The Buckeyes’ Defense Must Answer the Bell

Written September 27th, 2012 by Tim Shoemaker

MSU: For Whom The Bell Toils

On Saturday, Ohio State will do something it has not done yet in the 2012 season–play a game away from Ohio Stadium.

The No. 14 Buckeyes will travel to East Lansing for a date with the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans and if OSU plays like it has in its previous three games, the Buckeyes will be coming back to Columbus with a 4-1 record.

Before the season, when most looked at this game on the schedule, it was more than likely viewed as a defensive struggle. But, the Buckeyes find themselves in unfamiliar territory this season as they rank dead last in the Big Ten in total defense–allowing 394.8 yards per game.

On the other hand, Michigan State’s defense allows just 233.5 yards and 11.8 points per game–both good for No. 1 in the conference. Sparty also has the No. 1 rushing defense in the conference (69.2 ypg).

OSU averages 229.2 yards per game on the ground, so something must give.

If the Buckeyes want a win on Saturday, they must do it with their defense.

Basically, this means 11 sets of eyes must be on Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell at all times. Bell, the conference’s leading rusher at 152.5 ypg, is a workhorse runner who is often called upon to carry the team.

Those missed tackles we have been seeing by Ohio State cannot happen on Saturday. Not if the Buckeyes want to win. They must hit Bell early and gang tackle him. But they simply cannot miss tackles.

Bell will no doubt have some added motivation, too. A native of Columbus, Bell wasn’t heavily recruited by Ohio State as the Buckeyes landed running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith in the same class. And it is never a good thing when the conference’s best back has any extra motivation.

Last year, the Buckeyes were almost shut out at home by the Spartans. An Evan Spencer touchdown with ten seconds left saved that embarrassment for the Buckeyes, but OSU still fell 10-7.

Under Urban Meyer, though, expect the Buckeyes to put up more than seven points. It’s limiting the Spartans to just ten that will be the main concern.

We know Michigan State’s defense will show up on Saturday. Will Ohio State’s?

If it does not, the Buckeyes will be in for a long trip back to Columbus and Meyer will have experienced his first loss as Ohio State’s head coach.

Grading Ohio State’s Depth Chart: Defense

Written May 22nd, 2012 by Jim

As you may know, Ohio State was nice enough to release a post spring practice two-deep for us to over-analyze during the long summer months as we anxiously await the beginning of  fall camp.

Although I like to look at the depth chart every summer (hey, it’s something to do), this year has added significance thanks to a change in philosophy from the coaching staff.

The change can be summed up as “spring practice is for setting the depth chart, fall practice is for preparing to win football games” and it comes straight from Coach Meyer.

It is not quite that simple, obviously.

Non-enrolled incoming freshmen haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the chart yet. At least a few of them are likely to make an impact before the first game kicks off.

Although the focus will be on preparing to win games in the fall, putting your best players on the field is one of the better ways to do that. For the players not making the list in the spring for whatever reason, there is still an opportunity to move up if they can prove they belong on the field.

With those factors in mind, here is a look at the two-deep on defense, with grades for each position group at the end (skip there for the cliff notes).

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Ohio State Recruiting: 2013 Linebackers

Written April 17th, 2012 by Jim

The bar is set high for linebackers at Ohio State.

Ohio State reloaded at linebacker in the 2012 class with a haul consisting of Josh Perry, Luke Roberts, David Perkins, Camren Williams, and Jamal Marcus.

I also like to throw RS freshman Connor Crowell into that group since a leg injury prevented him from practicing last year as a part of the 2011 class.

Despite the quality freshmen group, there are still concerns moving forward- particularly with experienced depth.

Once seniors Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein graduate after this season, rising juniors Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant will be the only scholarship linebackers left on the team with any meaningful experience- outside of whatever the group of freshmen gain in their first year.

This is largely due to the early and unplanned departures of players like Dorian Bell (transfer), Jonathan Newsome (transfer), Jordan Whiting (transfer), Scott McVey (medical hardship) and Ejuan Price (never enrolled).

Thanks to these departures, the 2012 class (plus Crowell) will be thrown into the fire immediately.

Based on history and the laws of probability, some youngsters will become stars and make an instant impact, some will be solid contributors, and some may not be with the program within a few years.

What does it all mean? Well, that was basically just a long way of saying that the search for talent at linebacker continues in the 2013 class and depth is still a concern that needs to be addressed.

Right now, it looks like the Buckeyes will take around 3 linebackers in 2013. None are currently committed.

Here is a look at the top prospects on the board.

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Ohio State Spring Preview – Defense

Written April 5th, 2012 by Jim

The future is bright for the defense. The now is a little shaky on depth.

Ohio State’s defense has been one of the most consistently excellent units in college football over the last decade.

Sadly, the 2011 season was a major bump in the road for the defense and the team. Needless to say, the Silver Bullets will be looking to get back on track in Urban Meyer’s first year as head coach.

There are some new faces on the defensive coaching staff to help out in that regard, but some familiar ones as well.

