Of course everyone always wants to hear from the head coach of the Buckeyes, but after Urban Meyer speaks on Mondays, a couple of his Ohio State assistant coaches always come out to share their thoughts with reporters as well. We will share the highlights every week.
Stan Drayton, running backs coach/assistant head coach
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster had a great plan for the Buckeyes. He showed the bear defensive front maybe twice against William and Mary in the Hokies' opener. Since they were not expecting the bear front and a lot of cover 0 (man to man with no free safety), they spent most of practice on other things last week. With a young team, they try not to overload them with too many things but rather concentrate on some core stuff. The offense is designed to be able to cope with anything, but it's harder to implement those mechanisms and answers with a young team.
Virginia Tech's "bear" defensive front (covering the center and both guards with defensive linemen) forced the Buckeyes to block them one on one inside and made the perimeter running game more important. Their press defense and blitzes took away some of the passing outlets for quarterback J.T. Barrett as the struggles of the young offensive line caused the coaching staff to keep more people in to block.
Protecting the quarterback is key to being able to utilize the speed they have recruited on offense. Barrett needs a chance to distribute the ball, something he does very well. He needs to be able to get comfortable in the pocket.
Ezekiel Elliott is the Buckeyes' No. 1 running back right now because he is the most well-rounded of the group. He's the most consistent in all phases. Curtis Samuel is still coming along, but he is young. That said, there are no situations in which they aren't comfortable playing Samuel even though he is a true freshman. He praised Samuel's maturity.
The running backs understand the way they have been defended has effected their involvement in the offense. They know they have to wait for their time. This group doesn't have Carlos Hyde or what he brought to the offense last year, but they have a different set of skills, and the offense overall is different. The offense has to be fit to the personnel, and when they are defended the way Navy and especially VT defended them, making big plays is going to be a bigger factor than getting the offense rolling on a consistent play-to-play basis. The defense forced them to take shots down the field, and they had some success. That created some running room for a time.
Chris Ash, safeties coach/co-defensive coordinator
Virginia Tech did show them some new things they hadn't prepared for because they hadn't seen them before, both things that were new from last year and new from the week before against William and Mary. That's not unusual, especially early in the season. He always expects there to be 4-5 new things you have to survive and then get fixed on the sideline. Youth of the players on the field often is a factor in how quickly those fixes are absorbed.
Virginia Tech did a good job offensively, but much of their success was due to critical breakdowns by the Buckeyes. For example, they had a coverage mistake on a big play in the red zone. It was more of the same after the offense tied the game and the defense made mistakes when it needed a stop, including when they lost contain on a reverse. He called these things easy to fix.
The newness of the scheme is a factor in execution issues. They also had to take time to shift gears after spending the end of camp preparing for Navy. He still sees this defense as "absolutely" having a chance to be outstanding. They played some excellent snaps against Virginia Tech but not a full four quarters.
The personnel is OK. Execution is the issue, such as on a blitz in which they lost contain and the VT quarterback kept a play alive and made a big throw downfield on a third down. He acknowledged they need to figure out as coaches why some of the biggest mistakes came at the most critical times.
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