Defense Shows Readiness In Spring Game

Members of the defense, including middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel, can take pride that they allowed just three combined touchdowns in Ohio State's two public scrimmages. Click here for more on where things stand defensively at the end of spring practice.

With only one touchdown scored in the Scarlet and Gray Game won by the Scarlet 13-0 at Ohio Stadium, it would logically follow that the defenses, on both squads, must have played some good football.

Sure the offensive lines on both teams were of the patchwork variety but many of the defensive linemen that will be playing in the fall, and a couple more of the players that will line up behind them at linebacker and in the secondary were standing on the sidelines without any of their equipment on.

The Gray offense was held to 49 total yards on 42 total plays while the Scarlet unit was more prolific totaling 260 yards on 61 plays. Gray quarterback Troy Smith was 7 of 15 passing for 53 yards and he was sacked 7 times. His counterpart on the Scarlet team, Justin Zwick, was 16 of 26 for 165 yards in the air. Todd Boeckman was a combined 6 of 11 for 33 yards passing while splitting time with both teams. All three of quarterbacks in the game, wore black jerseys to avoid contact.

"We weren't really dominant but we did our job, we had a couple of three-and-outs," said cornerback Ashton Youboty, who stood out on a couple of occasions during the game for the Scarlet team. "I guess, since the quarterbacks were limited, we dominated in that aspect."

For all intents and purposes, the game, at least on the scoreboard anyway, was decided after both teams had the ball for just one series.

On the first possession of the contest, the Gray offense was on the march when Youboty came up with a loose ball that was stripped from Matt Johson and the Scarlet offense took possession for their first time at their own 34. At that point Zwick led the Scarlet team on a 12-play, 66 yard touchdown drive.

On the very next possession by the Gray offense, Youboty was at it again but this time he blocked an A.J. Trapasso punt that was recovered by Stan White and the Scarlett had it first-and-10 at the Gray's 11.

"I give that credit to the other guys on our team because (the Gray) had to block down and they didn't block me," Youboty said.

But the Scarlet was unable to advance the ball beyond the 6, and that was when the Gray defense came up big and blocked a Josh Huston field goal attempt, thwarting a golden scoring opportunity for the Scarlet. Huston later connected on two field goals of 20 and 43 yards for the Scarlet in the game but missed two others from 23 and 52 yards. The blocked kicks in the game obviously didn't make Jim Tressel happy but he wasn't overly concerned by it, either.

"When you start diluting a team that is not even a full team at this moment, where you're going to have some breakdowns sometimes are in those special units with some guys playing some positions that maybe they haven't played a whole lot of," the coach said. "We had a couple of punts blocked and a field goal blocked. I feel good about that from a block team standpoint and not so good about it from a protection standpoint, so that will be good lessons for us."

Gray linebacker Anthony Schlegel was impressed with Tony Pittman who rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries against his team. Schlegel was right on the scene when Donte Whitner hit Pittman so hard that Pittman's helmet flew up in the air.

"When (Pittman's) helmet came off my helmet was right on his face and he didn't say nothing," Schlegel said. "He's a tough kid. I like him. I don't know him that well, he's a very quiet guy but he runs hard. I'm happy he's on the team. He's a young guy but he's definitely playing well."

Overall, Schlegel thought the Gray played pretty well.

"I think we let them drive on us a little too much some times," he said. "We had a hard time on first down, we were giving up too much. They were scheming us though because they knew exactly what defenses we could run and our personal. So they were kind of scheming us that way. But we were giving up too much on first downs."

On second downs, the defenses had to play the nickel package versus the run.

"That's just tough to do with three down linemen," Schlegel said. "But I definitely think that we showed a lot of poise and mental toughness and physical toughness. We had two turnovers in the red zone, and then they scored one time, then we blocked a field goal and they kicked a field goal. So I think that goal line attitude came out today."

Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock thought things went well for the Gray for the most part after getting off to a rugged start.

"I think the defense did well," he said. "The first two drives didn't look too well but it looked like everybody was swarming to the ball and competing. It was kind of hard in that the plays were set up, the same plays over and over, so the offense starts to know what they are. But I think everybody competed hard."

Competing hard is something that John Kerr knows all about. He'll fight with Schlegel and Mike D'Andrea for playing time at middle linebacker in the fall.

"I thought we did pretty well on defense," said Kerr who was a member of the Scarlet squad. "It kind of stunk having the predetermined units we were going to have out there. But I thought it was a good scrimmage. I kind of enjoyed last week's a little bit better but I thought we got some things accomplished today."

Although the defense lost to the offense in a jersey scrimmage last week, Kerr preferred the way that contest was structured.

"It was a lot more competitive and it was realistic," he explained. "When things get unrealistic like they were today it kind of gets a little annoying out there."

The defensive units were only allowed to call five different schemes the entire game. And on second and third downs, the defense had to run their nickel personnel.

"I was constantly coming in and out and you can't get in the flow of the game when you're only playing first down," Kerr said. "It's kind of hard."

Opportunities could be just as scarce in the fall for Kerr with the logjam at middle linebacker.

"I just have to keep competing and learn the defense and learn the schemes," he said. "I'll just have to put my best foot forward and see what happens. It was the way it was for me when I was at St. Ignatius and it's the same way it was for me when I was at Indiana. When it comes down to it, you get one play and you got to make it. If you get three plays, you got to be in on all of them."

Admittedly, he's still a bit rusty from the long layoff since he's last played a real game with Indiana.

"It's hard to get in the flow of the game and really get nasty and just let your talent take over when you're only playing one play in a series," Kerr said. "I feel I'm starting to perform a little bit better. The biggest thing is knowing where my fits are. So I'll keep getting better the more that I know the defense."

Youboty feels he's had a real positive spring overall and he's looking forward to the fall.

"I'm looking for an opportunity to start next year, maybe," he said. "For sure playing nickel back. It depends what they decide to do. I anticipate trying to start."

He feels that he's way ahead of where he was at this time last year when he enrolled early and got to compete in the spring.

"I'm playing fast and not even thinking about the coverage, I already know what to do," Youboty said. "I got better on my technique, I got a little faster and gained some weight. I'm just playing ball now and not having to think about our coverages or anything."

Schlegel is happy with his own progress as well.

"I feel good," he said. "I feel comfortable with all of the defenses we put in. I feel like I know then soundly and I'm able now to play without hesitation, which is good. And this was fun today because it came down to the point where I could kind of fly in there sometimes and just try to cause some havoc and try to make a play, so that was fun."

Coming from the Air Force, Schlegel was more than impressed with the game-time environment. He said they were lucky to have 1,000 people at the spring game when he was at the Academy.

"It's great. There was more people here today I think than there was last year. At least it looked like that," he said. "It's just awesome that all of these people came out here. It's just awesome, the kind of support we get here."

After the Spring Game last year Schlegel knew he was going to be done for a while, having to sit out the season other than for practicing with the team.

"It's time to get ready. Last year was my sit time and now it's time to get this team on the right path and do what I can for us to win," he said. "I have to do what I can to make myself the best player to help this team."

Pitcock just wants to keep improving himself over the summer.

"I'll just basically work on lifting, running and my diet and take a yoga class maybe," he said. "Just try to get bigger, faster and stronger and get in better shape."

Jay Richardson, Marcel Frost and Thomas Matthews each had two sacks for the Scarlet while Matthews led his team in tackles. Donte Whitner led the Gray team in tackles.

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