Defensive Line State of Mind
Every year, the Ohio State defensive line sets goals, and one of those goals is usually to be the best defensive line in school history. That’s always a tall order, but one that shouldn’t be dismissed. Along with lofty goals, each season also sees an Ohio State defensive front that is loaded with talent.
The alchemy involved in turning potential into production is a never-ending process that coaches somehow live for. It’s also a process that is constantly evolving. Betterment as a player used to be confined to the practice field, but that was a long time ago. Now there are motivational tactics used all year long, and not just for football purposes.
For instance, this spring defensive line coach Larry Johnson had his players watch a video called “The Journey” in order to emphasize that they didn’t come this far to only come this far.
“We define what a journey is, it’s to finish. And that’s what we do,” Johnson said. “This is a new journey for these guys. Something they’ve never done before. What a great moment for these guys to continue to stretch the bar and stretch our brand as a defensive line to be the greatest ever. And it’s not just something you say, it’s something you have to chase, to be the greatest ever. And really what a great moment for these guys to have that opportunity.”
What Does Tate Martell Bring?
Buckeye fans have gotten to see glimpses of redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell in the last two spring games. What he has lacked in the passing game, he has made up for in his ability to evade an oncoming defense.
While both Martell and his coaches believe he will be a complete quarterback down the road, Martell knows that his ability to run the ball is what sets him apart at the moment.
“Obviously you’re going to look at the running ability,” he said. “That’s what everybody looks at. I guess it’s just being able to make plays, make people miss, and stuff like that. That’s where I’m at my best. Just adding that element to the game where you’ve got to add an extra guy to guard me when it comes to running the ball, where it takes him out of pass coverage.”
The Buckeyes will be able to use those skills this season, but how much more gets asked of him in 2018 will depend upon how much more he shows he can handle.
Know Your Opponent
Ohio State went through spring ball with three quarterbacks, none of whom are all that similar to each other. Tate Martell is the most explosive runner. Dwayne Haskins is the most explosive passer. And Joe Burrow is probably a happy marriage between the two.
How does the Buckeye defense see the two ends of that spectrum?
“He’s really shifty,” safety Isaiah Pryor said of Martell. “He’s good with the reads, and he’s a good runner, but everybody knows that.”
When Haskins comes in, however, the secondary has to keep their eye on the deep ball.
“Oh for sure,” Pryor said. “When you’re in the post, you just have to make sure you know his targets.”
Playing the Field
With Jordan Fuller’s move from boundary safety to field safety, he is no longer going to be tasked with being the Buckeyes’ centerfielder. Instead, he is now more of a shortstop, where he will be able to use both his range and quickness as he defends slot receivers who come at him much faster than just a routine flyball to the outfield.
Fuller worked in the offseason and the spring to be ready for his new position, and it showed in where he improved as a defender.
“Playing man to man. Definitely,” he said. “This offseason we really focused on it, so that’s what I’ve gotten better at. I’m also developing as a leader.”
In Ohio State’s system, man-to-man defense isn’t an either/or proposition for the players. It’s a must. The entire defense runs on press principles.
“It’s something you gotta do in this defense,” Fuller said. “If we can’t play aggressive and play man to man, then we can’t be as dynamic as a defense. So I take that responsibility on my shoulders and do the best that I can to make that happen.”