Missed Tackles Will Be Focus For Buckeyes

In the span of one year, the Ohio State defense made a lot of strides, but what Urban Meyer saw on the turf of Cal Memorial Stadium looked too familiar to the head coach. In fact, the Buckeyes' defensive effort looked a bit like last year's against Cal, with missed tackles again being the culprit.

If there is a little extra snarl to the Ohio State defense Saturday in Ohio Stadium when it lines up against an overmatched Florida A&M team the reason could be what happened in the Buckeyes' most recent game against California.

Despite going on the road for the first time in 2013 and registering a 52-34 win on Sept. 14, one of the main topics for coach Urban Meyer in the aftermath of a third win in as many tries was the inefficient tackling of the Golden Bears ball carriers.

The Buckeyes missed 16 tackles, a number unacceptable to the coaching staff.

"We talk about trying to keep teams under having less than 10 missed tackles a game and if we can do that, we are probably going to win the game," defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said.

Blowing a tackle is bad but it's what can happen afterward that is of greater concern.

"The yards after those missed tackles, that's kind of what kills you," Vrabel said.

California's first touchdown, which cut its deficit to 21-7 with eight minutes left in the first quarter, was an example of that when OSU cornerback Bradley Roby missed a tackle, allowing James Grisom to complete a 61-yard scoring reception from Jared Goff.

The same tackling issues occurred last season against California in the Buckeyes' 35-28 win, but Meyer and the players viewed the 2013 mistakes as an aberration and not a serious malfunction.

"Last year we missed tackles and didn't have leverage on the ball," junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "This year we had leverage on the ball. We have to get those missed tackles to single digit numbers, more looking like five or six."

He blamed some of the problems on the aggressive nature of himself and his teammates.

"A lot of those missed tackles are guys just taking shots and knowing they have the Silver Bullets having their back," he said.

Senior safety Christian Bryant had a simplistic but accurate reason for the inordinate amount of misses.

"It was one those games where the offense was fast tempo, fast-paced, had over 90 plays," he said of California. "They were bound to break a couple of runs, get a couple of big plays."

For the record, Cal (1-2) ran 90 plays, less than its average in the first two games, so there were more opportunities to make – or miss – tackles for the Buckeyes. OSU's first opponent, Buffalo, ran 67 plays from scrimmage while San Diego State the next game had 68 snaps.

California was also was able to us a quick passing game with underneath routes to create openings.

"There's times where defensive ends have to tackle in space or cornerbacks or slots or safeties have to tackle in space," Vrabel said.

Meyer still feels the tackling has come a long way from the California game from a year ago when technique was not only the only issue.

"If there's an effort issue, which I felt like at one time last year, there was - a bad one - and I don't believe there's an effort issue," he said. "Matter of fact, I thought our guys played very hard."

Bryant agreed, "They put 34 points on us but it's not because we weren't going hard. That's all that mattered to me."

Shazier was one of those who had a good news/bad news game last week. He was named the Big Ten's defensive player of the week for being part of 12 tackles (10 solo), recording a sack and forcing a fumble.

Yet, Meyer singled him out at his weekly press conference for missing five tackles.

"Like Coach Meyer said, I feel like I didn't play good enough," Shazier said. "I can't be missing those tackles. I've got to start wrapping up better but I feel as a team we did a good job."

Saturday against Florida A&M should be the perfect time for the Buckeyes to hone their game before opening conference play Sept. 28 against Wisconsin; the Rattlers (1-2) are a 50-point underdog

"We know the type of opponent that we're about to face this upcoming Saturday but that really doesn't give us any reason to lay off or slow down any of our tempo," Bryant said

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