have to describe Spitler as a slight disapointment, at least up to this point.

Many expected Spitler to lose the starting position to Etienne Sabino (who is second on the depth chart on the strong side behind Spitler right now, many thought the two would fight it out to start in the middle, funny how that worked out, but anyways…) so the fact that he is still the starter going into week four has probably exceeded some people’s expectations.

I am inclined to give Spitler a pass for his lackluster play thus far, however, as he was obviously still recovering from a calf strain in the Navy game and he may only now be returning to 100%. Still, Spitler’s lack of production so far (9 tackles in three games) is a bit concerning.

Has seen the field but has not stood out.

Has seen the field but has not stood out.

I wrote before the year started that I expected Spitler to be a starter for the entire season and that he would pleasantly surprise some people. I still think that Spitler will be the starter for the entire season, especially given the fact that Sabino has failed to make a splash thus far despite his obvious physical talents.

However, if Spitler is going to pleasantly surprise some people like I predicted he will have to step his game up for the Big Ten schedule. I think games against some power Big Ten teams like Wisconsin or Iowa are games where he could really shine with his tough physical play.

_________________

So there is my review of the two deep at linebacker going into week four. Other than Rolle staying in the middle instead of moving back outside (I also really thought that Dorian Bell had a shot to make significant contributions this year, which it appears he won’t), I would have to say that things have panned out pretty much as I expected them to.

*pat* *pat*

[that's me patting myself on the back]

I really like how the linebackers have been playing so far, and as Rolle becomes more and more experienced in the middle, the linebackers become more experienced playing together in general, and the defensive line continues to dominate and keep blockers from touching the backers, I expect this group to be really, really good sooner rather than later.

It should be fun to watch.

Bobby Carpenter is going to eat your lunch

Written July 25th, 2009 by Jeff
As soon as the ball is snapped, Im kicking HIS ass!

"As soon as the ball is snapped, I'm kicking HIS ass!"

Is was just a few short years ago that a trio of linebackers roamed the middle of our defense, and they were vicious. A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel, and today’s hero, Bobby Carpenter.

These three were easily the best batch of men to play LB at the same time for Ohio State (although we’re pretty sure that Chris Spielman could have scared the piss out of any two of them at once), but what made them special was the way they bonded together off the field as well.

As a matter of fact, Bobby Carpenter may have won the 2005 Michigan game for the Buckeyes without playing a single down that counts.

Carpenter broke his leg on the first play that Michigan tried from the line of scrimmage…and the play was called back due to a flag. A tearful Carpenter would later return to the sidelines on crutches, unable to play in his final Michigan game of his life.

Midway through the 4th quarter with Ohio State trailing by 9 points, the rally cry around the bench began….the team wanted to win this one for Bobby. Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr, Anthony Gonzalez, and the rest of the offense joined in the call for their defensive ally, and the Buckeyes played like their lives depended on a victory. They marched down the field for a quick TD to cut the deficit to two points, then held firm on defense as Michigan could not hold onto the ball very long.

The offense retook the field with under 4 minutes to play and with Carpenter right there on the edge of the field screaming, and they marched nearly the entire length of the field……without ever seeing a third down play. Antonio Pittman took it in from a yard out for the game winner with 25 seconds left as Ohio State won their 4th game in 5 years against their hated rival.

Carpenter would never play another game in scarlet and gray. But the legend of what he brought to the field lives on.

42 days until kickoff!

———-

P.S.  Before any diehards get upset, we were going to highlight Paul Warfield at #42, but very few quality pictures exist of him in a Buckeyes #42 jersey.  TONS of Browns and Fins pics, but no OSU.  We did not overlook PW.