Although most expected Ohio State to be very good defensively this season, there were a few question marks coming into the season.
Some were concerned that replacing three first-day NFL draft picks on the defensive line would be too much to handle. But when you have players like sophomore defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock filling in, there is not too much to be concerned about.
"Quinn's that piece in the middle," OSU defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "Not everyone can be a pass-rusher. You need those guys inside that are tough guys, like the Tim Andersons of the world and those kind of guys that can help you stop the run. We face all kinds of different offenses in the Big Ten. You go from Purdue and Northwestern, to Michigan and Wisconsin, you have to have a varied defense and everybody has to have a role. And right now I do think we have some pass rushers, it's yet to be seen, but right now we're looking for run stoppers. Quinn showed us Saturday a couple times he split a double team and pop, hit the back, so it was pretty impressive."
Pitcock is a stocky player and is very quick on his feet. His combination of strength and speed is a tough task for opposing offensive guards and centers.
"Definitely the low man wins," Pitcock said of the way he likes to attack offensive linemen. "So, it works out being low and strong and beating the man over you."
Against Cincinnati, Pitcock and the rest of the Buckeyes were shut out in the sack department. But that was due in large part to the fact that the Bearcats were rolling quarterback Gino Guidugli out of the pocket.
"Definitely it was tough with them playing sprint out and everything," Pitcock said. "This week, we're working hard on trying to get to the quarterback and make plays."
Pitcock almost had a sack in the UC game, but Guidugli slipped away.
"I saw him pump fake and I thought he threw it and then I couldn't get my fingers gripped on to his jersey, I just kept on slipping," Pitcock said. "I wish I just would have pushed him right away. Pushed him out of bounds. Just one-half step away. That's one big thing we're working on this week: we're one half step behind and we have to get faster each week and get better."
Pitcock says the defensive goals never change at OSU.
"I think first of all to stop the run," he said. "If we stop the run, then go to stop the pass, creating turnovers and hitting the quarterback and getting pressure."
Although Marshall lost to Troy State 17-15 last week at home, Pitcock knows the Thundering Herd will come ready to play this Saturday.
"We've seen this year's film, but we've also looked hard on the last couple years film," he said. "I think they're going to come out a lot stronger than they did last week and they're going to be a big surprise to everyone. We're expecting a dogfight."
One of the big topics this week is the Redgie Arden situation. He was allegedly assaulted by several Marshall players in Huntington three weeks ago.
"It is probably in the back of our minds, but we can't make that an issue," Pitcock said. "This is still football and a civilized game. It's organized war as most people would say, so we're just going to go out there and play our game."
Pitcock didn't want to say too much, but didn't want to downplay it either.
"It definitely frustrated me," he said. "Redgie maybe shouldn't have been there in the first place, but then things happened and they shouldn't have messed with Redgie like that. It's just a bad situation and things happen."
For Snyder, the game will serve as a homecoming. He was an All-American defensive back for the Thundering Herd in the 1980's.
"It's great for him to play for his alma mater, but he loves this university too, so I think he definitely wants to show them what they produced out of there," Pitcock said. "So, it will be a good fight."
Pitcock received his first collegiate start against Cincinnati, but took it all in stride.
"It doesn't feel too much different," he said. "We rotate so much and it just feels like we're all getting a lot of plays. But it felt good though."
"I think it was definitely a good time for us to show that we can play," he said. "We had great teachers ahead of us that showed us how to play. We work hard every day. Our biggest thing is play hard every down, run to the ball and someone will replace you later on and make some plays."
When Pitcock lines up, all he is thinking about is beating the man in front of him. He's not worried about sacks, or tackles-for-loss.
"You have to have that mentality," he said. "That's the big thing that Coach (Jim) Heacock stresses now: If you defeat the man over you, you're most likely going to make a play. The problem is when people are worried about making plays and looking in the backfield and the man over you defeats you. So, that's a big thing were working on: hands, just being the man over you. Don't look for the ball, get rid of him and then most of the time you will make a play, so it works out."
* Linebacker Bobby Carpenter was not concerned that OSU didn't get any sacks against UC, but was disappointed that the Buckeyes didn't force any turnovers.
"Well, we had some pressure, but when they move the pocket a lot like they did, it's hard to get sacks," Carpenter said. "Probably what was more frustrating that anything else was not getting any turnovers. We've been stressing that all camp and talking about it. Our offense gave up a few and we didn't get any, so we need to try and win the turnover margin."
Carpenter knows the Marshall game will have extra meaning for Snyder.
"He's really excited," he said. "We always joke with him about going to Marshall and being from Ironton and down on the river, so it's kind of a little grudge match for him."
Carpenter also addressed the Arden situation, and was quite candid.
