Silver Bullets Expect To Be Firing in 2013
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There's a saying around the Ohio State defense, "Be slow until it's time to be fast." It's about having the patience to wait for the right time to attack, and the understanding to know when that time is.
For the first half of last season, it was Urban Meyer whose patience was being tested. The Silver Bullets weren't flying around like he had hoped. There was very little blitzing, and the defense was too reactive for his tastes, and not nearly proactive enough.
For a guy who preaches speed and attack in all facets, it took half the season last year for the defense to finally start reflecting his desires.
Photo by Jim Davidon
"He's an aggressive guy," Luke Fickell said of Meyer. "He really is. He likes things that give people problems, like all of us."
As an offensive guy, Meyer has long been a proponent of an attacking offense. Anything that can put a defense on its heels is exactly what he's looking for. Also as an offensive guy, he knows that aggressive defenses can do the very same thing to an offense.
However, if that aggressive defense doesn't know where it's supposed to be at all times, then they'll disrupt themselves more than they will any offense. Aggression is nice, but what really gives an offense problems is a defense that knows exactly what it is doing at all times.
A defense that blitzes, yet can't fill the proper voids, is a defense that will give up long touchdown after long touchdown. A defense that has 11 men all knowing what each other is doing, is a defense that can be asked to do just about anything. That is the hope for the Ohio State defense this year.
The Buckeyes are planning on being a much more aggressive defense right out of the gate this season, and it's because the defense has a much better understanding of what it is being asked to do.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"What it means is the understanding and knowledge of what we’re doing defensively," said co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers.
"Not just how we’re doing it, but why we’re doing it. I think our kids understand that a lot better now. Why we’re doing certain things, where we’re trying to funnel things in the run game, who has leverage of the football. I think our kids have a better understanding of that, which allows them to play faster and play more aggressive."
Now, with everybody on the same page, there is no question what the direction of the defense will be this season.
"We set out with a goal of doing things in a more aggressive manner, instilling that in our players and playing fast," Withers said.
"We did that. We wanted to leverage the football better, we wanted to tackle better. I felt we were able to get a lot of those things going. We have work to do in those areas, but we started and got a foundation with our players."
With the better understanding of what is being asked, and why it is being asked, a defense will move faster simply because it isn't being frozen by its own uncertainty.
A defense that is versatile enough to be both aggressive and fundamentally sound is one that doesn't always have to be attacking to make plays. The Silver Bullets will be flying from all directions this season, but sometimes the threat of aggression is just as effective as the aggression itself. The ability to do both this spring allowed the players' confidence to build.
"We wanted to get our plan together, what we wanted to be on defense, and let it happen in practice and give our kids some confidence," Withers said.
"It worked well for us this spring. There’s not a perfect defense, but you can overcome a lot when you’re playing fast and playing with confidence."
The confidence comes from everybody actually knowing where they were supposed to be. It only takes one player being out of position for a play to break big. The Ohio State defense saw that time and again last year.
Now a year smarter, the Buckeyes and their coaches plan to turn the tables on the opposition. Ideally, the end result will be a defense that is both immovable and disruptive.
Although even if it isn't immovable, that shouldn't slow down the coaches from being more aggressive with their play calling.
"It doesn’t always mean blitz," Withers said.
"But I think we have the capability to bring more pressure because we understand our man to man leverage better. We understand we can cover and play man to man more."
For the Silver Bullets, they have been patient long enough. The time to be fast is upon them.
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