What is Urban Meyer Seeing From the Buckeye Linebackers?

Pete Werner Ohio State Football Buckeyes

The Ohio State linebackers have been under fire from offenses and outsiders for the past two seasons.

“Why are they so close to the line of scrimmage,” people ask. “If they weren’t so close, they would be able to make more plays.”

Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano heard those criticisms, but likely only from his head coach.

Over the past two games, the Buckeye linebackers haven’t been asked to play up on the line of scrimmage as much as they were before. The results haven’t really been any different defensively, as the OSU defense allowed 42 points to Purdue and 31 to Nebraska.

Missed tackles continue to be an issue as well.

There is a bit of irony in the fact that the Buckeye linebackers have been the healthiest part of the Ohio State defense this season, and yet arguably the most inconsistent as well. The defensive line has missed starters for most of the season, and the secondary has been a mix-and-match M.A.S.H. unit for the last month.

“I thought our defense improved,” Urban Meyer said after the Nebraska win. “Obviously nowhere near we need to be, but they improved. We’re still stop-gapping. That means the lineups continuously keep changing because of injuries. But I think we should have everybody back next week if we don’t get a guy hurt in practice.”

The mention of stop-gapping may be why the Buckeyes aren’t willing to try new faces at linebacker. Perhaps the staff wants to keep things as stable as possible there and then the rest of the defense will come together around them.

And maybe the best options are currently playing right now.

Or maybe they’re just not being coached well enough to be a strength of the team.

“I see improvement,” Meyer said of the linebackers on Monday. “I see a group that was all four — three new starters. Tuf [Borland] was a returning guy, but Baron [Browning] playing and Malik [Harrison] full-time starter, and Pete Werner a first-time starter. So I’m seeing improvement, but we still have far too many missed tackles. We had six or seven tackles for losses that we missed. So that’s what I’ve seen.”

It is okay to question if Ohio State’s three best options are being put out on the field at linebacker. If players are being put in a position to make plays and they aren’t making them, then it isn’t crazy to ask if somebody else should be playing.

Are there any Brendon Whites at linebacker, for instance?

While very little has changed at linebacker for the Buckeyes — they continue to roll through the four players Meyer already mentioned, and last week fifth-year senior Dante Booker was added as well — Meyer says that they are always talking about personnel and making sure the best players are on the field.

“That’s constant conversation,” he said. “The missed tackles was the alarming thing this weekend. We’ll put the best players out there that we think can help us win the game.”

Based on two consecutive seasons of inconsistent play, however, the question becomes whether or not changes would even matter.

11 Responses

  1. I haven’t seen any LB’s do much. Nothing like White flashed, anyway. Werner is not slow but he is young. I think he will be good. I wish Hilliard was given more playing time because I think he is more of a see the ball land destroy kind of player, who is physically gifted. It seems like they may be thinking more than reacting. I disagree with some of the above though as
    I did see improvement against Nebraska, however.

  2. Of course the LBs are healthy they don’t hit anything. Oh, but they practice exquisitely.

  3. LBs are too cautious and play like theyre afraid of making mistakes. When is the last time you saw one of our LBs diagnose the play shoot the gap and attack the ball? You see it regularly when you watch other teams with top Ds. Our LBs are constantly chasing the play from behind or if they do meet the RB at the line they either get trucked or just whiff on the tackle. How does Borland grade a champion this week?? Common denominator last two years Bill Davis another one of urbans buddies. Too late in the season for this to be fixed without major personnel changes which urban wont do. Pull out the pepto and cross your fingers because its going to be a bumpy ride.

  4. They need to change out all the linebackers. They might be okay on certain defensive packages but they are slow, miss tackles and out of place.

  5. There’s a key to this mystery. Linebackers playing too close to the line……missing tackles. Linebackers playing back in a basic alignment…..missing tackles! BUT THEY”RE THE HEALTHIEST POSITION GROUP.

    UM, they’re healthy for 1 of 2 reason. 1. They are flying around making plays all over the field. 2. THEY CAN’T PLAY THE GAME OF FOOTBALL.

