Snyder Takes Inventory Of OSU Defense

Mark Snyder, OSU's new defensive coordinator, stopped after today's practice and gave his assessment on where his young but talented defense stands early in preseason camp. Plus, we have notes on how today's practice went. Click here for more.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Snyder met with the media following Thursday's practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Snyder, in his first year as the coordinator following Mark Dantonio's departure for Cincinnati, talked about what the defense could look like.

"We came in here together three years ago and we put our system in," Snyder said. "It was a little bit of all of us. It's what we know. We have our system still. We've tweaked it, no question. The thing we're going to try and do is get our best players on the field. If that means a little bit different look, then that's the way we're going to go."

Reporters asked Snyder about specific wrinkles. With a tight upper lip, he replied, "I don't know. I'm still thinking about it."

When asked if it could involve odd-numbered fronts (i.e. the 3-4 or 50), Snyder replied, "Yes, along those lines."

Snyder was asked if he wants to brand the OSU defense as "his" and no longer Dantonio's design.

"I'm not so worried about that," he said. "I'm not caught up in that. We're going to do what's best for the team. If that's keeping people fresh and using personnel where we have depth, we'll find ways to do that within what we're doing. We need to use a lot of people during these early, hot games. Plus, we also need to get our fastest, best people on the field."

OSU coach Jim Tressel backed Snyder, almost saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"There is nothing from an X's and O's standpoint (that needs a drastic change)," Tressel said. "There may have been some things from a quality control standpoint and maybe statistically that we have to get better at and focus on."

Early in preseason camp, Snyder said he and the staff are looking for guys who want to be counted on.

"We look for effort and carryover from the spring," he said. "We're pretty basic right now. We're just making sure the guys know what to do. That's our big emphasis right now. We're trying to fit all the pieces together and make sure we can do at least a couple things good. That way when the pads go on we can figure out who the players are and who the players aren't."

Snyder was asked about the addition of Ted Ginn Jr., who is repping mostly at cornerback but is also getting time at wide receiver.

"He's very talented," Snyder said. "Like the other freshmen, he just needs to learn. Our job is going to be to find some things he can do athletically that don't take a lot of thinking. I think some of the things the offense might be doing with him might be more simple. We're trying to just teach him the base stuff. When we get done with that, we'll throw him over on offense and let him catch the ball."

One area of concern for Snyder and the defense is the defensive line. He is spending a lot of his time along with line coach Jim Heacock, who is looking for three new starters.

"They're working hard," Snyder said. "We got a lot of guys reps in the spring. We should have some depth. We just need some guys to step up. How do you know until the pads go on? Now we're just trying to get them in their positions, teach them the fundamentals and go from there.

"We are replacing three pretty good players and that is a pretty big challenge. But Jim (Heacock) has got them down there working hard. Jim Heacock, who has been a head coach, has year in and year out brought those guys together. We have had some great D-lines here. I'm sure he will do the same thing with these guys. He'll be the final piece that brings them all together."

One player who has moved up to the first unit is junior Mike Kudla, a defensive end who set OSU weight room records this summer.

"It's very important for Mike to step up," Snyder said. "He's played a lot of football for us. It was pointed out we lost a lot of defensive linemen. He's one of those guys who need to step up just like Tim and Darrion and Will did when they were younger."

The linebacker corps has the potential to be one of the team's strong points, led by mainstays A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter outside.

"They have the most experience right now of our defense," Snyder said. "They're pretty young guys, too. They all have two years left to play, so they have to continue to get better to be classified as the `best corps in the country' and all of the things I've been hearing."

Snyder is eager to get middle linebacker Mike D'Andrea back on the field after he missed spring ball due to injury.

"The one thing about Mike, he is a very talented kid," Snyder said. "He's very strong and he'll hit you. It's a matter of some learning things and getting the reps. He's healthy finally. He's had two years of tutelage under some pretty good players. That position has to be the quarterback of our defense. I think in the next two years, people will hear a lot about Mike."

Of course, D'Andrea figures to share time at the MLB spot with Air Force transfer Anthony Schlegel.

"Anthony has played a lot of football," Snyder said. "With Mike out in the spring, he got a lot of reps there. He's ready, too. That gives us depth. We've played the last two years at a shoestring at that position."

Also Notable

* Snyder said the defense seems ready for the pads to come on Sunday.

"You hear them out there chirping, `Let's get the pads on.' On every play, you hear that from some defensive player. I think those guys will be ready," he said.

* Snyder has instituted one new wrinkle. The kickers and punters still run a dummy sweep drill into the defense, which works on pursuit angles to the outside. The new wrinkle is the defense strips the ball and returns it for a touchdown.

"That is a fundamental pursuit drill that we do," Snyder said. "We added a little something today, which was actually a little sloppy because it was the first time we've ever done it. We added the strip part to it. It's just a pursuit drill, teaching the kids to run to the football.

"We teach them to celebrate with their teammates and hand the ball to the officials. No pointing to the stadium. We actually teach that."

* Senior Jason Caldwell is working with the defensive line after spending much of his time at tight end.

* Defensive tackle Marcus Green missed the practice due to a "precautionary" measure, Snyder said.

* Ginn looked good working both on offense and defense in coverage drills. He did get beat deep by fellow freshman WR Devon Lyons, but the ball bounced off Lyons' hands right to Ginn for an easy pick.

* One player who got a ton of time with the ball was defensive end-turned-tight end Marcel Frost. He runs well for a big man and caught nearly everything thrown his way. He may be the athletic, rangy big tight end OSU will miss with Louis Irizarry's departure.

* Others who caught our eye included WR Devin Jordan, WR Albert Dukes and TB Erik Haw.

* Chad Hoobler is working exclusively with the defense at LB.

* The defensive starters today (and this changes on a daily basis as they test different combinations) were Kudla and Simon Fraser at the ends, Joel Penton and Quinn Pitcock at the tackles, Hawk and Carpenter at OLB, D'Andrea at MLB, Nate Salley and Donte Whitner at the safeties and Dustin Fox and E.J. Underwood at the corners.

The second team was Redgie Arden and Jay Richardson at the ends, David Patterson and Sian Cotton at the tackles (Brandon Maupin also worked in with the twos there), Marcus Freeman and Thomas Matthews at OLB, Schlegel at MLB, Tyler Everett and Brandon Mitchell at the safeties and Ashton Youboty and Harlen Jacobs at the corners.

Many of the freshmen, including Ginn, Hoobler, Nader Abdallah and Vernon Gholston, worked on the third team today.

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