Buckeye Football Notebook: ‘He creates havoc in the backfield’

Ohio State Buckeyes Buckeye Football Notebook

The Ohio State Havoc Man

One of the pleasant surprises on the Ohio State defensive line last year was redshirt freshman nose tackle Robert Landers. Undersized at a listed 6-foot-1 and 283 pounds, Landers used his quickness and leverage to get into the backfield frequently early on. He finished fifth on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss. (He only finished with 16 total tackles on the season.)

Landers’ lack of size may have eventually caught up with him, however. Seven of those tackles for loss came in the Buckeyes’ first five games. Over the final eight games, he came away with just 0.5 stops in the backfield.

This spring, Landers worked mostly with the ones and had a very good camp according to defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Johnson is excited to see what Landers can do this season with more tools in his toolbox.

“He’s the guy, the spark plug on the inside that can really get off the ball,” he said. “He creates havoc in the backfield and attacks the line of scrimmage. That’s what you want from your nose guy. You’ve got to double team him. You can’t leave him in a single block, so we’re forcing a double team, and our three technique is running free. That’s the kind of guy we want. A guy that’s really explosive, and he’s done a great job for us.”

Confidence Game

Heading into every football season there is always a bit of nervousness where new starters are concerned. Coaches worry if they are ready to be relied upon. In close position battles, did the coaches make the correct decision? Coaches are always going to have questions, however, because that’s their job. A team can still operate and succeed with a coach who is concerned. It happens every Saturday.

Where concern over new starters can have a huge impact is with their teammates. If an established starter doesn’t have confidence that the new starter next to him is capable, then he can find himself worrying as much about his own job as his teammate’s. This is obviously not an effective way to proceed defensively.

“Yeah, you definitely have to look over, look to the side of you, and have complete confidence that no matter who is there, they can play ball,” Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker said this spring. “Last year, looking over and seeing Marshon, it was like, ‘I don’t have to worry about that guy anymore because Marshon is on him.’ Same thing with Raekwon and same thing with Worley. I look over at Worley now and it’s literally the same thing. Worley is going to do his job and I just have to do my part and make sure he can trust me the same way I trust him.”

Scheme Shmeme

Trust is huge. It’s even more important than scheme, though given the success of OSU’s current scheme over the last three years, clearly it is a difference maker. Coaches wouldn’t still be using all of these defensive variants if they didn’t each have their effectiveness, after all.

According to Ohio State linebackers coach Billy Davis, however, scheme is nice, but that will never be what makes a defense great.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been in every kind of scheme there is in the NFL,” he said. “Three-fours, four-threes, I’ve had everything, so it’s about the scheme that’s here and what’s been in place and what has been recruited to. That’s the other thing in college. You recruit to a specific 4-3, cover four, whatever you want to do. I’ve been in many systems just like this. Greg (Schiano) and how he wants it done is how we’re going to get it done. Coordinating the defense is about getting 11 guys playing it the same way. Whatever way that is doesn’t matter. I’ve been in all kinds of ‘ways’, but to get them to play the same way, 11 as one, is the key to defense.”