THE OHIO STATE DEFENSE

We turn once again to well-known NFL draft Anaylst Josh Turel: <br><br> <b>THE OHIO STATE DEFENSE:</b> position by position, man by man. How does it stack up against the increasingly powerful Michigan offense?<br>

OHIO STATE DEFENSE
Returning starters: 5
Defense: 4-3

Starters:
DE: Simon Fraser (Sr.)
DT: Quinn Pitcock (So.)
DT: Marcus Green (Jr.)
DE: Jay Richardson (So.)
WLB: AJ Hawk (Jr.)
MLB: Anthony Schlegal (Jr.)
SLB: Bobby Carpenter (Jr.)
CB: Dustin Fox (Sr.)
FS: Nate Salley (Jr.)
SS: Tyler Everett (Jr)
CB: Ashton Youboty (So.)

Stat Leaders
Tackles: AJ Hawk- 125 total
TFL: Anthony Schlegal- 10.5 for 47 yards
Sacks: Anthony Schlegal-  3.5 for 21 yards
INT:  Ashton Youboty- 3 for 63 yards
Breakups: Ashton Youboty- 7

Stat-Big Ten Ranking
Scoring defense- 5th, (17.9 avg)
Pass defense- 3rd, (195.4 avg)
Rushing defense- 6th, (134.5 avg)
Total defense- 6th, ( 329.9 avg)

Defensive Strategy:
Ohio State has been playing the soft zone in previous weeks, preferring to drop back in a cover 2 or cover 3 zone look. Look for the Buckeyes to blitz early in the game and pick their spots throughout: Carpenter and Hawk will come off the edge, and the Buckeyes could re-incorporate their zone blitz to keep tabs on Braylon Edwards and get in Henne's face. Considering Michigan has struggled protecting against the blitz, the Buckeyes should be a little more aggressive than usual.

Defensive Line: Simon Fraser is the star up front; though he hasn't been able to pressure the quarterback as much as projected, he's been a reliable player and is getting there in terms of stopping the run. Quinn Pitcock and Marcus Green are the two heavy weights in the middle, both have done a decent job but are underachieving in terms of getting penetration and being major forces against the run. Jay Richardson is back and could be the answer to creating more pass rush. The D-line in general is underachieving in terms of tackling, getting penetration and being the run stuffers each is capable of being.

Linebackers: AJ Hawk is the "ball hawk" of the defense from his weakside linebacker position and has been the only consistent force for the Buckeyes. Hawk is everything a linebacker should be: he pursues the ball well, has coverage ability, tackles well, has great instincts and always seems to be in great position. Transfer Anthony Schlegal stepped in mid-season for injured Mike D'Andrea and has done a respectable job. Schlegal, though not the fastest guy is strong at the point of attack is a factor in stopping the run. Strongside linebacker Bobby Carpenter is the second leading tackler behind Hawk and brings an athletic and physical presence to the position. The linebackers have a great responsibility in the defense, all three starters are the three leading tacklers on the team and have combined for 6.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. With the questions up front, the linebackers have been more relied upon to stop the run.

Secondary: Injuries have shuffled this lineup throughout the year, but Dustin Fox is back and at full health and Nate Salley is in good shape to play Saturday. The prognosis on SS Donte Whitner is not as promising, he is considered questionable for the game. Fox has good size and speed for a corner and is a true veteran with a lot of game experience. Ashton Youboty is a favorite of Jim Tressel's: Ashton is a big kid at 6'2 with the speed to boot, he's been the most steady of the defensive backs and is quickly developing into a fine corner. EJ Underwood has seen his ups and downs: like Youboty he has nice size and speed but has had mental lapses, getting burned by pump fakes and mis-reads. Nate Salley returns at free safety: he's another big and fast kid (whew I sense a trend) that can lay the wood to receivers, example being Braylon last year. Tyler Everett will get the start at strong safety if Whitner doesn't make a very speedy recovery. Everett has experience at the position and has done a decent job this season. The problem continues to be with tackling in the secondary, and the group as a whole needs to improve in its run support.

How do they stack up vs. Michigan:
I think you will see quite an X's and O's chess match on Saturday between Michigan offensive coordinator Terry Malone and OSU defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Ohio State has strayed from its zone blitz package for the time being, but could open it up considering Michigan's difficulty stopping the blitz and Henne's tendency to hold the ball too long. If the Buckeyes are successful in hitting Michigan with the zone blitz look for Terry Malone to shuffle formations and run some screen plays to Mike Hart or bubble screens to Braylon Edwards. One thing the Buckeyes will need to improve on is red zone defense -- they are the worst in the Big Ten in red zone defense %. Ohio State will likely mix their coverages to confuse Henne but you will see a majority of cover 2 and cover 3. Later in the week I will discuss this in more detail but basically what you have is deep coverage by the safeties and zone underneath (cover 2) or three deep coverage by the corners and free safety with zone underneath (cover 3). Cover 2 allows teams to be strong on the flats and underneath but is vulnerable in the deep middle, fade areas and outside run support. Cover 3 gives the team a three deep secondary and has better run support to the strong side but can be beat by an effective weakside running game and curl/dig routes to the flats. Needless to say, look for many a chess match between the coordinators.

Coming Up: The Offense, and more!

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