Buckeye Thoughts: What happened to the defense?

msub1g

msub1gAfter Ohio State’s 10-point loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game this past Saturday, the Buckeyes will face the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl on January 3rd. Looking both back and ahead a bit, here are some of my thoughts on the scarlet and gray.

  • The Buckeye defense, much maligned all season, finally caught up to the Buckeyes. People point to the offense scoring just 24 points as to the reason that the Buckeyes lost the Big Ten Championship game. I can understand that, but giving up 34 points to Michigan State’s offense is not an acceptable outcome. They made Connor Cook look like an elite quarterback, throwing for 300 yards. Sure, he made the throws the downfield, but it was again a product of the Buckeyes (minus Joey Bosa, who played one hell of a game) not getting enough pressure with their front four. It’s also goes back to scheme a bit too. Having your safeties covering wide receivers deep is not a recipe for success, and it seemed like Cook was able to find Barnett or Brown in moments of coverage weakness.
  • So, what’s the real problem with the defense? I think people forget to mention that the Buckeyes lost one of the most important players on the unit early in the season when senior safety Christian Bryant broke his leg. In 5 games, he had 22 tackles, and last season, he was second on the defense in tackles (71), pass breakups (12), passes defended (13), and forced fumbles (2). The losses of Jonathon Hankins and John Simon to the NFL still sting, but I think they’ve been effected more by the loss of a guy like Zach Boren, who converted over from fullback to linebacker to be a solid complement to Ryan Shazier.
  • I think some of this may fall on Meyer too, however. He brought in recruits in the defensive secondary ranked in the Top 75 with corner Eli Apple (11th), corner Gareon Conley (43rd), safety Vonn Bell (50th), and corner Cam Burrows (62nd) that barely sniffed the field. Yes, I understand that a couple of these guys will end up being redshirted (Conley and Apple have not played to my knowledge, while Bell and Burrows have combined for 23 tackles mostly on special teams), but you could’ve had these worked in all year and potentially used them more by season’s end with less of Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown, Doran Grant, and Armani Reeves. It’s just a tough pill to swallow when you see Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, and Dontre Wilson making an impact on this team in other units.
  • You seldom spot a team 17 points and comeback from it, but the Buckeyes surprisingly did. Once they got to even in the early second half, I figured that they had taken Sparty’s best punch and would hold on to win. They were close to doing so, but the fourth down that Braxton Miller was unable to pick up really sealed the deal, given the way the defense was playing. I don’t have any problem with the specific play that was called. Honestly, on almost any key third down, I’m clamoring for them to get Braxton out in space and let him have the option of throwing or running. What I do have a problem with is not riding Carlos Hyde more. At nearly 7 yards per carry, Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Hyde as they seemed to key in on stopping Miller from beating them on the ground. Once the Buckeyes got back to even, I felt like the offense went away from what got them back to even and carried them all season. The deep passes were there, and connecting on one of those could’ve turned things around, but systematically chopping them down a few yards at a time might have worked too.
  • Ohio State was probably going to get beat by Florida State. The likelihood that they would be able to stop Jameis Winston from having his signature performance on the biggest stage was pretty low in my opinion. It would have probably been another BCS bowl loss for the Big Ten, and ESPN and the rest would’ve had their field day at the continued image problem that the Big Ten currently has. What the current matchups now do is give both Michigan State and Ohio State a chance to win their BCS bowl game. If anyone can stop Stanford’s bruising running attack, it’s the Spartans. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are sure to give the Buckeyes fits, but I think the Buckeyes can and will win a shootout in the Orange Bowl.
  • It’s unfortunate to me that neither Braxton Miller nor Carlos Hyde are going to New York City as one of the six finalists for the Heisman. In the end, it was the three games that both missed, Miller due to injury and Hyde due to suspension, that prevented them from getting the nod. Had Saturday night turned out better, Miller may have still overcome it and made the trip, considering A.J. McCarron got selected, which is an absolute joke when you look at the numbers. There was some talk about Miller leaving OSU after three seasons. If he’s looking to be a running back, I’d say he should. But, if he wants to give quarterback a shot at the next level, he needs that extra year of development. Braxton’s come so far with his throwing in two seasons under Urban and Tom Herman, but one more might polish him off and give him a real chance.
  • I’ve heard many people talking about how amazing it is that the last loss the Buckeyes had before this past weekend was on January 2nd, 2012. I mentioned it a bit about how it’s unbelievable what Urban Meyer and his staff has done transforming a 6-7 team two years ago into a team headed to the Orange Bowl and with just one loss in two years. With another year or two of recruiting, the hope would be that Urban holding back highly-recruited freshman won’t be as big of a deal if the freshman and sophomore being brought along slower right now have a greater impact then. I expect the Buckeyes to send Carlos Hyde, Bradley Roby, Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, and the rest out on a positive note against the Tigers.

(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

  • saggy

    I can’t buy in to a theory that blames anything on losing players to injury on defense. At a place like Ohio State, there should always be another guy waiting in the wings. Unless they lose a transcendent – or even great – talent, the Buckeyes should always have the next man up ready to go.

    I’m not saying i don’t agree with you about losing a player, it’s just that it’s their own fault for not preparing his replacement to play.

  • Garry_Owen

    Agree. This falls entirely on the coaching staff, and particularly on the DC.

  • cmm13

    Just my opinion, but from what I see the defensive recruits being brought in by Urb are much different of the Tressel’s defense of old.
    They are lean and quick as opposed to the stout linebackers of Hawk, Carpenter, Simon or the huge dline of Hankins, Gholston, Heyward etc.
    Fickell has no clue how to use this speed in his scheme and it’s evident.
    .

