By the Numbers - Akron Defense
Welcome to the first installment of breakdowns of the Ohio State defense.
Ohio State, with Jim Heacock running things, has a very flexible style of defense, with a variety of fronts and players in hybrid positions. Their base is close enough to a 4-3 style to call it that, but they utilize a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position on many downs to give them more flexibility. The Buckeyes also extensively use nickel packages with either three man or four man fronts, which, when you add in the hybrid positions at DE/LB and the star position, give them even more flexibility.
Solid defense has been a hallmark of Ohio State teams throughout their history, and this team looks as if can carry on the tradition well. Akron spent the vast majority of this game spinning their wheels on their own side of the field. They managed to sustain only two drives of more than 5 plays the entire game.
You'll notice a lot of similarities between the offensive breakdown and this defensive breakdown, at least at first, but there will be categories specific to the defense further down. The offensive breakdown in its current form evolved from suggestions from readers. I welcome suggestions for this piece as well. Feel free to suggest things you'd like to see in future articles to the comment box at the bottom of the page.
46 Total Plays--91 yards--2.0 yards per play
19 pass (41%)--7/19 for 56 yards 1 INT
27 rush (59%) for 35 yards--1.3 ypc
12 Defensive Possessions
Ave. of 3.8 plays--7.6 yards
Ave. start--Akron 20
First Down--17 Plays (37%) for 16 yards
8 pass (47%)--3/8 for 16 yards
9 rush (53%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Ave. gain of 0.9 yards
Second Down--15 plays (33%) for 32 yards
2 pass (13%)--1/2 for 5 yards 1 INT
13 rush (87%) for 27 yards--2.1 ypc
Ave. of 10.9 yards to go
Ave. gain of 2.1 yards
Third Down--13 plays (28%) for 40 yards
9 pass (69%)--3/9 for 35 yards
4 rush (31%) for 5 yards--1.3 ypc
Ave. of 9.6 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.1 yards
Fourth Down--1 play (2%) for 3 yards
1 rush (100%) for 3 yards--3.0 ypc
Ave. of 2.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.0 yards
First Downs Earned--5
2 by pass
3 by rush
Defensive Type Breakdown
Akron offense vs. 4-3--13 plays (28%) for 4 yards
3 pass (23%)--1/3 for 4 yards
10 rush (77%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Blitz percentage--6/13 (46%)
Negative blitz plays--4
Akron offense vs. 4-2-5 Nickel--25 plays (54%) for 61 yards
12 pass (48%)--4/12 for 50 yards 1 INT
13 rush (52%) for 11 yards--0.8 ypc
Blitz percentage--9/25 (36%)
Negative blitz plays--3
Akron offense vs. 3-3-5 Nickel--8 plays (17%) for 26 yards
4 pass (50%)--2/4 for 2 yards
4 rush (50%) for 24 yards--6.0 ypc
Blitz percentage--4/8 (50%)
Negative Blitz plays--0
Akron offense vs. Base Defense (no blitz)--27 plays (59%) for 70 yards
14 pass (52%)--6/14 for 49 yards 1 INT
13 rush (48%) for 21 yards--1.6 ypc
Akron offense vs. Blitz--19 plays (41%) for 21 yards
5 pass (26%)--1/5 for 7 yards
14 rush (74%) for 14 yards--1.0 ypc
Akron offense vs. Man to Man--21 plays (46%) for 9 yards
4 pass (19%)--0/4 for 0 yards
17 rush (81%) for 9 yards--0.5 ypc
Akron offense vs. Zone--25 plays (54%) for 82 yards
15 pass (60%)--7/15 for 56 yards 1 INT
10 rush (40%) for 26 yards--2.6 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* No defensive penalties
* Akron did not start on the Ohio State side of the 50
* 0/0 in the red zone
* OSU defense recorded 5 sacks (all in second half)
* 1 turnover (INT)
* Plays of no gain or loss--22/46 (48%)
* Plays on the Ohio State side of the 50--6/46 (13%)
* Plays of 10+ yards--4 (9%)
* Drives ending in 3 and out--8/12 (67%)
By any measure, this was a good day for the defense. Nearly half of Akron's plays either gained nothing or went backwards. The Buckeyes got to the quarterback five times. Eight of the Zip's drives were three and outs, and one ended in just two plays with an interception. Most importantly, Akron never cracked the scoreboard, and only threatened to do so once.
