When Greg Schiano stepped onto the practice field at Ohio State for the first time, he inherited a defense that had lost seven players to the NFL, including three in the secondary, two linebackers and perhaps the best defensive lineman in the country.
All Schiano did in his first year was help churn out another Buckeye defense that stifled opponents and could have as many as three players taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, all of which played in the OSU secondary in 2016.
However, the Buckeyes lost co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell to Cincinnati and must replace its starting middle linebacker as Raekwon McMillan is also gone to the NFL draft. All of that said, Schiano said the expectations remain the same for an Ohio State defense that for the second year in a row, must replace three starters in the secondary.
"That’s 2,000 snaps that have left the building. Malik’s gone, they’re not with us anymore. These guys have a great opportunity, that’s what I look at. It’s a great example, too," Schiano said March 9. "Nobody knew anything about Malik Hooker this time last year other than he was on the team and then the next thing you know he’s a consensus All-American and he’ll probably be a first round draft pick, so who’s next? Kind of what the standard is around here and that’s what we look to.”
The changes are not just on the field, but on the sidelines as well. The Buckeyes welcome Bill Davis to the coaching staff to fill Fickell's spot as linebackers coach and Schiano is excited for Davis to join the staff in part because of his experience in the NFL.
Davis has been an assistant at the NFL level since 1992, and Schiano believes that his experience at the professional level will appeal to the players at Ohio State. In addition, Schiano was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012-13.
"You can give the players that perspective because what do great players want to do? They want to go play in the NFL. So you give them a perspective because you’ve been there," Schiano said. "I can give them the perspective becaues I’ve made the decisions on draft day, what are we looking for? So that helps.
"(Davis) has been coaching for so many years at different places, he’s been around a lot of great coaches," Schiano continued. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and certainly he can’t change everything you do but there’s little ideas that we tweak and pull from each other and that’s how you enhance it.”
While the Buckeyes had new pieces in the secondary and on the sideline, Ohio State is set to return every player on the two-deep along the defensive line from a year ago.
Schiano said he is excited to have such a talented pool to work with at the position, but is also looking forward to the challenge of finding a way to improve the unit that is perhaps the best in the country.
"(Defensive line coach) Larry (Johnson) has done an incredible job of accumulating a great group there and then he trains them so well. How are we going to get them all involved? I mean we have to get them on the field in as many ways as we possibly can," Schiano said. "So that’s going to be a challenge, is there new packages we do to get more linemen on the field? Maybe. Is there a way we can rotate and continue to rotate the way we have? But even more efficiently? Yes. So that’s been one of the things that we’ve been investigating.”
Assuming all of the new pieces fit together, the Buckeyes should be in good shape heading into 2017.
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