"Well, I'm not too sure about what happened and what occurred down there, but I think some of the guys on the team are looking at it like, 'Hey, we have a guy on our team and some things happened and we have to go down there and play for him and try and get some revenge a little bit.'
"It kind of bothers us a little bit. Me personally, I'm going to play hard and I know he'd be in there playing hard if he was able to play. It's disturbing a little bit. So, just as a team, as a defense, we're going to go out there and try and set a standard," Carpenter said.
Carpenter knows that Marshall churns out a good offense every year. He's not
putting much stock in its loss to Troy State.
"They're a talented team every year," he said. "They get some good kids from Florida, they get some good JUCO kids, so they have the talent at every position, especially the skill positions, so they can match up well with us. The trick will be to get on them early."
Carpenter thought the Cincinnati game was a good debut for OSU's talented linebackers.
"I think overall we played well," he said. "We had a few missed tackles by all of us, but overall we played well. We responded as a unit, we rolled a lot of guys and we did things we had to do.
"There weren't a whole lot of misses tackles, but the ones we did have we need to improve upon. There were a lot of open field tackling opportunities. Any time you get a team that throws a lot of short passes, swing passes, you're not going to make them all, but you need to try and limit the misses."
The Buckeyes will continue to use some 3-4 schemes this year and Carpenter likes it.
"It's fun," he said. "We've been doing it now for a while. We're starting to play the 3-4 a little bit against the run, where we only did it against the pass prior. It's a little bit different and hopefully we use it this week."
One of the benefits of the 3-4 is that it gives opposing offenses one more thing to try and prepare for. The Buckeyes' multiple 4-3 can be confusing enough with players lining up in different spots nearly every down. But now that they've added the 3-4 they might have become even more dangerous.
"It gives us a lot of different looks and anytime you can give a lot of looks to an offense, you might confuse them," Carpenter said. "We have a lot of versatility at the linebacking group, so we can move guys in and out. It helps us against the run, against the pass and I think it just helps our defense when you can get a lot of fast guys on the field that can run.
"I know Cincinnati was confused last week."
"I do a little bit in some of our nickel packages and when we go four linebackers sometimes I'll go in the middle," Carpenter said. "I used to do it in high school, it's not something that I'm not used to. Coach Snyder did a good job when we were all younger of rolling us into different positions so we could play them all."
Carpenter says his confidence is at an all time high.
"With experience comes confidence," he said. "I've been in the system now for three years. I know the defense well now. I know what to do. The more you play, the more confident you get. I have guys doing their jobs taking the pressure off me and I feel good running around making plays."
Carpenter was asked to assess the play of D'Andrea.
"He's played well so far," he said. "He played well in the game. He had a few mistakes, so did everybody it being the first game. But overall he played well, just like everyone did."
Even with all the losses from last year's defense, Carpenter said OSU wanted to come out against UC and prove it is still one of the best defenses in the country."I know the defensive line when they came out they had a big chip on their shoulder," he said. "Our guys were pumped up. People were talking that we lost a lot of guys, but they wanted to come in and show that, hey, they're just as good as what we had before."
* Cornerback E.J. Underwood made his first start in an OSU uniform against UC and played well.
"I give myself a B," Underwood said. "I was a little excited out there and missed a tackle, so that's why I give myself a B."
Like some of his teammates have said, Underwood knows that Marshall will be a better team this week than they showed last week. Marshall has been targeting OSU for quite some time.
"We know Marshall is going to come in here after their disappointing loss and they're going to play us to their full potential, so we need to be ready to step up," Underwood said.
Underwood was asked to predict who would get OSU's first interception of the season.
"Who knows, but if it comes my way, you better believe I'm going to go for it," he said.
* Punter Kyle Turano had a good first day at the office. He only had to punt one time and boomed a 57-yarder. Yes, it went into the end zone, but it bounced at about the 5-yard-line. It could have been a 50-plus yarder inside the five with the right bounce.
"For the one punt, I give myself a B," Turano said. "It went
into the end zone, which is something I don't want to do. It was a 57-yard punt,
but it was only a 37-yard net. Twenty yards is a big deal. If it was a 20-yard
return, that's a momentum swing right there. If it were 56 yards, A-plus. B.J.
(Sander) only put seven in the end zone last year, so my goal is less than
Turano said he wasn't very nervous.
"It really wasn't that different than practice," he said. "I've got things I've got to do. I didn't really notice any rush. My timing, I got it off in 1.87 (seconds) and 4.3 (second) hang, so that was pretty good."
The senior was not disappointed that he only got to punt once against UC.
"I got out there six or seven times for field goals, so that's a rush
right there too," he said. "It's the same thrill. Just being on the
field. If our offense is moving the ball and putting points on the board and I
don't have to punt, I feel good."