Defensive Line Quickness

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Last updated: 06/02/2014 1:18 AM
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Football
Aggressive Buckeye Defensive Line Looking to Cut to the Quick
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When playing a word association game, if the topic of quickness comes up, the chances that the following response would relate to the Ohio State defensive line is pretty unlikely.

After all, quickness isn't normally something you would use to describe 1,100 pounds of angry wall.

If defensive line coach Larry Johnson has his way, however, that wall will close in on an offense in a hurry this season, bringing a new type of football claustrophobia with it.

"We're preaching speed right now," defensive tackle Tommy Schutt said this spring. 

Tommy Schutt
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tommy Schutt

"We're trying to be a unit that gets off the ball and creates havoc in the backfield and is running to the ball when it's thrown, or run through the line of scrimmage. That's really our main thing is being able to go as hard as we can and get guys in and out so that we can stay fresh."

If creating havoc is a goal, then this Buckeye defensive line is intent on taking a step-by-step process to achieve that goal. Passivity is passé, and aggression is the new black.

"We're able to do some stuff that we didn't do last year as far as penetration and cutting up gaps," Schutt said. 

"As far as our rotation, you get your five or six plays as hard as you can go. Run to the ball, and then we'll get a new guy in there so we'll be fresh late in games, which is very nice."

The rotation is designed to keep the defensive line fresh, and the constant aggression is designed to make sure the opposing offensive line is always under attack.

If a defensive line can get penetration, then everything else begins to break down as well. An offensive line is always going to put up a fight, but if they get put on their heels early, that fight usually ends up on the bad end for the offense.

Keep in mind, a steamroller doesn't concern itself with a few rocks, and a defensive line in hot pursuit doesn't worry about the first road block that it sees.

"We want to be a factor in the passing game, no question about that," Johnson said. "So we'll stop the run and run right through the run to the pass, so that's the style."

While the journey of a thousand miles may begin with just one step, for the Buckeye defense the journey towards stopping the running game and the passing game will both apparently follow the same path.

The plan for the Ohio State defensive line is simply to overwhelm whatever is in front of them, and if that ends up being a run play or a pass play, the Buckeyes don't plan on discriminating.

You might say that they are set on being an equal opportunity defensive line.

"Just as fast as we can get off the ball and run to the ball, that's all we've been about," defensive end Joey Bosa said this spring.

"Right now our focus as a whole team is just to play fast and we'll worry about making mistakes later, and scheme and stuff like that. This spring we're just trying to play fast, and then when camp comes we'll start thinking about putting in our whole playbook."

Telling a defensive line not to worry about mistakes is a little bit like greasing up a slip 'n slide before you turn on the hose.

"There's mistakes, they're all fixable, but as long as people are going hard, it's all good and it's all fixable," said Bosa.

Mistakes will certainly be made, but when you demolish a house, do they take points away for using the wrong door?

That's sort of the method that the defensive line's madness will employ. Go fast, be quick, and then devastate. Mistakes can be corrected, but speed and aggression should never have to be.

By using their quickness, the Buckeye defensive line plans to negate what offenses are able to do regardless of whether they choose to run or pass.

Run? Pass? These are just words, and for the Buckeyes, they won't change what the defensive line plans on doing.

Havoc can come in many forms, and it has never once concerned itself with the situation at hand.

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