After four games, we have some answers -- and I'm here to give them to you.
This year's defense is better than last year's great unit. Yes, despite the fact that we lost A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty, I would choose this year's group with the chips on the table.
How can I believe such blasphemy?? Well, let me spell out the ways.
The first thing I did was to go position by position and see who I felt had the edge (keeping in mind that various guys started):
2005 Quinn Pitcock vs. 2006 Quinn Pitcock – Edge: 2006
2005 David Patterson/Marcus Greene vs. 2006 David Patterson – Edge: 2006
Analysis: A clean sweep across the board for the 2006 defensive line. They are more disruptive, they exert big time pressure only rushing four guys, and they sack the quarterback and make tackles for loss. This is a major upgrade over 2005.
2005 A.J. Hawk vs. 2006 Marcus Freeman – Edge: 2005 (ya' think???)
2005 Bobby Carpenter vs. 2006 John Kerr – Edge: 2005
Analysis: Big advantage to the 2005 group. Hawk and Carpenter go down in the annals as two of the best to ever play at OSU. I gave Laurinaitis a "tie" with Schlegel because of James L's big play ability. He has made more big plays in four games than Schlegel did in two years -- that intangible can't be ignored. Despite that, linebacker play is one area where 2005 has a major edge over 2006.
2005 Donte Whitner vs. 2006 Anderson Russell – Edge: 2005
2005 Nate Salley vs. 2006 Brandon Mitchell – Edge: 2006
Analysis: I love the way the defensive backs fly to the ball. I love the way that we can play press coverage on the outside. I love the way this group causes turnovers. Do I miss Donte blowing up the screens?? Without a doubt, I do. But overall this group is more talented and makes things happen. Edge to 2006.
Overall, the edge on a player-by-player goes to the 2006 group by a 7-3-1 margin.
Coaching Staff and Scheme
Jim Heacock has gotten better as he has another season under his belt. He has figured out how to put these players in a position for success. We are clearly better off than we were a year ago.
This group causes more turnovers, is clearly better in the red zone, is dominant in third down situations, has more tackles for losses, more sacks and more turnovers than last year's great edition. The last question will be answered when we face a veteran quarterback (like Drew Tate this weekend) -- will our inexperience show???
Kinnick Stadium will be as hostile and difficult an environment as any team could face. Let's hope for good weather, a fair game by the officials, and no horrible breaks. If that happens, they will come home victorious and will be on their way. This is another huge step in the journey, but I can not think of a better group to take it with than the 2006 defense.