Meyer Wants Effort and Aggression on Defense, Not 'What Ifs'
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Have you happened upon somebody who is standing or sitting completely motionless and when you ask them what they're doing, they snap out of their stupor and say, "I was thinking."
While they were trapped in contemplation, any number of things could have happened in front of them and very little of it would have registered. Their reaction time is slower than the Sunday mail, and the acknowledgment of what is happening is on par with a child's understanding of the plot of 'True Detective'.
Feet frozen to the ground, head sputtering like a wood chipper that isn't rated for the limbs being thrown into it.
That could also describe the Ohio State defense a season ago. Often they were lost in thought, and the reaction times for many were slowed. The thought process was delayed, and it led to an unacceptable amount of points given up for a Buckeye defense.
Head coach Urban Meyer has talked many times about wanting his defense to run as fast as they can for 4-6 seconds on every single snap. The hesitation is what does a defense in, and Meyer doesn't want his defense questioning what they do, he wants them understanding it.
"I felt like we were a 'what if' defense last year," Meyer said.
"'What if they did this?' I saw it from our coaches, I saw it from our players. What I'm looking for is simplicity and 4 to 6 (seconds). If you can't give us that then move on and get another player that will."
Photo by Dan Harker
Some call it "paralysis by analysis". Too many possibilities causing one to lock up completely. Or a more apt comparison might be having too many windows open on your computer.
Whatever the analogy, the thought processes were causing the Ohio State defense to hesitate, which is the furthest thing from "4-6 seconds" that you can get.
Meyer's frustration with the defense has been noticeable in his brief time with the Buckeyes, and for good reason. The OSU defense, almost regardless of year, is always one that people take note of.
Now, however, Buckeye defenses are becoming noteworthy for all of the wrong reasons, and Meyer is trying to keep those notes from becoming the norm.
"I felt like we lost something on defense," Meyer admitted recently.
"We have a culture that I want to make sure we don't lose. What happens is that with fast break offenses and all the scheme, you lose that it's 4 to 6 seconds to play D. That's who we are. That's the last thing I say to every team before they take the field, that I want them to go hard and not be worried about mistakes."
This isn't the first time that Meyer's acceptance of full-speed mistakes has been written about, and it won't be the last time. He wants his defenses to have an identity, and not the one they currently have.
He wants his players to trigger, and he understands that mistakes will happen. But as long as his defenses are creating havoc, then he doesn't need perfection. Besides, perfection is unattainable. Greatness, however, is only 4-6 seconds away.
"He wants to be great," explained defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
"It's pretty self explanatory, but we understand. We want to challenge everything. That's the big thing now, to say, 'Hey guys, things are going to happen and you're going to give up a play here and there, but what we can't do is lose confidence in what we're doing.'
"We've got to understand that we're going to challenge things. If a guy catches one, he catches one. But the idea of sometimes bending but don't break is not exactly the mentality that Coach Meyer likes."
In an effort to keep an offense from marching down the field, Meyer wants his defense to be the aggressor. He doesn't want them sitting back and reacting. He wants them acting, and if a big play is given up, that's okay. He simply wants to avoid a defense that is a step slow because they're thinking too much.
"If you see big plays right now, I don't care," Meyer said.
"I just want to see guys trigger and go. That's been that way since day one in 2001 when I first became the head coach. I don't want a team that's scared to make mistakes. I don't want a team that's thinking. I want a team that goes 4-6 seconds, put their foot in the ground and be as fast and hard as you can go."
It's not an unreasonable request, and it's been one that Meyer has made his entire career. Lately, however, that request has gone unanswered, and it's been because of a defense that is trying to answer "what if", rather than simply providing an answer through effort and aggression.
Meyer wants to get back to what has worked, because he's seen too much of what doesn't. He's not asking for much. In fact, he's only asking for 4-6 seconds of his players' time.
"It used to be a game game based on effort, and I want to get back to that," he said. "That's all I tell them."
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