Bank Blog: Week-One Defense

Although Ohio State trailed Virginia Tech at the half 17-14, the Buckeyes dominated the second half and cruised to an easy win Monday night. Who stood out on the defensive side of the football?

- As I said in the Ohio State preview video from a few weeks ago, the Buckeye defense is the dirty little secret in college football, with Chris Ash as the architect. Enjoy him while he's in Columbus, because Ash is THE most valuable assistant coach Urban Meyer has hired since taking the job at Ohio State. They will always be able to get offensive minds, because nearly every school has an offensive guru, but replacing Ash might not be so easy. The hiring of Ash moved Ohio State to championship level, and he has a great shot at going two for two before taking his next gig.

- Loved the way Ash set the tone early with the all-out blitz on the initial third down of the game, but rarely came back to it again. He moved Tyvis Powell into the box on running downs, and played man-to-man, press on the outside. Michael Brewer made some plays in the second quarter then got injured, so we won't know what Ash might have done in the second half to stop him. There's no doubting that Brewer leaving the game was huge for Ohio State. Loved the way Ash was never predictable throughout the game, and aside from some breakdowns in the second quarter, the defense dominated.

- A closer look at that bad quarter defensively shows that OSU got snookered on the throwback pass for the 51 yard touchdown. Props to Va. Tech for a great call against the Buckeye blitz. It happens. The next score was the field goal that was set up by Cardale Jones throwing the pick. No harm there, and the Buckeyes kept them out of the end zone. The third score was a touchdown set up by Zeke Elliott fumbling a punt and setting up the Hokies at the Buckeye 38. This is the offensive era of college football, so you just don't stop people for three hours anymore. It was a bad quarter for the defense, but the offense hung them out to dry.

- Gareon Conley really played well, and that was good to see. He is much stronger now and physically ready to hold up, where last year against Michigan State showed he was not ready. His tackling in space was pretty impressive, especially coming up to stop the bubble screens short of the first down marker. He should be Eli Apple from a year ago, and have that kind of improvement throughout the season. I was a little disappointed in Vonn Bell, only because the buildup this summer was so huge. All in all, the defensive backs were good even though they can and should be better.

- For the linebackers, the speed of the group jumps up with Raekwon McMillan in there for Curtis Grant. They get deep drops in coverage, can blitz when called on to do so, and were stout against the run. I still think they can get better too, so last night's showing was probably just another day at the office. Still worry about depth should any of the Big Three go down, but that's why they recruit great players year after year. I think McMillan will grow in leaps and bounds now that he is out there full time and he knows it's his job. He has a ton of talent.

- No Joey Bosa? No problem, as Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis played their tails off. Add Bosa to these three and you have a big upgrade over Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier. They played a lot of defensive tackles, six I think I counted, which was good to see. Adolphus Washington has taken the next step and is a load on the inside. Michael Hill flashed last night on occasion as well. Tommy Schutt and Joel Hale are who they are at this point, while Tracy Sprinkle and Donovan Munger should improve with more reps. These guys were able to provide pressure without the linebackers blitzing, and they held up against the run. All without having the best defensive player in America on the field. And with a lot of guys playing extended minutes for the first time in their careers. This group was just fine.

- Nobody even talks about defense anymore nationally, because the game is so much 7-on-7 these days, but don't let them fool you into thinking defense doesn't matter. Everyone is scoring points in today's game, but very few are playing defense like Ohio State can play it. If Ohio State is to repeat, and I think they will, the defense will be the reason. You can't win every time in shootouts against hot QB's, but this defense should be able to win games and overcome turnovers, penalties and mistakes. Not too many teams can say that in college football.


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