Many Questions, Few Answers Surrounding Ohio State Defense

Two days after Ohio State’s 55-24 loss at Iowa, Urban Meyer stood in front of the media to field questions, but very few answers came forward.

The questions bounced back and forth from one side of the ball to the other.

J.K. Dobbins’ lack of touches and J.T. Barrett’s four interceptions were popular topics, but so was an Ohio State defense that was overwhelmingly unprepared to face an offense that hasn’t changed its stripes since the 1970s.

It was similar to the Oklahoma game — defenders looked lost and two or three steps slow. Things appeared to improve since that game, but all of those struggles came rushing back this past Saturday.

The Hawkeyes averaged 7 yards per play against the Buckeyes.

They rushed for 243 yards and passed for 244 yards. Ohio State had given up 185 yards rushing total in the three games prior to their trip to Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes won the line of scrimmage and it allowed them to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. Because of this, the OSU linebackers have received their share of criticism. That will happen when Iowa completes 21 passes and only six of them are to wide receivers.

The tight ends caught 9 passes for 125 yards and 4 touchdowns. Running backs caught 4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. And even the long-snapper caught an 18-yard touchdown pass.

That wasn’t all on the linebackers — two of the tight end touchdowns were caught on safety Jordan Fuller and defensive end Jonathon Cooper, but it was not a good day for anybody in the front end of the back seven.

Asked if it was a failing of the linebackers as a whole and position coach Bill Davis, Meyer said that it was.

“Sure, it is. And the week before I thought they played very well. They didn’t play very well this week,” he said.

The linebackers have not lived up to expectations this season, which is disappointing considering two of the starters have started in the past.

Luke Fickell leaving for Cincinnati in the offseason may be just a coincidence, but the performance of the position this season cannot be ignored.

So how does Meyer evaluate the situation and the ongoing issues at the position?

“I evaluate it,” he said.

There is currently plenty for Meyer to evaluate on his Ohio State defense, and perhaps no area more so than just the overall lack of discipline they are playing with right now.

Twice on Saturday the Buckeye defense kept plays alive with bad penalties. Missed tackles and slow coverages were also prevalent. A lack of discipline shows up everywhere, and Iowa took advantage of it on just about every snap this weekend.

“There were a couple of devastating penalties that kept drives alive,” Meyer said. “And no excuse for them. We addressed them, and I can think of two or three right off the top of my head that were drive savers, targeting and just a couple of silly penalties. That’s something we’ve addressed. And those kind of games you can’t have those.”

Too often the Buckeyes were their own worst enemy on defense, which has been the case on more than one occasion this season. How does this get fixed? Meyer isn’t going to go into detail with the media on any of it, but was adamant that problems are being addressed.

“We just had conversations and let’s move on towards Michigan State and try to go win this game,” he said.

Ohio State is trying to move on to this weekend’s game against the Spartans — which happens to be one of the most important games on the schedule for the Buckeyes. But unless they figure out the issues at hand, they are going to keep reliving these problems that they have so few answers for.

And that’s really the most concerning thing for Urban Meyer right now.

“We didn’t play very well,” he said. “So, yeah, anytime you see that type of thing, you don’t want to just say it’s all miscues. The week before there wasn’t the miscues and there were this week. And now the question you have to ask is why. And that’s not so much the how, but why did that happen? Are we not practicing? Have we got the right people playing? All those types of things.”

13 Responses

  1. I know im not a coach, but I believe eye discipline and depth of their drops was the biggest issue for the LB’s. They did get out coached though as Coach Schiano admitted. The entire team looked in a fog for most of the game. The most upsetting part was us not running a player who averaged 8 yards a carry, they’re like “oh no dobbins your running to effectively.”

  2. What does he mean when he says there were some bad penalties that kept drives alive. But we addressed it. Thats not addressed all year. What kind of comment is that?

    1. That’s a classic Jim Tressel evasion comment, Eric. It gets old, doesn’t it? Same with his blockheaded response to the question about HOW linebacking play is evaluated- “I evaluate it”. Thanks coach! Sheesh. Sounds like a certain coach doesn’t like to be held accountable.

