COLUMBUS, Ohio — Since his arrival in Columbus, head coach Urban Meyer has been preaching that his team give "4-6 seconds of continuous effort", and that they get from Point A to Point B as fast as they can.
Defensive Effort Grading an 'A', Which is Apparently Something New
By Tony Gerdeman
Until now, even despite the accompanying results on defense, it was assumed that that desired effort was being made. According to more than one Buckeye, however, that wasn't necessarily the case last season.
"A lot more physical, a lot faster," is how running back Warren Ball described the biggest change from the defense from last season.
"Every time there's a loose ball, you'll see a defender pick it up and sprint 20, 30 yards downfield."
That wasn't the case a year ago?
"No, the ball would be dead and the play would end," he said.
"It's a different mindset that you go beyond the whistle and it's a more physical defense. We're excited to see this year, it's definitely helping us."
Ball was not the only player to notice a change, as safety Tyvis Powell echoed the sentiment.
"That's basically the biggest difference right now, just flying around," he said.
Same question -- that wasn't the case a year ago?
"No," Powell said.
"Practice was kind of relaxed, but it's getting back to high energy now. They demand effort out of us right now so that's the best thing about it."
That surge in energy has been one of the products of new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Along with the rest of the defensive staff, Ash has worked on simplifying the role of each defensive player, which allows them to maintain the energy and effort that is required of them.
Too many times in the past, defenders have been too slow in their reaction to a play because they were frozen by what was required of them. Now, instead of being tied down by their requirements, Ash wants his players to be freed by them.
What he's asking for right now is just all-out effort, and he's getting it.
"You know what I'm happy about so far is the effort that the guys have given," he said.
"The guys have bought into what I'm coaching and what I'm teaching. They're coming out here and practicing extremely hard and that's all I care about right now. What changes from the past? I couldn't tell you because I don't know what it was like before. But what I've seen so far, I've been pleased with."
It's a lot easier to buy into a system when you understand what's being sold, and at the moment the Ohio State defense is all paid up.
"Right now we're just worried about effort and everybody running to the ball," Powell said.
"That's basically what it is. When the ball is on the ground, everybody scoop and score. Just getting the defense to fly around. The best defenses all run to the ball, and that's what we're trying to get to right now."
The process to get a defense to "fly around" shouldn't be a long one, but it's as much about attitude as it is aptitude. Creating an unfailing aggression is impossible with a team that is afraid of making mistakes, but if you eliminate that fear, then a team is no longer shackled by unsurety.
There will still be mistakes, and the intention will be to iron those out further down the road. But first the foundation for an offensive defense must be laid, and that's what is happening right now.
"The defense and the secondary are flying around and getting to the ball," said safety Ron Tanner.
"It's been a whole different demeanor in our defense, even if it's an incomplete pass, still getting to the ball and taking an extra few steps. Just making sure that everyone is getting to the ball no matter what – caught ball, dropped ball, fumble, interception, no matter what, we're getting to the ball and going two stripes afterward."
For Chris Ash and the rest of the OSU defensive coaches, their job is to finally provide Urban Meyer with the type of defense that he has been asking for. Like the players, the coaches can't be afraid of making mistakes right now either.
In football, changes are generally made for good reasons and with specific goals in mind. The goal this year is to put the best Ohio State defense that Urban Meyer has ever had on the field. But will that happen?
"Yeah," linebacker Joshua Perry answered without hesitation.
"I think the biggest thing besides scheme is going to be the mentality that we're trying to build here. So throw everything out the window. If you've got guys who have that killer mentality, who go hard every play and we play as one, we'll be alright."
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