Luke Fickell is the primary holdover from the previous staff. He was the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under Tressel. He will basically be assuming the same roll under Meyer- with perhaps a bit more emphasis on being the primary coordinator.

The best case scenario will be if Fickell can continue to implement the defensive system that has worked so well over the past decade and combine that with some fresh ideas from the new staff to take the defense to an even higher level of excellence.

The talent is in place to do that this season, but depth is a major concern everywhere outside of the trenches. Additionally, the transition to new position coaches could create some unexpected problems in the first year.

Here is a look at some of the things to watch for at each position as the spring game approaches and the depth chart is sorted out.

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Eli Woodard is a Buckeye!

Written February 16th, 2012 by Jim

Eli Woodard has been a fan of the Buckeyes for quite some time. (photo: 11W)

New Jersey cornerback Eli Woodard has officially announced (via twitter) that he will be a Buckeye, becoming the 4th commitment in Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class.

This comes as little surprise to fans who have followed Woodard’s recruitment. He has been a huge Buckeye lean for at least the past year, and probably a lot longer (see picture to the right).

At 6’1″ 185 (ignore picture to the right), Woodard possesses ideal size for a corner, and the way he hits is extremely reminiscent of a certain other New Jersey recruit that fans may be familiar with.

That player was Malcolm Jenkins, and you have to imagine watching Jenkins play in the Horseshoe had an influence on Woodard as he was coming up through the ranks.

The comparisons are inevitable given the common stature, home state and playing style.

With what Woodard has already shown on the field in high school (see highlights below), hopefully the comparison with Jenkins will prove to be spot on in the coming years in Columbus.

Rivals and Scout both rate him as a four star player, with Rivals ranking him as the 28th best overall player in the country. Read More

Grading Ohio State’s 2012 Recruiting Class: Defense

Written February 7th, 2012 by Joe Laing

Defense: Upgraded. (Noah Spence)

With the class all but over, and signing day come and gone, we take a look at the defensive portion of Ohio State’s 2012 class.

Defensive Line (4)

A+

Not enough can be said about how Meyer came in and loaded up at the defensive line.  While his offensive line and linebacker recruiting were impressive as well, the defensive line stands above the rest.

The top four players in the class may all be d-linemen. These guys were all over the all-star game circuit making noise.

Meyer knows that it takes studs up front to win national titles- just ask Troy Smith about the ’07 National Title game.

Noah Spence (6’4’’ 240)

-          Rivals’ Take – 5*, #1 DE, #9 Nationally, #1 in PA

-          Scout’s Take – 5*, #2DE, #5  Nationally, #1 in PA

-          ESPN’s Take – 5*, #2DE, #4 Nationally, #1 in PA

-          Joe’s Take – 5*

Look up speed rusher in the dictionary and you see a picture of Noah “Beep Beep” Spence. Read More

Gator Bowl – Defense Will Decide Outcome

Written December 28th, 2011 by WVaBuckeye

Write This Down, Our D is Comin' for you!

One of those cliche’ phrases that seems to come true more times than not is that “defense wins championships”. It is true that most of the elite teams do what they do the defensive way and that if you choose to dictate what the opponents offense can and will do, you will win. The Buckeyes and Gators aren’t playing for a National title this time, but they are playing for Coach Meyer bragging rights. Which team IS better, his old team that he clearly will always have an affection for? Or his new team that he has always dreamt of coaching and now holds the key to the future of in THE Ohio State Buckeyes?

Let’s get into crunching some numbers about these two defenses. On paper the Gators appear to have the edge. #9 overall in the nation and only giving up 299 yards a game and allowing roughly 3 scores a game is 25th in the nation. Their #39 rush defense has allowed an average of 132 YPG and their pass efficiency defense is in the top 20 at 114. Yardage wise, their #10 pass defense only gives up 167 YPG.

In what has been an off-year for the Buckeyes they’re a ways down the list in national rankings. Overall they have the 24th ranked defense in the nation at 328 YPG. They are right behind the Gators in the scoring category at almost 3 scores a game. The rush defense has given up 142 YPG and comes in at 53 while the pass efficiency defense has been average at 125, good for 48th in the country. They don’t give up the yards in the passing game though, ranking 15th with only 186 YPG given up.

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Everett Withers to join Ohio State defensive Staff

Written December 14th, 2011 by Jim

Can't wait! (USA Today)

Long rumored to be in the works, this morning it has been confirmed that Everett Withers will join Meyer’s defensive staff at Ohio State.

Withers brings a long history (including at the NFL level) coaching the secondary that will complement Fickell’s (and Vrabel’s) experience with the linemen and linebackers nicely.

The Buckeyes could even be looking at a co-defensive coordinator arrangement between Withers and Fickell (similar to the arrangement between Heacock and Fickell under Tressel).

Regardless of the titles, the defensive staff will likely consist of Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel coaching the linemen and linebackers while Everett Withers and Taver Johnson coach the secondary.

With that group of four in place, Meyer may turn his attention entirely to the offensive side of the ball to fill the remaining positions on his coaching staff. Read More