Quotebook - Coach Tucker

OSU secondary coach Mel Tucker met with the media yesterday and addressed a variety of topics.

Ohio State defensive backs coach Mel Tucker met with the media following Thursday's practice.

First up, we asked Tucker about bump-and-run coverage. The Buckeyes don't like to play much press coverage and we wanted to know why.

"Down and distance is a major factor in what type of coverage you play," Tucker said. "Sometimes, what we're trying to get done with the front seven – what pressures we're trying to run and how soon do we think the ball is going to be thrown – sometimes what we're doing up front dictates what type of coverage we need to play behind the front. And that just depends on down and distance, or attacking a particular pass pro scheme, or maybe trying to make changes in the front to be effective against certain types of running plays.

"All that stuff ties in and there are certain times in the game when you need tight coverage. When we need to play man coverage, we try to make sure we're on our guys and we're able to cover them and be tight on them when it calls for that. If we needed to play bump-and-run every play, I would feel comfortable with us doing that, but it depends on what the situation calls for. We don't do it much, but we have the capabilities to do it when we need to."

Tucker, who like defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio is a former assistant at Michigan State, has been impressed with what he has seen from the Spartans on film.

"They look good," he said. "They have a lot of weapons and they do a good job of distributing the football. They're very effective running the ball when they need to and (Jeff) Smoker's a great player and they do a lot of good things with him."

There are a number of things that make Smoker such a dangerous QB according to Tucker.

"He's got a great release, good touch and a very strong arm," he said. "He's got a real good grasp of the offense and what they want to do and he's very, very effective. He makes good decisions and he's a tough kid."

Tucker knows that Smoker is going to complete his share of passes. But the Buckeyes are going to attempt to limit the yards-after-catch.

"I don't know how much you can shut him down, you want to contain him," Tucker said. "I think their offense is built on yards-after-catch. We have to make sure when they do catch the ball – and they are going to complete some passes – that you tackle them where they catch it at. Don't let them run with it after they catch it. That's critical and we've been talking to the DBs about that. Obviously, you have to keep them to no big plays in the game. Eliminate those passes over 20 yards. Those big, explosive plays they like to sneak up on you."

The OSU secondary is coming off somewhat of a rough week. But the group hasn't lost any of its confidence.

"Well, we've had a good week of practice," Tucker said. "I think our confidence is pretty high. Obviously, when you play against other teams that have scholarships, they have good players and they're going to make plays too. I think the key is how you respond and I know our guys are confident. I think when you start to feel shaky about what you're doing, you're not going to be very effective on the field. I don't think we're ever going to be at that point here."

Cornerback Dustin Fox had an especially rough time at Penn State. But, when he's told to give the receiver a 10-yard cushion, there's not much he can do.

"We were keeping Dustin back and they were making some plays in front of him," Tucker said. "But I saw him make plays in the pass game and I saw him be very, very physical in the run game. I saw him make a crucial play at the end of the game to keep a guy in bounds, twice, so the clock could keep running. Those things right there might seem little, but they're huge in the game.

"We always – whether it's Chris Gamble, Will Allen, Nate Salley, whoever is in there – we always strive to play that perfect game, but it just doesn't happen. So, you have to get ready for the next play and try and get better and I think we've done that."

With Michigan State being a predominantly passing team, the Bucks are going to be in their nickel and dime sets a lot.

"Yeah, we're going to play some sub defenses and obviously Donte Whitner has been a guy for us in that package," Tucker said. "Tyler Everett and Brandon Mitchell are also guys that can help us in that package and we feel good about all three of those guys."

Whitner has really emerged as a player the last few weeks. Has he come along even faster than Tucker thought he would?

"No, I wouldn't say that. Donte's always been a good player. He was great in high school and he's a very smart kid that picks up things quickly. It's just a matter of him grasping our scheme and once he got a hold of that, we were able to put him on the field. I think he's come along nicely for us."

Many expected a drop-off in the play of the safeties this year. But Will Allen and Nate Salley are having excellent seasons.

"Nate just continues to get better and better and make plays," Tucker said. "I think both of our safeties have played extremely well this year and we ask a lot out of both of those young men. Will Allen is having the kind of year that you want out of your seniors. He is as solid as they come."

Tucker is still not sure about the status of cornerback E.J. Underwood, who is missing time with a hand injury.

"I'm not sure specifically when he'll be back with us, but I know he's working hard on his re-hab and getting back as fast as he can," he said. "You won't see him this week (against MSU)."

The Buckeyes had a lot of trouble stopping third down conversions against Penn State. Were the defensive backs playing a little more tentatively than usual?

"Specifically, as far as the structure of the different coverages we do play, certain coverages are susceptible to certain routes," Tucker said. "Without getting too specific, what sometimes might see a bad play, or bad player, might not necessarily be that. Those are things as a defensive back we talk about constantly: Don't be distracted by the reaction of the crowd, or maybe another teammate, or whatever, because when you're playing in the secondary, there's really very few people that know what you're supposed to do on that particular play.

"What we try and do is realize that every coverage has a weakness. There is not a coverage that you can run that doesn't have a weakness. And every coverage has a strength. Where we have a problem is when someone completes a long pass into the strength of a coverage. That's not good. And that has happened. Those are mistakes that need eliminated. Whether it's mental, or physical.

"But, theoretically, if they throw where the coverage is weak, as long as we tackle when they catch it and don't let them run with it, then we are OK."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories