OSU defensive look vs. SDSU

What should we expect out of the Buckeye defense this week? If you saw the Washington game, it would be more of the same.

The Huskies' bark was worse than their bite…

What was supposed to be a stiff test for the Ohio State defense turned out to be decidedly less than advertised. The Husky offense which tore through the Pac Ten last season like a cyclone through the middle of a town never materialized, thanks mostly to a ferocious defense whose stock and trade is to embarrass would be Heisman contenders (Kingsbury, Gesser, Johnson, Dorsey, McGahee, Williams, and Pickett over the last 15 games).

Will Smith alone "hit the quarterback five times," said Tressel at the Tuesday media luncheon. "At the end of the game, one of the things you as a defensive coordinator counts up are how many times your guys hit the quarterback. Our defense hit the quarterback 20 times. That's a heck of a lot of times."

You can bet Pickett felt it. ABC television cameras caught him checking and rechecking his arm at the end of the evening. Perhaps it was from the pain of bruises that would undoubtedly be appearing soon. Or, maybe after the beating he took, Cody was simply stunned that all of his appendages were still attached.

While the thrashing might have been a little surprising even to the Buckeye fanatics, Ohio State players appeared to be nonplussed by it. "I wasn't too much surprised on how that game went," commented Will Allen. "We worked hard in the off-season. We were on a mission. Everybody was on the same page. We just want to keep going and get better every week."

If ‘getting better' does indeed come to pass, then the Buckeyes might just be able to reserve a slot in Tempe. First, however, there is the matter immediately at hand in San Diego State.

Defending San Diego State

How will the Buckeyes attempt to thwart the Aztec's intentions of raiding their end zone and traveling home with the golden prize of victory?

Viewers can expect more of the same from what they saw in the Washington game.

Keep an eye on the front four. With all of the attention Anderson, Smith, and Scott received in the preseason, it was Fraser who showed he was too much man to handle last week by abusing Washington and earning co-defensive player of the week honors in the Big Ten. The front four from Ohio State will be used to pressure San Diego State back up quarterback Matt Dlugolecki. If they can do so without blitzing, then you can turn off the television and name the score ad Ohio State will throttle the Aztecs and crush them between their fingers like three-day-old stale bread. Smith, Fraser, Anderson, Green, Scott, Patterson, Kudla, Penton, Richardson, and Pitcock will rotate in and out of the game per the OSU philosophy of playing multiple defensive linemen. Even if the Buckeyes do not pressure Dlugolecki early and often, it is likely the offensive line will be worn down by the middle of the second half.

At linebacker, Hawk, Pagac, and Reynolds will start. Dantonio and the defensive coaches will likely continue to use them as they did in the Washington game. The linebackers will alternate in and out of the football game depending on the package the staff would like to run. Shutting down the run will be their first order of business, and so you might expect to see them crowding the line of scrimmage until such time as San Diego State's offense has been rendered one-dimensional. The Buckeyes also like to move their personnel around to confuse the offense and create negative yardage plays or the occasional turnover. Do not be surprised if D'Andrea ends up matched up with a wide receiver or Will Smith drops off of the line to play linebacker while Reynolds, Carpenter, or Pagac come on a delayed blitz.

In the secondary, if the Aztecs hold true to form with multiple wide receiver sets, the Buckeyes will play their nickel package extensively. Salley, Mitchell, and Allen will defend the middle of the field against the pass while still crowding the box at times in order to provide additional run support. Fox and Gamble will match up on the outside wideouts. Gamble will be increasingly given one side of the football field and asked to shut down the top wide receivers of opponents. This year, Chris has the bulk and technique to play physical enough to accomplish this difficult task. This will allow Fox to work in tandem with the other defensive players in the secondary to outnumber possible receivers and either roam for the football, deliver a bone-crushing hit in case someone opts to catch the ball, come off of the corner in a blind side blitz, or simply provide run support.

How this looks to play out…

When asked about the defense this week, Robert Reynolds, who stated, "Last week, we didn't have any magical defense. We just played hard. If we do that, we should be OK."

 

If the Buckeyes do indeed play hard, then this game will be a mismatch from the opening kickoff.

Ohio State brought pressure early and often against Washington; blitzes were sent up the middle in the person of Pagac, around the edges by using Reynolds, or from Pickett's blind side by using cornerbacks. A leopard does not change his spots according to natural law, and neither will the Buckeyes. They will bring pressure. They will bring enough pressure to rupture a boiler.

Ohio State will commit to stopping the run and plugging all gaps early. At the same time, they will shift defensive personnel around enough to try and confuse Dlugolecki. This will result turnovers, sacks, or incompletions. No matter which of the three is the result, Ohio State will give the ball back to its offense until the Scarlet and Gray dominate the time of possession in the first half.

Once they have established dominance at the line of scrimmage, then Ohio State will probably back off and allow the rotating bodies in their front four to collapse the pocket. This will allow more personnel to be used in defending the pass, which will once again mean turnovers, sacks, or incompletions on a fairly frequent basis if the defense operates according to the schemes on the chalkboard.

Meanwhile, when the Aztecs do manage the occasional ball on target, Mitchell, Salley, and Allen will continue their head hunting ways. The first receiver to catch the ball in their zip code will have his head mounted on a pike like the unfortunate Husky, Charles Frederick. After that, either they will show more intestinal fortitude than Huskies or drop a comparable number of passes (I counted at least 6) during the course of the football game.

Ohio State will prove their defensive performance last week was no fluke in this warm up for NC State. The Aztecs are building a program, but bringing a program in progress into the Horseshoe is generally not a good idea against a defense of this caliber. Craft and his minions will be wishing they had caught the Buckeyes in 2004 instead of 2003 on the plane ride home.

Poisonous Nuts 47 – Human Sacrifices 10


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