First Comes Improvement, Then Enhancement for Ohio State Defense

Ohio State Buckeyes tackle Baker Mayfield

The Ohio State Buckeyes can’t be great on defense until they first get good. This is the process that all teams must take part in.

This process is constant and unforgiving. Just because a defense was good a year ago doesn’t mean they’ll be good again. The experience may carry over, but the results do not. It’s a leg up for sure, but the process always wins out. Shortchange it, and eventually defeat will find a team where it never expected to be found.

To stay ahead of defeat, the Buckeye defense wants to be better than it was a year ago. Ohio State finished in the Top 10 nationally in both scoring defense (15.5 ppg) and total defense (296.1 ypg) last year. Those numbers are certainly acceptable, but that was last year. They have no bearing on 2017.

When Chris Ash brought this defensive system with him from Arkansas in 2014, the idea was to keep things simple and then just get really good at what you do. That’s exactly what happened, as by the end of the year the Buckeyes were holding offenses like Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon in check.

As they went through that season, they added things here and there, and that process has continued with current defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. It is never about changing the identity of the defense, but rather changing the effectiveness.

“You always have little things when you look back and say, ‘Could we do this? Can we add this?” he said. “But more than anything we just want to get better at what we did. How do you improve? We made some great strides in taking the ball away last year. We went from 50-something in the country to 10th. Well, how do we go from 10th to first? We did some things in other areas. Red-zone defense, we weren’t very good coming off a year ago. We really improved.”

Urban Meyer has said in the past that you get the results that you focus on. If you don’t work toward a result, you won’t get it. If you set out to do something, however, and you have the distinct goal of making it happen, it should happen.

How they get those desired results, of course, can take many different paths. The base must be laid for any of those paths that the Buckeyes would like to take. And before something can be tweaked, it has to be really, really good. After all, there’s no point in putting racing stripes on a station wagon.

The good news for the Buckeyes is that the talent is on hand to venture in just about any direction the staff would like to take. First, however, they have to be very good at what they’ve been doing since day one.

“At Ohio State, you have the type of players that you should be at the top in all the (defensive) categories,” Schiano said. “So, we look at it and say, ‘Okay we’ve made improvements.’ As Coach always says, ‘Now we’ve got to enhance it.’ How do we make it even better? The areas that we make a big enough improvement, they have to be a focus to make sure that we don’t have weak spots. So, are there some new things that can help that? Probably. You have personnel, do you put some new things in to get the best use of your personnel? Yeah, that’s the job of the coach. But the biggest chunk we have to do is really get better at the things we already were doing.”

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