How Much Have Ohio State’s Defensive Coordinators Looked Back at Last Year?

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Morning Conversational: How Much Have Ohio State’s Defensive Coordinators Looked Back at Last Year?

Ohio State allowed 25.5 points per game last year, which was the most in modern Buckeye history. It topped the old low-water mark of 24.7 points from John Cooper’s 1989 defense.

Eighty percent of last year’s defensive staff is now off to other endeavors and they have been replaced by defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison, and assistants Al Washington and Matt Barnes. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson was the lone holdover.

When new coaches come in, they watch every bit of film they can get on the players they’ll be coaching, and some of what the Buckeyes’ new coaches watched in preparation for this season couldn’t have been pretty.

Despite constantly being near the top of the recruiting rankings, the performances were not matching the expectation. The Ohio State defense allowed big plays by the truckload last year.

When looking over the talent on hand and what he knows about them now, Jeff Hafley was asked what he made of the issues last season given the quality of players he had.

“I try not to think like that, because then I am kind of judging somebody for what they had done without knowing what they were told to do,” he said. “I am not knocking anything that happened because I know those were very good coaches. I gave guys a clean slate, we started the workouts and the mat drills and then we got to some fundamental drills and then we got to spring football. I kind of went from there and am very excited.

“They have done a great job recruiting here, they really have, whether it is a four-star, five-star, three-star, they have got good players and I and very grateful for that. I am excited to coach those guys. I can’t wait for training camp, I am excited to go on vacation too, for my wife’s sake. But I can’t wait for training camp, I can’t get enough of it right now.”

Since the Ohio State defense is going to look different and the players will be asked to do different things this season, there isn’t much sense in focusing on the bad from a year ago.

At least according to Greg Mattison.

“I don’t look at what went wrong, or what people said went wrong with the defense,” he said. “When I came in here, that’s not what I was about. I looked at the positives. You’ve got a secondary that is fast, strong, experienced, you’ve got linebackers that look like D-linemen and run like they’re supposed to run and then you’ve got this defensive line that I was just talking about. I just think a lot of times and people look at that, and they might be young and little things happen because of their youth. And now they’re a year older.

“Again, our thing will be to try and keep it simpler and let them play and not make it too simple, but put it in their hands more. And I’m not saying they didn’t do that before but I’m just saying that’s what we’re going to do. I just look forward to seeing how they keep responding and keep going.”

The coaching circle is a tightly wound beast, and so you’ll be hard-pressed to find one coach dragging another through the mud in public. It does them no good because once that coach is gone, they no longer hold any responsibility on the performances at hand.

For Mattison and Hafley, they are now in control and regardless of what happened a year ago, they expect to put an elite defense on the field this season.

“That’s what we’re expecting. Anything else I’ll be disappointed,” Mattison said.

“From what I’ve seen of how they played when they watched film, from what I’ve seen of them condition and working in the weight room and from what I’ve seen this summer working out it can’t be any higher.”

5 Responses

  1. I really couldn’t care less who the defensive staff puts on the field to start the season. I just hope the staff is watching with a critical eye at the results and what the game films from the prior weeks are telling them rather than relying on a pre season perception.

    Tuf Borland took a ton of heat last year, and I suspect his brother came to loathe coming to the forum to share his articles, which were appreciated and pretty well done. My beef with Tuf wasn’t necessarily his on the field play, which if he is honest with himself, just wasn’t anywhere near an elite level because of his “injury”. My beef with Tuf was that he simply DIDN’T show leadership skills and pull himself out of the lineup until he really was demonstrably ready to go. Pete Werner spent as much time playing with his danged gloves as he did being completely wiped out of plays by so so blocks because he simply didn’t have the strength or the technique for this level of football. Al Washington doesn’t like flawed technique, so if Pete comes in to open the season, both of those issues will have been corrected. Bill Davis is safe with plug and play, already proven machines. He stinks to hell and back at developing the mechanisms that make a proven machines. That’s just a fact, and 99.9% of people watching the catastrophic nose dive of Ohio State’s linebackers in 2017 and 2018 know it. Is just over half a year going to be enough time for Coach Washington to RE teach fundamental linebacking? I guess we’ll see. But you can’t escape the simple truth that weak linebacker play will always be the central problem with a defense that gets eviscerated over and over and seemingly over with huge plays. If the body (linebackers) are weak, the head and legs will follow it to the mat.

    Greg Schiano is a good coach. Yep, he really is. The problem is that at this level of football competing for National titles, GOOD isn’t good enough. A DC or an OC have to be elite.

    I’m personally optimistic that we’re about to see over 2 years of frustration molded into a beast of a defense to compliment a great offense. Anything less is a failure of coaching. There’s just ZERO question that the talent is on the roster.

  2. Atlbuck is right on. The defensive staff wasn’t eviscerated because their product was awesome. As an aside, I’d love to know what the new coaches REALLY think about last year’s staff, rather than the politically correct versions. In the end they probably thought very little about it and just know they have been hired to do better.

  3. I know the game has changed drastically over the years, but does anyone remember the days when teams just did not move the ball on the Silver Bullet defense? And no one ever ran on that defense. Hopefully they can get back to flying around and creating chaos which equates to turnovers.

  4. Top notch talent is not an issue, fundamentals were. Just a basic fundamental D will be a huge improvement over last season. There was no reason at all that last year’s D gave up record setting O plays. As awe full as those stats look, take away Purdue and Maryland and the D statistically did rather well. The other underlying question is can our D step up for 3-4 consecutive drives when OSU tends to turn the game around or put the game out of reach; see last year’s TCU, PSU, MI, NE and others.

  5. Clearly the new defensive coaches were hired to improve the results on defense. They have a plan to do that. Hope it works out well. All Buckeye fans are rooting for that to happen.

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