Bank Blog: Quick Thoughts Defense

Ohio State defeated Buffalo 40-20 last Saturday in Columbus, keeping head coach Urban Meyer undefeated in his Buckeye career. How did things go on the defensive side of the football?

- First and foremost, this game was played under more scrimmage-like conditions than Michigan-game conditions, so I wouldn't read too much into what took place on the field Saturday. We might never see a substitution patter like this again in 2013.

- Pre-game injuries, in-game injuries, the suspension of Bradley Roby, and the fact that so many players were put in positions they've never played before added up to a lot of guys playing major roles that they might never play again this season.

- For Luke Fickell, it was a nice effort from a scheme point of view. He knew going in that he wouldn't have Roby, but he never thought Ryan Shazier would miss a large portion of action. Ohio State dominated on third down and kept the game comfortable, even when the offense put them in a few bad spots with a Pick-6 and a fumble, and special teams play roughed the punter. No matter the lineup, Fickell had answers for what Buffalo wanted to do. A stronger pass rush and better cornerback play on one side would have helped the cause even more. OVERALL GRADE: B.

- For the defensive line, Tommy Schutt being out is a big loss, and he will be missed. I'm not real thrilled with the Joel Hale-Michael Bennet combination long term, but you play with the cards you get dealt. Could Adolphus Washington move inside, allowing Joey Bosa to play full-time at defensive end? Noah Spence is a beast and Buffalo game planned to stay away from him all day. He stood up to the run and provided a solid pass rush from the outside. Spence is a player, so no worries out of him. Would like to see more Michael Hill on the interior, even if it's 10 snaps per game. Would like to see Bennett and Hale in a rotation system, not out there together the bulk of the time, but maybe as they play together they mesh as a unit. We shall see. Bosa appears to be college ready from a physical standpoint, and you have to want to see how he holds up against better competition. Great first game from him.

- I'm probably in the minority, but I liked what I saw from Curtis Grant, mainly because his mistakes were made at 100-MPH. He has to let it go, ala Ryan Shazier, without worrying about messing up. He has to play fast, and I thought he played faster than in previous stints. He has to play better, and I think he can/will. Shazier is a stud, and the extra weight makes him far better, especially because the speed and quickness is still there. Had he played the whole game he might have had 15-20 tackles. Trey Johnson looked like what I saw from him last year at Under Armour, a smart, position-type, linebacker. He might not ever make SportsCenter for knockout hits, but he doesn't miss either. Really like his game. Didn't notice Josh Perry too much. Would like to see Grant and Shazier side by side for four quarters, to see the impact of those two playing together. I'm sure that will come down the road.

- For the defensive backs, Armani Reeves has to play better or get passed on by. You have to cut him some slack because it was his first real game action, but they targeted him and picked on him all day long. Welcome to college football. Doran Grant was as good as I think he is, and I still feel he can be a star some day. When Roby steps back out on to the field, the target shifts from Reeves to Grant, so he'd better be ready. I think he will be. Safety play was pretty good, and I was really happy to see Ron Tanner and Corey Brown out there making plays because both are hard working, high effort players. Still think a lot of Christian Bryant and he is one of their better players. Obviously, Fickell wants C.J. Barnett back. For all the inexperience with this group, they produced a strong performance. Add in Barnett and Roby, and it's a stronger performance.

- In summary, it was a nice defensive effort, not great or dominating. Not sure we will ever see this combination of players on the field again unless it's garbage time, but this is how you build depth. Or weed out players that cannot play at this level. With so many new players, fans will have to be patient with this defense, but when at full strength I think they can play winning football against this schedule.

- Coaches always hate Week-One and for good reason. This game was a weird one to watch and evaluate, so the good news is they are 1-0 and you move on to the next game. I expect the same level of competition this week, probably worse, but that's not all bad for such a young defense. They will use next week to prepare for a cross-country trip, and try to see who can be counted on and who needs replaced. That's the challenge for this side of the football. I think they have 11-15 guys that can play. I'm not sure they have 16-20, but they will know that soon.

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