Bank Blog: Quick Thoughts Defense

The Ohio State defense wasn't great Saturday vs. UAB, but this unit had far more to do in the win than both the offense and special teams. This was "bend-but-don't-break" at its finest, but not what was expected from this unit.

- Where to begin with the defensive performance? Do you lament giving up 400 yards? Do you criticize allowing UAB to convert 50% on third down? The Christian Bryant taunting penalty and the Joel Hale off-sides kept UAB in the game, and every week it's mentioned the penalties need cleaned up, but they keep occurring. There is a lot to be concerned with defensively, but I see some light at the end of the tunnel.

- What about the positives from the defensive side of the ball? There are many. First off, UAB has a nice offense and keeping them out of the end zone is a huge plus. The bulk of the game saw Ohio State on defense, and they gave up yards in chunks, but never gave up THE big play. That probably won the game, as the offense played poorly, and the special teams (Urban Meyer's specialty) were beyond awful.

- Ohio State caused two turnovers and the Hale off-sides eliminated another Travis Howard pick. Continuing to win the turnover margin is a great recipe for winning games, and that is the strength of this defense. Johnathan Hankins had another strong game, and while Johnny Simon was good, he is clearly not playing at 100%.

- This was "bend-but-don't-break" defense at its finest, although that's not what Ohio State fans want or expect. UAB consistently attacked outside the numbers, with wide receiver screens and short passes, and had success between the 20-yard lines. While bad offense keeps the defense on the field way too much, so does not being able to make a play on third down to get yourself off the field.

- The tackling was better, but still not up to the standards people should reasonably expect. Ryan Shazier has All-American talent, and will be one before he leaves Ohio State, but he needs to be more disciplined and under control on the field. Christian Bryant has so much natural ability and has a chance to be a great player, but he needs to play smarter football. The missed tackles are maddening to watch, because they come from very talented and very physical players.

- Major props to Doran Grant, who came up big in his first start as a Buckeye. He replaced an excellent player in Bradley Roby, who was never missed. Grant is set to have a fine career at Ohio State, and today showed off his talent level.

- Orhian Johnson filled in for another missing starter in C.J. Barnett, and OJ played well again. The defensive line continues to miss Michael Bennett, who would give them another playmaker. With three key players out, Ohio State did not give up a defensive touchdown. That should not go unnoticed.

- Nathan Williams was up and down, but he is so needed on the field for this defense. He gives you another high-effort player, and this defense seems to feed off his energy and intensity. He won't be at 100% physically this season, but he gives 110% effort, and he is a plus.

- Etienne Sabino played a fine game, not being a liability in coverage as he was the past two weeks, but actually contributing in that area. He ran to the football well and made plays. Storm Klein appears to have the job in the middle, as Curtis Grant was nowhere to be found.

- Three freshman defensive linemen, Tommy Schutt, Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence continue to get playing time, and it looks like J.T. Moore will lose time going forward. Steve Miller appears to be out of the rotation.

- Where does this defense go from here? Will they be good enough to hold down Michigan State? Are they ready to go on the road and live up to the challenge of the Spartans? Since Michigan State is certainly not a spread team, and will not look to spread out Ohio State and attack the edges, the defense should be expected to play well. Ohio State had success last year against the Spartans, and they will need to keep Michigan State under 24 to win next week, I would guess.

- Right now, it seems this defense is playing better individually, but not really playing good, solid, team defense. Against UAB they took a step forward to playing better team defense, but they are nowhere near where they need to be to win at the level people expect.

- I saw positives outweighing the negatives against UAB. They can either build on what they did well, and eliminate missed tackles and dumb penalties, or slip back into past bad habits and get beat. I think this side of the ball might have turned the corner against UAB, and getting everyone healthy could see this group back to what everyone expects from Ohio State's defense. I think there is reason for optimism after winning a game where the offense struggled. We shall see.

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