What Does Greg Mattison Bring?
For several reasons, Ryan Day raised some eyebrows when he hired Greg Mattison to be one of his two defensive coordinators.
From the outset, Mattison has been paired with Jeff Hafley as the Buckeyes’ coordinators, and they sat down with Larry Johnson back in the winter to start putting their defensive system together.
Two weeks out from the first game of the season, we’ll soon begin finding out how successful those plans ended up being.
But that won’t be the end of the job. Rather, it will be just the beginning. That’s when Mattison’s worth really begins to pay off.
“I think his experience is critical for us,” Day said. “It’s making sure that fundamentally we’re sound. That we fit the runs correctly. That the back end is fitting in with the front end. That we’re pursuing to the ball, and that our fundamentals are really, really strong. And that’s something he’s preached for a long, long time, and he’s done a really good job of that since he’s been here.”
Does Ohio State Even Have a Base Defense?
One of the scheme changes that Greg Mattison brought with him from Michigan is the Bullet position. A hybrid safety/linebacker, it gives the Buckeyes versatility in how they defend an opposing offense.
The position, manned by junior Brendon White, is interchangeable with the Sam linebacker, expected to be manned by junior Pete Werner.
Generally, it will be one or the other on the field, which begs the question of what actually is Ohio State’s base defense.
Is it the defense with the Sam or the defense with the Bullet?
“It could be either,” Mattison said. “That’s the beautiful thing that we have. As we mentioned before, if you played — if you set out, you came out and you said, ‘Okay, we’re going to play our base defense,’ you would say it probably is a Sam. Okay, but with the type of offenses that people give you now, you feel very, very comfortable now having that big fast athlete also. We have a real advantage in that Pete is that kind of guy, also, as a Sam. So that’s really where you’re at.”
Another Role for Chris Olave?
Chris Olave stepped in admirably last season when Terry McLaurin had to move receiver positions to take over for the injured Austin Mack.
Everyone remembers the two touchdown catches against Michigan, but the impact on special teams should not be overlooked.
Olave blocked a punt in that game, which led to a touchdown return for classmate Sevyn Banks.
Now with McLaurin off to a starting job in the NFL, Olave is not only being asked to step up at receiver, but also on special teams. Specifically, as a gunner on punt coverage.
Former Buckeye receiver Devin Smith was outstanding in 2014, prompting then-OSU coach Urban Meyer to call him one of the best he’d ever seen. Last year, Meyer said more of the same about McLaurin, who was outstanding not only in getting to the punt returner, but also downing punts before they reached the end zone.
Before he left, McLaurin pointed at Olave as the guy who could be taking over for him this season. That process is currently underway.
“We’re sure hoping because he can really run,” said special teams coordinator Matt Barnes said. “But it’s an open competition. And that’s something that’s been reinforced by coach Day is how important that position is. I mean, you know, talk about outstanding gunner play. I mean, we epitomized it last year with Terry McLaurin, and those guys do an outstanding job.
“So is that depth chart fixed right now at gunner? No, absolutely not. So we’re still working our way through that. It’s a great challenge for our guys, and an opportunity for somebody to emerge. But you mentioned Chris Olave, I’d sure love it to be him because he can really run.”
And even though the two receivers already mentioned — Devin Smith and Terry McLaurin — were very fast, just as Olave is, it takes more than just speed to be an effective gunner.
“There’s a little bit more to it,” Barnes said. “I’d say that obviously speed is a huge factor. I would say it’s not only how fast do you run, but it’s speed between the ears. It’s a willingness to go get it done and it’s mentality as much as it is speed.”