Discipline, Trust Key Against Navy Option

As you may have heard, Navy will bring an innovative yet old school offense to Ohio Stadium on Saturday when the Midshipmen oppose the sixth-ranked Buckeyes in the season opener for both teams.

The Midshipmen run a triple-option attack such as those made famous by Oklahoma and Texas in an earlier era and more recently Nebraska, but they do so with their own twists with formations and blocking schemes.

And Ross Homan said there is another reason previous knowledge of the option might not be sufficient to prepare for Navy's. Though the option can still be found at various high schools throughout the land, they cannot match the Midshipmen's efficiency.

"It's so undisciplined in high school," Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan said. "That's nothing like playing Navy. They are a great offense so we have to be very disciplined in what we're doing."

The starting defense got a reminder of that during the Buckeyes' jersey scrimmage at the stadium Aug. 22 when scout team quarterback Rocco Pentello broke loose on an option keeper for a 35-yard touchdown. That was one more touchdown than the No. 1 Ohio State offense was able to muster against the No. 1 defense.

"It shows you they can go either two yards or 40 yards just like that," Homan said. "It's just how their offense works."

Every level of the defense figures to be tested in its own way.

As is often the case in football, the challenge begins up front then filters backwards from the defensive line through the linebackers and ultimately to the defensive backs.

The most basic aspect of the option is the fullback dive, a simple play that is the responsibility of the defensive line.

Once Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs learns giving his fullback the ball is not a wise choice, he will keep the ball and try to round the corner, likely to be met by and outside linebacker or defensive end who will tackle Dobbs or force him to pitch the ball to a trailing wingback.

At that point, the inside linebackers and defensive backs are charged with cleaning up by corralling the pitchman after he becomes the ballcarrier. That is, of course, if they haven't been sucked up and fooled by the play-action and then forced to chase a wide receiver who has broken deep for one of Navy's relatively rare pass plays.

"There's two huge things about the secondary," Tressel said. "One is that they will never have seen so many guys flying at them at the speed at which it happens here and the number of cut blocks and so forth they're going to have to deal with, and number two is the speed of hard play action. You're on your horse heading into the pursuit lanes and all of the sudden the quarterback's off the line of scrimmage and here goes a receiver running by you. Maybe a guy you were running away from, so you didn't get cut by him, now all of a sudden he's running by you so, yeah, it's tough for the secondary."

Anderson Russell is well aware. The Ohio State senior safety was part of an option offense as a high schooler in Georgia, and one of his teammates from Marist High School, Wyatt Middleton, is a member of the Navy squad.

"I've seen them before, but it's completely different when you're going against them on defense," he said. "You've got to be really disciplined and not get out of your assignment or make plays you're not supposed to make."

Defensive tackle Todd Denlinger just hopes to reduce the number of plays Russell needs to worry about.

"If we can control up front, I think it can help our defense out tremendously. If we can stop the dive up the middle that will free the guys on the back end to get out on the quarterback and get out on the pitchman, and if we can just control it like that, it would be a good day for us."

Fellow defensive lineman Dexter Larimore was a little bit less matter-of-fact.

"They have so many things they do," Larimore said. "They do a lot of things that are very dangerous for us, the zone leads and stuff. The biggest thing is we've got to be good up front, and if we can control the line of scrimmage and be able to stop the dive then we can get linebackers to flow to the quarterback pitch."


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