Bank Blog: Quick Thoughts Defense

Ohio State struggled at times with Central Florida Saturday, but emerged with a hard-fought 31-15 victory at home. Let's take a look at what happened defensively in the game.

- The dust-up between Urban Meyer and Mike Vrabel at the end of the game will drive message board traffic for days, and signifies the new Ohio State as much as anything. Meyer has a sense of how he wants the game played, and while I get not blitzing the quarterback, I agree with him about coming hard after the passer on the last drive. You had an immobile quarterback in a situation where he had to throw, so get four relentless pass-rushers in the game and go get him. Contrast Urban's frustration with playing four defensive tackles in passing situations last year, and I think you get the shift in philosophy. I don't think Urban is looking for an all-out blitz, but it's not much to ask, no DEMAND, that the four rushers give at least a strong effort. If Johnny Simon can't go hard, get him out. If Johnathan Hankins is gassed, get him out. Reputations and feelings mean nothing, nor should they. Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence will get after the passer in those situations. Play them.

- Orhian Johnson played his best game as a Buckeye that I can remember, and it couldn't happen to a better kid. OJ is one of the truly nice guys on the team, and a guy that has always done the right thing, on and off the field. You love to see players like this find success, and here's hoping it continues for him. He does his job, follows the rules, and keeps his mouth shut. Here's hoping for a big finish to his career.

- After looking great against Miami of Ohio, linebackers Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino appeared to take a step backwards yesterday. They ended up out of position way too much, bit on every fake in the book, and weren't as aggressive as in Week-One. They need to be playing at a high level for this defense to be at the level Meyer expects. They weren't bad by any means, but they did not dominate the game either.

- The defensive line stopped the run for the most part, but got gashed for two long runs, which skewed the stats on an otherwise strong performance. They haven't rushed the passer well for a few years, and I expect that to change going forward. In this era of 7on7 football, you just cannot let the quarterback scan the field on you play after play. Meyer knows the impact of hitting the passer, even if he gets the ball off, because those hits start to take a toll after a while. Ohio State rarely hits the passer. I expect that to change, mainly because I think Meyer will make it change. Either vary the scheme, or remove the trucks and put in jackrabbits, but there must be pressure on the passer from the defensive line.

- Safety play was alright, but there were breakdowns deep, a reminder of last year when it happened all too often. Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett simply need to play smarter, and not give up anything over the top. I don't see this as a talent problem, but more a coaching factor and it has to get fixed. They both come down into the box well in run support, but need to be more disciplined in pass coverage. Until you can trust your back line to be 100% sound, blitzing the quarterback is too huge of a risk. The corners are fine, both Travis Howard and Bradley Roby are playing at a high level. Doran Grant is definitely ready to contribute, so they have depth on the corner.

- Seeing Ohio State cause turnovers defensively is a welcome sight, and taking the ball away covers a lot of sins. These guys do break on the ball, and there is so much length with the back-seven, that passing lanes are tight. Winning the turnover margin is still the best stat for determining victory.

- Special teams blocked an extra point, so this is two major wins in two weeks, a welcome sight after seeing Ohio State be so terrible in this area the past three or four years. Meyer promised championship style special teams, and is delivering. After what went on in the past, being average would be great, so this is not a small matter.

- Overall, the defense has been fine and I don't want to come off as ultra-critical, but to get where they want to be, things need tightened up. In the passing era, you simply will give up more yards than in the past. It's inevitable. The most telling stat is still "points allowed", and Ohio State is excellent in that area. With an improved rush in obvious passing situations, better linebacker play, and improved deep coverage, Ohio State starts to become a dominating defense on the national scene. I believe the talent and the coaching is fine, and a slight improvement in the areas mentioned gets Ohio State where they need to be. You can flounder around and win this conference for sure, but to be a national contender, things need to be better.

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