Captain's Corner: D-Line Is The Key

We've heard consistently all throughout the spring just how good Ohio State's linebackers are. They are, indeed, a quality group, but they can be much better with quality line play. In today's Captain's Corner, 1998 OSU captain Jerry Rudzinski discusses the importance of getting good defensive line play and what it will mean to this year's team.

As much as I have been talking up Coach Heacock, Coach Fickell, the great linebackers, and the athletes in the defensive backfield, I should probably comment on the most important aspect of the defense…THE DEFENSIVE LINE.

Jay Richardson, Mike Kudla, Quinn Pitcock, and the boys will be the key to the 2005 OSU defense. The D-line will make or break this defense as well as the Silver Bullets of the future.

Do you think Katzenmoyer, Hawk, and Spielman can run faster when nobody is in there way or when they have a 315 lbs. offensive guard in their way? Shedding blockers takes energy, but more importantly, it takes time. A linebacker cannot get where he needs to go fast enough when offensive lineman are releasing on him. You need defensive linemen eating up blocks. You need defensive linemen taking on more than one man.

Two things will get you in big trouble with a defensive coach. The first one is letting a pass receiver run vertically downfield without re-routing him. The second one is giving yourself up one for one. It's fine if you don't make the tackle, but you had better eat up two blockers. If only one blocker keeps you from making a play, shame on you. It comes down to numbers. It comes down to how many hats the offense and defense have and where those hats are at. Sure, we play a lot of one-gap schemes, but no matter what the scheme is, offensive linemen getting into our linebackers' faces is detrimental.

We all love to talk about the aggressive defensive play calling. "Send everybody, blitz the corner, blitz the safety, pressure, pressure, pressure." Well, those defensive backs in coverage, as good as they are, are helpless if nobody gets to the quarterback. Deion Sanders in his prime could not lock up Big Ten receivers for extended periods of time. He'd shut them down completely for a short amount of time, but the receiver would eventually get open. It is just the way it works. Those receivers get scholarships too.

It is crucial for OSU's pass pressure to get to the quarterback. That all starts with the boys up front. If they are not a threat to pressure the quarterback, the Buckeyes will leave their corners on the island for too long. A blitzing safety is no concern for an offense if that is all they have to worry about. As good as AJ and Bobby are, they will not be effective if a tackle and fullback are there to shield their quarterback. When a guard is worried out of his mind about Pitcock beating him for a quarterback sack, a blitzing safety has a tendency to get through much better. Funny how that works.

All these all-league and all-american candidates at linebacker and defensive back had better hope for solid play from the boys up front. You won't find a championship football team that didn't have a great defensive line.

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