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Eighty percent of last year’s defensive staff is now off to other endeavors and they have been replaced by defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison, and assistants Al Washington and Matt Barnes.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.”