Urban Meyer has established a mentality at Ohio State of four-to-six seconds of relentless effort and getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. It should be no surprise, then, that he went out and hired a defensive coordinator who runs a system called the “Speed D.”
Alex Grinch doesn’t remember exactly where the Speed D name came from, but the need for the idea was born from his three years as the defensive coordinator at Washington State. The Cougars weren’t able to land elite prototypes on defense, so Grinch focused on recruiting speed, because speed has always been an equalizer.
Along with speed went effort, and both were non-negotiable. Grinch then used these resources to put an attacking defense on the field. In his defense, the back seven attacks and the front four does a bunch of pre-snap movement to confuse the offensive line.
The Buckeyes likely won’t need to do much of the pre-snap stuff, but the aggressive nature that Grinch prefers is going to fit right in.
“It’s a style of play. It’s not a call,” Grinch said. “It’s a brand of football back at my last place that we tried to attach to ourselves. It was playing an aggressive style. We used the term ‘downhill.’ Try to get as many guys in the backfield, whether it’s a blitz or not, as you possibly can. When you turn on the film there, that style of play is evident. There’s more commonalities than differences. The huddle call comes in differently and all of those things, and the personnel is different, but there’s a brand.”
Now that Grinch is at Ohio State, the personnel will really be different. He will have at his disposal the types of players that he wasn’t able to land at Washington State, and his desire for aggression will be met with knowing nods from the rest of the coaching staff.
The most important factor in being a great defense, however, is the ability to defend any kind of offense. A defense can’t always attack at 100 miles per hour. They need to change the speeds up between pitches or else everything begins to look familiar.
Last season, the Buckeyes played a base 4-3 defense, but there were plenty of times where they played five defensive linemen. There were also times where they were in a nickel. Down and distance always plays a factor, as does opponent. Grinch is accustomed to having to call a game with a ton of moving parts on the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s important to always call a variety but have the ability to mix it up,” he said. “Certain programs lend itself to mixing it up maybe more than others, based on personnel. I think that’s kind of where you start. We structured a 3-4 in my time at Washington State, but it was probably more 60/40 in terms of being in a four-man front. Probably more similarities than differences as you go through the scheme itself between the things in my past and the things we do here.”
Even though Grinch is considered a young coach, he has been in football for most of his life, and he has seen plenty of differing defensive attacks. As the secondary coach at Missouri, he saw one approach. At Washington State, he went with another. And with all of the defenses that he has played on, seen, and coached, there is always a common denominator, and that is exactly what made him such a good fit at Ohio State.
“The best defenses in the country, regardless if you’re 3-4, 4-3, high-pressure packages, or whatever coverages you want to attach in the back end, the best and the consistent thing you see on film is style of play,” he said.
“And it’s guys playing fast, it’s guys playing aggressive. It’s getting after the football and making sure that you’re disruptive in the backfield. Some places may have to bring more bodies to get some of those things done. But like I said, probably more commonalities than differences in terms of that style, or at least the style in which we attempted to play.”