Category Archives: Strategy

Buckeye defense hoping for 1996 redux

On the second day of Ohio State’s 2014 preseason football camp, Luke Fickell said this was the first offseason since he returned to his alma mater as a coach in 2002 that there was reason to feel bad about how the defense had finished the season.

That got me thinking about another season that ended with national title hopes going up in smoke in large part because of a defensive letdown — 1995.  Fickell practice headshot

Now the Ohio State defensive coordinator, Fickell was a junior in this third year as the starting nose guard for the Buckeyes that season, and Ohio State rose to No. 2 in the national polls in November, the highest ranking for the program in over a decade.

Most of that success was on the back of a national top 10 offense that featured the best running back (Eddie George), wide receiver (Terry Glenn) and offensive lineman (Orlando Pace) in the country as well as first-team All-Big Ten players at quarterback (Bobby Hoying) and tight end (Rickey Dudley).

The Ohio State defense boasted All-Big Ten players at defensive end (Mike Vrabel and Matt Finkes) and cornerback (Shawn Springs) and finished 12th in the nation in points allowed (16.7 per game), but it wasn’t on the same level as the scoring unit. That much was proven on the final day of the regular season as the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor and saw their perfect season ruined by 12th-ranked Michigan, which got a record 313 yards rushing from Tim Biakabutuka en route to a 31-23 upset. Continue reading

Ohio’s latest football export to the north? Michigan State’s defense

Most avid fans of Ohio State football know Michigan football has long made a living off talent from the Buckeye State. Mark Dantonio has taken up the practice at Michigan State over the past seven years, too, but that’s not all.

Turns out the Spartans’ defensive strategy is a direct import from Ohio as well.

Dantonio, of course, first became well known nationally when the defense he coordinated at Ohio State was an integral part of the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship season. Dantonio, a Zanesville native who was brought to Columbus by Jim Tressel in 2001, moved the Buckeyes from the imposing, press defense installed by Fred Pagac Sr. in the late 1990s to a scheme built around more zone concepts, though pressuring the quarterback was a key for both men.
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Ohio State safeties embracing new roles

Even before the defense hit rock bottom last season, many Ohio State fans were clamoring for a return to the press defenses of the late 1990s that were the first to earn the nickname, “Silver Bullets.”

Such a switch is easier said than done, however, in this day and age of spread offenses that were much more rare back then and not as diverse as they are now.  Continue reading

Ohio State spring football reactions: Defense

So what to make of spring football at Ohio State for 2014? Is it possible to come away feeling good about the defense without also questioning the offense? I’m going to start off by saying yes, but I can’t promise not to change my mind.

The OSU secondary appears to have taken to the new, more aggressive approach brought by co-coordinator Chris Ash. Of course, we had not really gotten to see Gareon Conley or Eli Apple in action much before this spring, but veterans Doran Grant and Armani Reeves seemed to thrive in the new attack as well. All of them certainly seemed comfortable, even from the first day reporters were allowed to watch practice. They got right in the faces of the OSU receivers in position drills, seven-on-seven and scrimmaging. We saw a fair amount of coverage busts — especially involving the tight ends deep — on that first day, but those appeared to dissipate as the spring went on. Continue reading

Cus Words: Day 1 Ohio State spring football observations

Defensive backs were the main eye-catchers on the first day of Ohio State football spring practice for 2014.

We have heard all about what effect new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash will have on a secondary that was the second-worst in Ohio State history last season, and it was on display yesterday as the Buckeyes worked out sans pads.

Scout.com: Cus Words: Day One Observations.

New Buckeye defensive staff’s success could come down to matter of trust

So Ohio State finally confirmed the hiring of Chris Ash as safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator. Along with new defensive line coach and assistant head coach Larry Johnson, Ash completes Urban Meyer’s staff for 2014.

Now what?

After the two get off the road from recruiting, they will find a defense left in shambles at the end of last season, the last of three years of regression that followed a decade of stellar play.

Ohio State lines up against Indiana last November
Ohio State lines up against Indiana last November

Johnson has a reputation as an outstanding position coach, and he will find a group that performed well in a trial by fire this past season. The stout, fundamentally tough play he taught at Penn State could blend very nicely with the aggressive style outgoing coach Mike Vrabel instilled in the group.

Ash’s job figures to be much tougher, though he will have a nearly clean slate when he and holdover Kerry Coombs work to rebuild a secondary that gave up 268.0 yards per game last season, almost 25 more than a year earlier.  Continue reading

Second Thoughts: Ohio State-Iowa

A second look at the Buckeyes’ win on Saturday revealed that Ohio State and Iowa staged an interesting chess match Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State had more answers, both in terms of Xs and Os and Jimmies and Joes.

 

Carlos Hyde

Scout.com: Second Thoughts: Iowa.

Buckeyes Want To Add Read, Speed in 2013

Ohio State’s first season in Urban Meyer’s spread offense was a big success by most measures, but the head coach and his offensive coordinator want much more in year two. We examine how they can improve and take a look at a past example of an OSU offense going from good to great in its second season with a new attack – Scout.com: Buckeyes Want To Add Read, Speed in 2013

Ohio State Football Coaches Clinic: Everett Withers talks pass defense

Safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers focused his talk on defending empty formations.

He showed a picture of Jack Tatum and said now rulemakers are legislating toughness out of the game, which he doesn’t like. That makes it harder for safeties to protect their home – the middle of the field.

They coach from a foundation of four things – toughness, tackling, turnovers and effort.

Defensively, coaches need to identify their players’ strengths and play to them. They also have to identify what type of quarterback they are facing and how the offense wants to attack.

Defending sideline to sideline is kind of a myth.

A lot of spread teams like to throw inside, but anyway they are often only going to go to a few certain spots. Identify decoys and ignore those, such as a traditional running back split out wide.

In playing zone concepts, he explained they will play a one-high defense to take away short and underneath throws. They want to deny those and move the quarterback off his spot with the pass rush, even if that is only three guys. Then the QB has to resort to throwing it away or going wide, where they should have someone establishing leverage and others rallying to the ball.

Two-deep zones limit inside coverages, and linebackers become key to guarding the voids that develop.

When he moves to man principles, he had a power point with actual pictures of bullets serving as presentation bullets, so that was cool.

They play man to man to do one of two things – force tight, accurate throws or sack the quarterback.

They are still conceding decoys in man or zone. They don’t expect a team to throw wide to the field without rolling that way, something that tips off the defense and gives it time to react.

Offenses with a running quarterback can present an extra threat, so he advised using a safety instead of a linebacker as a hole defender.

If blitzing an empty set, you have to give the players confidence they are going to get there. It takes guts to put yourself out there, but you’ve got to do it, and hitting the quarterback takes its toll on him.

They showed a clip of a blitzer making Taylor Martinez throw badly off his back foot in last year’s Nebraska game, to which Withers quipped, “I’m sure that’s on their clinic tape of how to throw.”

Finally, if the offense stops using empty sets and adds a running back, that means you’ve won as a defense.

Whatever you do, he stressed you have to commit to what you are.