I was hoping for a little more, but there were two things to latch onto from a strategy standpoint that came out of the 2012 Ohio State signing day press conference with Urban Meyer, Luke Fickell and Tim Hinton last week.
Fickell dodged a question about how the defense might change with him taking over as full-time defensive coordinator and a few new pieces on the staff, but Meyer talked as if the basic front will remain the same with a “Leo” end on one side and a strong end on the other.
“I like to call them an open end,” Meyer said of defensive end Noah Spence. “In our defense we call them the Leo, but he is a guy that lines up outside and acceleration up the field is what you are looking for and he has that. Adolphus (Washington) and Se’Von Pittman are more of the wider body guys that are going to be more power rushers. I think that was the prize of the recruiting class.”
Fickell did at least indicate they will continue to have a nose and 3-technique when he talked about Tommy Schutt, a five-star tackle from Illinois.
“Tommy is the one true guy you can say is going to be an inside guy,” Fickell said. “He enjoys that. He doesn’t want to hear about the edge. He could be a nose or a 3-technique. We don’t define that. So for us it gives us a lot of balance. I think Tommy, knowing he’s a true inside guy, Noah being a true outside guy, then Adolphus and Se’Von being guys with great versatility that can be able to play the field or boundary side end, I think the versatility is the thing you like best.”
There is certainly no shortage of candidates to play that big end/5-technique position if that is where Washington and Pittman are headed. It’s been interchangeable personnel-wise with the 3-technique guys the past three seasons, but I wonder if those days are over considering the lack of pass rush the group has generated and Meyer’s love of overall team speed. John Simon, Michael Bennett, Kenny Hayes and perhaps Chase Farris probably can stay outside, but I would not be surprised if Johnathan Hankins’ occasional days at end are over. Ditto Adam Bellamy, who is a good athlete for a 300-pounder but probably better suited to play only inside unless the opponent is running the wing-t. I haven’t seen enough of Darryl Baldwin to figure out where he might fit. I’m going to guess J.T. Moore is likely to flip over to the 5-technique as well, although that leaves only three Leos, one of whom is coming off major knee surgery (Nathan Williams), a highly recruited sophomore who has barely played (Steve Miller) and a true freshman (Spence). Could Etienne Sabino move to Leo? Hmmm….
Senior Garrett Goebel returns at nose guard, where I think we could also see sophomore Joel Hale and Schutt. Maybe Hankins, too? There are some possibilities.
As for point No. 2, Meyer also explained why they need another speed guy on offense, something they had not found yet as of signing day.
“I would say some of the things we like to do offensively that you’re going to hear us talk about, we want the defense to defend the width and length of the field,” Meyer said. “There’s only one way to defend the width, that’s flat speed. We’ve tried it. There’s no other way that you can make a defense defend the entire width of the field.”
“There’s ways to make them defend it vertically. Ideally you’d like speed there, too. We’ve tried it. In our offense, we’re still lacking that game-changer that you can hand the ball to speed-wise. I think we got some bigger guys, but we’re still looking for a difference maker in one of those 10.4 100-meter guys that can change the game.”
I found that an interesting little peak into his philosophy and an acknowledgment of some of the relative strengths and weaknesses of both spread and power football. The space you create with the formation is only good if you can take advantage of it by getting there first (beating the defender there). There are, on the other hand, ways to pull defenders closer to the line of scrimmage, thus making it easier to get behind them even without merely winning a footrace, and those are often easier to execute and more effective when you’re more bunched up.
There are plenty of Buckeyes who can burn but no true blazers.
For some perspective, current Buckeye Devin Smith won the Ohio Division I 100-meter championship last spring in 10.74 and fellow wide receiver Philly Brown ran a 10.65 at the 2010 Philadelphia Catholic League championship meet.