Meyer Plans to Pressure Defensive Coaches
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell may have their first uncomfortable moment this week.
Unless it’s already happened.
Photo by Dan Harker
Meyer wasn’t exactly thrilled with his team’s defensive pressure during Ohio State’s season-opener against Miami (Ohio), but he understood it was difficult to get to Zac Dysert when he was getting the ball of so quickly.
That wasn’t the case Saturday, however, as the Buckeyes sacked UCF quarterback Blake Bortles just once in a 31-16 OSU victory at Ohio Stadium.
“Quick passing was – I don't want to say it was our excuse the first week, but we have got to pressure the quarterback,” Meyer said after his second victory as the head coach in Columbus.
“He had far too much time to throw the ball.”
Bortles didn’t exactly carve Ohio State’s defense up on Saturday. He was 25-of-41 passing for 249 yards. He did have a pair of touchdown passes, including a 1-yarder to tight end Justin Tukes and a 2-yarder to fullback Billy Giovanetti, but he also three a trio of interceptions.
A couple of them were “checkmate plays of the game,” as Meyer called them, but it still doesn’t explain why the Buckeyes had so much trouble getting pressure on Bortles, especially when the strength of their defense is supposed to be on along the front line.
“I think that's a good question. I'm going to get that answer next week,” Meyer said.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I felt the same out there as you did. I can't answer it today and tell you why. You'd think we'd have a little more pressure. I don't know how good Central Florida's offensive line is. I think they played pretty good today.”
The Knights have some good players on their offensive front, including center Jordan Rae and left guard Theo Goins. They did get called for a hold against John Simon and a chop block against Adolphus Washington, but the Buckeyes also had to play without two key players on the defensive line – sophomore Michael Bennett and fifth-year senior Nathan Williams.
“He was all sore all week. He didn't practice,” Meyer said of Williams, who played 30 plays last week in his first game back from microfracture surgery.
“(It’s) frustrating for him, frustrating for us because is he in, not in? And it's a tough injury.”
The Bennett injury is a groin strain that continues to linger. It happened during camp, and caused Bennett to miss most of the preseason. He was expected to be ready for the opener, but re-injured it during pregame warmups in week one.
He and Williams were expected to share the starting end spot across from Simon, who was being double and triple teamed all day by UCF, according to head coach George O’Leary.
The Buckeyes should be better when they get Bennett and Williams back in the mix, but there is no way to know exactly when that might be.
“Pass defense, we have a long way to go. Getting pressure on the quarterback,” Meyer said after the game.
“Not where I thought we'd be. I thought we'd be a little more explosive on offense and thought we'd get some pressure on the quarterback.”
Simon said the defensive line was being asked to help in the run game more than it has at times in the past, but the only guys who really got pressure on Saturday were true freshmen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.
Both guys have been force into the rotation because of injuries – along with classmate Tommy Schutt – but they’ve performed well in the early going, especially in obvious passing situations.
“They're not going to be freshmen. They're not going to be treated like freshmen,” Fickell said of Spence and Washington last week.
“And by the third or fourth game, we need those guys to be grown men and I think they will be. That showed out there.”
Sophomore Steve Miller was credited with Ohio State’s only sack, although Spence was also in on the play. Washington nearly had a sack after being cut-blocked by UCF tailback Storm Johnson – which drew a 15-yard penalty, but there were a number of times where OSU rushed only three or four in obvious passing situations.
That’s not going to work for Meyer if those guys aren’t getting there.
“We're giving up a ton of passing yards. The negative I see right now is I don't see the quarterback getting hit,” Meyer said.
“And that's something that has to be addressed. That's going to solve a lot of problems in pass defense. We'll address that, have conversation about that this week.”
In other words, get it fixed…or else things could get a little uncomfortable for everyone in that coaching room.
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