  3. Until they fix the defensive line don’t look for the linebackers to achieve!!

    1. I do believe that you’re looking at it backwards. Schiano isn’t turning Coach Johnsons’ defensive line loose because he doesn’t trust the linebackers. We got a glimpse of that a couple games ago now when Coach J literally had to scream at Sciano to “let them go.” In other words, thrun them loose to do a defensive lines job. Ruin backfields, not wipe the nose of linebackers who are out of position to fill scheme responsibility.

  4. Hugh game this weekend. Dobbins needs to be in the game plan. Why not give some of the new linebackers a chance?

  5. As i have said before, it all boils down to discipline and bad coaching. We didn’t just have Booker, Worley, and Baker at linebacker, but we have some very good talent behind them. And to watch how the linebacker play has declined is just sad. There are a lot of problems to be fixed on this team,and for the future, starting as most agree from other posts i read, is with discipline. Against Iowa, the fact is the team got out played and the coaches, got out coached. The inability to make adjustments on the fly or to change a scheme that isn’t working will produce bad results in the end. I got a question: When Iowa came out in that strange formation to punt the ball, that ended up a pass from the punter to the center, why wasn’t there a timeout called by the Bucks? I’m sure i wasn’t the only fan watching and screaming call timeout !

  6. For the record Tony. All 3 of the linebackers prior to this season have starting experience. Bookers starts obviously are limited because of the early season injury last year, but all 3 have been starters.

    Many experts had Chris Worley as a potential All Big 10 linebacker (some for AA as well). Jerome Baker came into this season as one of the most looked at linebackers for MANY National Awards and likely All American.

    Davis in 1 season has ruined what took years to develop.

    1. Correct. Booker had one start prior to this season.

  7. The linebackers are more often than not the targets for an offense who runs a Play Action offense. If the quarterback can bait the linebackers out of position it achieves 2 major victories. It exposes the middle of the field for them to exploit their TE’s, and severely weakens rush defense.

    No matter how much smoke the defensive staff or Coach Meyer will choose to blow, the defensive playcalling and assignments are screwed up. MAYBE it’s just language but, it looks more like assignments have changed dramatically for the linebackers and they’re confused by those changes. Davis is a bonfire of know nothing. Schiano is hindering the defensive explosiveness as well with passive gameplanning. Sure he’s trying to hide the flaws Davis has added with his inability to develop players, but, that passive playcalling is killing any kind of pressure because he’s making them try to play more against the run because Davis doesn’t have the slightest clue how to teach linebackers gap control with proper spacing. That passivity exposes the defense to even more rush lanes than the abandoned linebacker gap responsibility.

    Luke Fickell more often than not relied on an old technique. See ball, get ball. Davis doesn’t read offenses, he’s teaching to react TO offenses. That puts the linebackers at a disadvantage and weakens the entire scheme.

    In short. Davis doesn’t have the lightest idea what he’s doing. Meyer better him the hell out of Columbus before the stupid hire gets HIM run out of Columbus.

  8. The line of scrimmage was controlled by IA. The LB’s seemed not to know their assignments and were just non reactive. And, the offense put the defense in bad positions and kept them on the field. Of course we lost. And, there is a good chance of losing Sat if repeated.

    1. I personally believe that the LOS was controlled by very poor linebacker coaching. The defensive front was having to try to both apply pressure AND fill gaps that are supposed to be manned by linebackers. Because of a poorly coached linebacker position the defensive front was held back by Schiano who makes the calls for the defense.

      The only thing Davis has ever coached are guys who are already developed through college. In the pro’s they find the right fits and just plug them into the scheme for the most part. Scouts do their homework on guys they believe fit the scheme already in place. Positions coaches just adapt them to the language and stunts. They already have the refined reads and fundamentals. In College they have to be taught advanced concepts, tackling skills and design integration, meaning, how to find their alignment and react to formations pre snap AND post snap.

      I’ve yet to see a game this year when the Buckeye linebackers where 100% lined up correctly. Against Iowa not a single one of them seemed to have a clue where they belonged, or who to cover. Considering how well the guys have played at Ohio State prior to this season there’s only 1 place to point the finger. The linebacker position coach. But it trickles back to the DC. There’s just no discipline to be found because the coaching is lost.

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