Meyer: ‘Let’s Get Their Butt on the Ground’
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The players on Ohio State’s defense know they need to tackle better than they did against Cal on Saturday – a lot better – if they’re going to avoid another unsuccessful run through the Big Ten in 2012.
Ryan Shazier makes a tackle against Cal.
Photo by Dan Harker
They might be able to get away with another sloppy performance against UAB this Saturday – after all, they are favored by five touchdowns – but it will come back to burn them pretty quickly once they enter conference play.
It was an all-around ugly tackling performance against the Golden Bears in a game where the OSU defense allowed the most yards in Ohio Stadium since 1999 and the longest run in the building’s 90-year history.
The Buckeyes allowed 160 yards, including two long touchdown runs, to a relatively unknown back named Brendan Bigelow, but they may not feel quite as bad after learning about Bigelow’s history.
According to Mike Farrell at Rivals.com, Bigelow had some of the best junior film they had ever seen coming out of Fresno (Calif.) Central East High School back in 2011. He was rated a 4-star prospect and the No. 11 running back in the country, but at one point he was pushing players like Malcolm Brown (Texas), Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Isaiah Crowell (Georgia) for the top spot in the initial Rivals rankings.
The 5-10, 190-pound Bigelow was on his way to a tremendous junior season when he tore his ACL after rushing for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. According to Farrell, the recruiting analysts over at Rivals liked Bigelow’s film so much, they still considered making him a 5-star prospect in spite of the injury.
Then he tore the same ACL again during his senior season.
“Bigelow had surgery again and most, including us, thought he'd never have the same speed again,” Farrell wrote in his latest piece.
“While he may never be an every-down back at Cal, his four carries for 160 yards against Ohio State certainly showed everyone that even after blowing out the same ACL two years in a row, speed is not an issue.”
Bigelow had not carried the ball much in a little over a year at Cal, but he did serve as the team’s primary kick returner a year ago and had an 88-yard bring-back for a touchdown.
That all sounds good, and it might even put some people at ease after the Buckeyes allowed Bigelow to break free on two long touchdown runs, including an Ohio Stadium-record 81-yard score.
One person who won’t accept that – or anything else – as an excuse is head coach Urban Meyer.
“We’ve always worked hard at it, but it hasn’t shown,” Meyer said of his team’s tackling.
“It’s not what we expect, so we went hard at it this week. Usually, you go Tuesday tackling; this week we did Tuesday and Wednesday. So, we do, we tackle to the ground (as opposed to just wrapping up). It was a tough week for some people who have to learn how to tackle.”
Linebacker Ryan Shazier said some of it was due to laziness, which teammate Etienne Sabino agreed with after practice on Wednesday.
“We had him down a couple times but we just didn’t finish the play,” ,” the fifth-year senior said.
“We didn’t have everybody flying to the football. We had guys kind of jogging towards the football if the play wasn’t to their side, just assuming other guys were going to make the tackle.”
Meyer wasn’t overly impressed with the play of his linebackers against Cal, and even said that freshman Joshua Perry will get some playing time on defense this week. He’s the backup to Sabino at Sam (strongside) linebacker.
There is no way for Meyer to know for sure, however, whether all the extra tackling will pay off until his team is testing again against UAB this weekend.
“You won’t know until Saturday,” he said, “but what do you do when you’re weak at a spot? You work at it an emphasize it. Just like pass rush last week.
“And we’ve made such an emphasis on turnovers, because we heard so much about the lack of turnovers (last year). So, we’ve been pounding home, ‘Strip the ball; strip the ball,’ and I think there’s an element before ‘strip the ball’ and that’s, ‘Let’s get their butt on the ground.’ So, it better be better.”
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