Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from another day on the Ohio State football beat…
The always interesting Tom Herman, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, told us quarterback Braxton Miller did not throw in the morning practice but ran the offense as they concentrated on the running game.
He agreed with a questioner who asked if the reps have been good for backup quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones and added that the mental reps have been good for Miller too even though they would prefer not to be doing things this way. Live reps have been great for the young guys.
Barrett has moved ahead of Jones for the No. 2 quarterback job because the offense moves better when he is running it. He probably would have better stats, too, if you broke it all down, but that’s really the bottom line. Continue reading →
The hiring of Ash also brought about a lot of talk about a unified voice among the coaching staff, something that can easily sound like coach-speak but that senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett gave more credence earlier this week when he met with reporters at Big Ten football media days in Chicago.
“We’re gonna be more aggressive, and I think that’s just Coach Ash,” Bennett said. “I think the biggest difference is we’re going to be more together. So instead of blaming people and instead of just trying to be the D-line and then the linebackers and then the safeties and then the corners, we’re the whole defense. We’re the Silver Bullets. I think that’s the biggest change that I’ve noticed. The coaches have been all about defensive unity. That’s the best thing that’s happened to our defense because you have to have everybody together.”
The Buckeyes’ nose tackle went on to say the defense, which I always thought was more plagued by allowing big plays than by the dinks and dunks bemoaned by many fans and sometimes even head coach Urban Meyer, grew apart as the 2013 season went on. That’s not surprising to learn, but it is surprising to hear such an open and honest assessment these days.
“The struggles last year through the end of the year started dividing us,” Bennett said. “Even I was subject to, ‘You know what, let whatever they’re going to do happen, as a D-line, let’s just go to work.’ That was the wrong approach to take. The D-line still ended up doing pretty well, but you have to be there for your brothers and I personally am trying to change that and make sure we include everybody. If something happens on the back end, I look at the D-line and say we need to be better so that doesn’t happen again.’”
Of course this is the time of year when everything looks rosy moving forward and it is easier to admit past mistakes (thanks in no small part to the yet-to-be-tested notion they have been fixed), but it is also worth pointing out this emphasis on togetherness strays from the “Do your 1/11th mantra” that has been preached consistently by Ohio State staffers and players on defense for the past decade or so.
There is certainly room for the two philosophies to coexist, but it will be interesting to see how this continues to develop through preseason camp and the start of the 2014 season.
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 →
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 →
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.
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.
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 →