Morning Conversational: Where Has the Ohio State Defense Made Its Biggest Improvement?
There are changes going on at every level of the Ohio State defense.
The defensive line is bypassing the slanting and east-west approach for a north-south attack of the football. The linebackers have fewer programming notes and a new position lining up next to them. The secondary is variable, as the corners will mix in different coverages and the safeties will line up all over the place depending on the down and distance.
Something had to change based on the struggles last season, and so almost nothing has remained the same. There was a lot to learn this spring for the Buckeyes and new coaches to learn it from, and where they made their biggest improvements throughout the spring is exactly where you’d want them to get better.
“Confidence,” said co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. “I think if you look, I wanted them to play confident and I wanted them to have fun. Yeah, we have got to work hard, we do, and they are going to work hard. We had to get better fundamentally, and I think that we did.”
Last season, even deep in the year, the defense wasn’t as fast as it could have been. Part of that was perhaps due to a lack of confidence in knowing exactly where to be. This spring, as players gained a better grasp on a new defensive scheme, their reaction times got better.
It is still early, but this is the path the coaches want to be on.
“Schematically, they had to learn what we were doing,” Hafley said. “We didn’t do a lot. We have to walk before we can learn to run, but then I wanted them to play together. To be confident. And to have fun doing it. Towards the end, you saw that. I think if you ask some of the guys, they will tell you that.”
Hafley stresses that players have fun, especially in the offseason. Football is too much of a grind if players aren’t having a good time doing it. Knowing how to do what is being asked of you makes the game a lot more fun than the alternative.
“It is still a game and those guys have got to have fun,” Hafley said. “When they are doing that, with the technique and ability, and do it together, we are going to be pretty good.”