  • Natedawg86

    1. Would Hall playing made a difference? very interesting question, but one that really doesn’t matter.
    2. Why did Meyer call that QB run on 4th and 2? Why is he the one making that call? Has he made other calls this year? Why take the decision out of the hands of the OC?
    3. I don’t understand how our pass defense has been so bad, esp with Roby out there. He looks worse this year than last year. Maybe he was trying to do too much.

  • Natedawg86

    I don’t know how we were so bad on D. I don’t know how WRs become wide open all the time, and i don’t know why we can never defend the screen!

  • Natedawg86

    Or he has had other distractions and his heart is not in it. Bottom line is that they did not adjust and figure things out this year.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Glad to hear you mention Christian Bryant. I couldn’t agree more, his loss has been completely overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. You just can’t replace his level of experience and leadership, not to mention his coverage ability.

  • Garry_Owen

    My biggest issue with the 4th down call, apart from not giving the ball to Hyde, was that they ran it to the short side of the field. Miller’s strength is his ability to use space to his advantage, and we essentially added a 12th defender (the sideline) to that play before it was even run.

  • Natedawg86

    He was trying to run between the tackles too. They could have easily ran a QB rollout to the flats, and if no one was open, he could have made 1 guy miss for the 1st down. If it is supposed to be a QB draw (which I don’t think it was), he needs to pause for a second so that people start backpeddling.
    3rd Down plays:
    1Q:
    3-7, Miller Rush-12, 3-10, Miller rush 4
    2Q:
    3-1, Hyde rush 8
    3Q:
    3-10, Pass Incomplete, 3-4, Miller no gain
    4Q:
    3-6, Pass Incomplete, 3-3, Miller rush 1, 4-2 Rush 1, 3-10 Pass Inc
    HYDE: Quarters 1-3, 16 rush 111 yards, 4Q – 2-7 yards…come on man

  • Garry_Owen

    The only excuse is that it was obvious to everyone, including Sparty, that Hyde was going to get the ball. They STILL should have given it to him.

    I know that a game is 4 quarters long, but man, I hate that it came down to one really bad playcall – and nobody can tell me differently. If we get that yard, we win that game.

    And while Kirk is right that we probably get beat by FSU, I would still like the shot. More than that, though, I wanted the Big Ten championship. That’s all I ever really want.

    1 yard.

  • Garry_Owen

    Great stats, by the way. What this represents to me is that Urban Meyer failed a major principle of tactics: Never reinforce failure!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I mentioned him right after the loss. I think he was just as good if not better then Roby who for me is drastically overrated.

  • Natedawg86

    I was yelliing pick up the ball when the punt was blocked. We get the ball in the 4Q down 3 on the opp 47, and can’t get a first down? Give me a break. Anything can happen in a football game. Don’t think we would have gotten destroyed, but ask me again after the Auburn game. The play that MSU scored the touchdown was throw up in your mouth awful too though.

  • cbrockman9

    The entire year, Meyer/Herman showed a complete inability to use all of their offensive weapons consistently (within and across games). What happened to using Hall like Harvin? Where was Wilson in the MSU game? Lastly, Braxton may have come a long way, but he has much further to go, to become a competent passing QB.

  • WFNYKirk

    I think Bryant was significant enough of a leader to explain some issues with him out, but I agree. That’s why I mentioned all of the freshmen recruits that didn’t get much time. They should have contributed if the upperclassmen were this bad.

  • WFNYKirk

    I had some more critical statements about Fickell in this article but I eventually scratched them. I would be happy to see him move on and Vrabel move up.

  • WFNYKirk

    Great point, Garry, about the short side play call. Given the wide side, Braxton would’ve been much more likely to make one or even two guys miss.

  • WFNYKirk

    That hurts the most, not getting the Big Ten title for a third straight year. I agree, Hyde has the ability to still pick up the yardage even when they know he’s getting it.

  • Garry_Owen

    I don’t think Vrabel’s the answer, either. We need to bring in somebody from the outside, and I’m certain that Meyer know exactly who he wants. We just need to get him.

    Here’s hoping Fickell can leave on his own terms, by taking a HC position somewhere. I like the guy, and appreciate all that he has done for OSU football; but those sentiments are why he’s still here, and they aren’t a good enough reason to keep him.

  • WFNYKirk

    I think they really missed an opportunity to use Wilson and even Kenny Guiton to throw off the Spartans. I mentioned as much in the game preview. Hall, I’m indifferent on. I guess they could have used it more.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m sure there are good philosophical coaching reasons for doing it, but I will just never understand it – especially against the #1 defense in the country. It’s planning to use 60 feet of space crowded with the #1 defense when they could have just as easily used 100 feet, instead. On 4th down, I’m avoiding that sideline crunch like the plague. Oh well. Next year . . . .

  • cmm13

    Critique is a part of any job especially one in the public eye.
    He did an admirable job holding the program together after Tressel was vacated and if Urb did him a solid by retaining him until a HC spot opened he could get, then so be it.

    But to run with the SEC and Christ even Sparty, UM and WIS then we’ll need someone who can coordinate what Urban is recruiting.

  • cmm13

    Agreed on Vrabel not being the answer. Mike is another former former B1G player from a time when large and in charge defenses ran the show. I have the feeling he’d try to run a defense that would play in 1994, not 2014.

  • saggy

    where’s Hank Stram when you need him? That guy would call a play until you stopped him. And then call it 3 more times just to be sure.

    Carlos Hyde will be kicking himself for not speaking up for the rest of his life.