    This shit isn’t freaking rocket science. Put someone else in and just let them play football. Keep that idiot Bill Davis the hell away from them because he’s as incompetent as they come. FIRE him and Schiano and keep them hundreds of miles away from the Buckeye roster before they ruin every player on the entire defense with their clown show exotic BS.

    Turn Mitchell, Pope and Gant loose to play since it’s apparent that they have already crossed Keandre’ Jones and Justin Hilliard off of their list of players.

    ANYTHING is better than the nothing the current 3 starters have produced to date. We didn’t have million dollar “geniuses” teaching us to play the positions. They were just blue collar workers who instructed base fundamentals and adjustments based on motion (if any) and occasionally stunts and switch coverages. Just enough to make the QB have to read and reread OUR plays, with just little movements to force the OLine to have to guess where we would be in gap assignments. Linebacker is a SIMPLE FREAKING POSITION. SEE BALL, GET BALL. The Buckeyes linebackers have no clue how to use their hands to get off blocks, and why should they……….The CHIEF genius of the defense thinks it’s the linebackers job to keep offensive linemen off the defensive line!!!………..!!!…..wait……….:O. What freaking rock are Davis and Schiano living under, and why the hell isn’t LJ kicking the shit out of the 2 idiots?

  6. So long as Borland and Werner are starting at LB we are not serious about having a good defense… can you imagine us playing Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, or Notre Dame with those two out there? You can add michigan to that list as well but unfortunately you don’t have to imagine because we are going to get to see that first hand.

    Its odd. It has to be some serious politics.

  7. Urban has to wake up and realize that a lot of this inconsistent play is on the coaches. Schiano needs to be replaced. He keeps talking about things being fixable, but where are the fixes? This defense has lost it’s aggressiveness and seems to play scared more often than not. Turn these guys loose and let them attack more, change schemes to fit the players strengths, try some of the younger players who have shown potential, but DO SOMETHING POSITIVE NOW or both MSU and Michigan will beat you!!

  8. Absolutely agree with Doug. Excellent points

  9. What about this ‘White’ kid starting at LB for a change? He was a ball hawk on Saturday, the way that guys like James L. Bobby C. Shazier, Lee, Baker and the list goes on used to attack and hit hard. Small, yes, fast, yeseree, hitter, Oh Yeah, understands the game, “Yeah Baby!” Don’t believe the issue is our LB’s but a guy by the name of Luke F. who’s now SW in Cinnci, and having a competent replacement. OSU LB’s are all highly recruited 4 and 5 stars that now look like MAC Conference has beens.

  10. I don’t know what UM sees but Werner and Borland are slow and can’t tackle well so give the young linebackers a shot at it,these next 3 teams can’t wait to go against this bad defense,you will see starting Saturday at high noon!

  11. Tony, thanks for writing about our LB issues, which–as you’ve rightly said before–is not the only problem with the defense. However, I certainly would call it the biggest single culprit. I’m not sure I would use the word “inconsistent,” though. In fact, I prefer substituting “ineffective” for each of your uses of “inconsistent.” Your final sentence is a point well taken: maybe changes in personnel wouldn’t be a fix-all, at this point. However, it can help us maximize the position. For my 2 cents, I have no idea why the coaches are so in love with Tuf Borland (at least while he’s on the field). He’s almost always getting stuffed by an offensive lineman, shooting the wrong gap, or just not finding his way to the ball carrier. When he does find his way to the ball, he looks outmatched and ends up doing nothing but dragging the ball carrier for 5 yards downfield. Whenever the ball is moving in open space, he’s way too slow to have any hope of getting there. He may have been a great H.S. LB, but he’s just not cut out for D-I LBing. I wish I were wrong, but I’m not. He needs to be off the field AMAP. Booker’s limited role is a mystery. He was excellent when not hurt, and he found his way to being a starter when we had better LBing corps of the past. Play the guy. Let’s see what he can do. Browning has shown flashes of brilliance this season. I’d rather have occasional brilliance than outright inefficiency. With more experience, he will get better, and thus be less inconsistent. Play the guy. Malik Harrison also has flashed signs of brilliance, when not hurt. Play the guy, and he will move toward being more consistent. But for heaven’s sake, let’s not put ANY of these LBs on slot receivers; they’re getting burned like a national forest.

Comments are closed.