There were differences between the offense under Jim Tressel and what we saw Saturday, but the defense was nearly unchanged. There were a couple new blitzes and what seemed to be a slight lean towards being more aggressive, but that was about it. There were some question marks on the defensive side of the ball with all of the new faces. I don't think the game against Akron did a lot to answer them, but I did see enough to think this could end up being a great defense.
I wish there was more to say about the defense after this game, but I just don't think we learned enough about them to do any more than congratulate them on shutting out a greatly inferior opponent. Let's take a swing through the position groups and see what we were able to learn.
Going into this season, the strength of this defense looked as if it might be in the the defensive line. I don't think this game was enough of a test to say for certain, but the defensive line did completely dominate the line of scrimmage all game long. This allowed the coaching staff to try different blitz packages with the linebackers and kept the linebackers clean on running downs most of the time.
I came away most impressed with Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle. He played in the backfield almost every down. Nathan Williams at the Leo spot is being used in even more ways than I've seen him used in the past, playing some linebacker in base 4-3 sets. It's hard not to be impressed with his versatility. Speaking of the Leo spot, of the backups that came into this game, I was most impressed with J.T. Moore. He had a nose for the ball and was every bit as disruptive as Williams when he was in there.
Grade--A A shutout and a grand total of 35 yards rushing. That's about as dominating as it gets.
Going into this game, the linebackers also looked like they might be strong, but there were a few questions to answer. One was who would be where in the various defensive formations the Buckeyes employed. That question got some answers against Akron, with Andrew Sweat staying on the field in most situations and Storm Klein and Etienne Sabino rotating in at middle linebacker. Nathan Williams, somewhat surprisingly, played linebacker in several base 4-3 situations.
The second question was whether the linebacker play would be substantially different with Mike Vrabel coaching them. The jury is still out, but I have to say that I liked the aggressiveness I saw from the linebackers. Last season, there were many times when I saw the linebackers not move forward at the snap of the ball, often standing still and absorbing blockers. This especially hurt when Ohio State played Wisconsin last year. Against Akron, not only did I see the linebackers moving forward when they saw run action, but I also saw them do a pretty good job of using their hands to shed blockers when one got to them. As a result, the linebackers were in position to stop many of the running plays near or even behind the line of scrimmage.
It looks as if the coaches are going to be blitzing a little more this season. It seemed as if they chose to do more blitzing with Sabino instead of Klein. I liked some of the blitz packages they used in the second half, which resulted in getting to the quarterback several times for sacks.
Grade--A Sweat looks like he'll be very good this season, while both Sabino and Klein looked solid. I have a good feeling about this group.
There really isn't a whole lot to say about this group in this game. Akron did virtually nothing to test the Buckeyes down the field. The few times they did go down field, they threw at Dominic Clarke, a last minute replacement for Travis Howard. I came away very impressed with Clarke's ability to challenge the throws, resulting in three broken up passes, the last of which was intercepted on a great play by Andrew Sweat after the tip.
It was nice to see Tyler Moeller out on the field at the star position again for the Buckeyes, though he barely showed up on the stat sheet with just 1 solo tackle and an assist.
Grade--A Nearly an incomplete, but I have to give them credit for Clarke's breakups. We'll learn more about them this week.
Defensive Coaching/Game plan
Though the name on the Head Coach's name plate may have changed, very little has with the Buckeye defense. The schemes were pretty much what we've gotten used to seeing from the Buckeyes with Heacock running the show. If anything can be gleaned from this game it would be that it looks like the Buckeyes are going to be a little more aggressive (they blitzed 41% of the time). With a dominant and disruptive line to go along with the blitzing, chances are the Buckeyes are going to do very well at disrupting opponent's quarterbacks this season.
It remains to be seen how the defensive backs will hold up in the man to man situations against better teams if the Buckeyes continue to blitz that much this season, but if Clarke is only third best of the cornerbacks after the pre-season, I think we're going to have fun watching the defense this year.
I wish there was more to say about the defense, but the Akron offense was so bad, I'm not sure if we really learned enough about the defense to talk about them more. At least the Toledo offense should challenge them a little more this week.
Grade--A+ 91 yards and a shutout. I'd say they did something right.
The first of these breakdowns ended up being shorter than I thought, but I couldn't find a whole lot to talk about when it looked as if the Buckeyes were taking on a high school offense (sorry Akron fans).
I welcome comments and suggestions about things you would like to see. If you don't feel like leaving them below, you can e-mail me at Tallabuck@theozone.net.
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