Over the offseason, Ohio State implemented a brand new defensive scheme, which included the addition of the hybrid linebacker/safety position known as the Bullet.
In the spring, it was clear that Brendon White and Jahsen Wint were the new Bullets taking on the responsibilities of this position. From play to play, they could line up at an outside linebacker spot or in the slot, or fall back into a deep safety position. Buckeye teammates expressed how well both White and Wint were performing their new duties.
But against Cincinnati last Saturday, it was junior linebacker Pete Werner moving all over the field. Werner, who has traditionally played as the Sam linebacker, was roving all over the place, seemingly doing everything people expected the Bullets to do.
At times in the game, Werner was back as a deep safety, replacing senior safety Jordan Fuller as he ran to another part of the field.
Seeing Werner in deep coverage situations came as a surprise to many, but co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley sees Werner as a guy who can play a number of different roles.
“He’s athletic. He’s way more athletic than anybody gives him credit for,” Hafley said. “So that gives us a little bit of a weapon that he can move around and do things that you or people don’t think that he can do. Right? So Pete’s an athletic guy. I mean, he can play a lot of different spots. So it’s fun to have him out there. You can do different things.”
Despite some who might raise an eyebrow or two, Hafley is completely confident in having Werner in that spot.
“If there was risk, I don’t think we’d run it,” he said. “So I think we feel pretty confident in Pete doing that.”
Although his role varies and will probably continue to change based on the matchups, the coaching staff clearly trusts Werner to make plays wherever he is on the field. And that trust goes both ways.
Werner admitted to having some trepidation about what his role would be this year with the addition of the Bullet, but his trust in the coaches made this an easy transition. He never questioned his playing time or how he would fit into this defense, and he never feared that a Bullet on the field would take away from his own opportunities.
“I just know that I trusted my coaches, they would put me in the best ability to make me play as well as I could. So I kind of trusted in them. But I didn’t really know anything about the scheme,” Werner said. “I was just knowing I was going to go out there and try to impress coaches and do my thing. So yeah, as far as Bullet, I didn’t really know anything about the Bullet at that point. I knew that I was going to give it my all and show my capabilities.”
Ohio State’s new scheme has worked tremendously well so far this season. Players are rallying to the football and they are feeding off of each other’s energy. This defense has found a comfort level early on, and for Werner that is especially true.
“I think it fits me better,” he said of his role this year. “I think it fits me personally, like as my position, my athletic ability better. And I feel like having a whole year under my belt last year, I feel like I’m personally better. You know, my footwork’s better. My eyes are better. And I feel like with this position, you need your footwork, you need your eyes, and that’ll help you out a bunch. So I feel like yeah, just my athletic ability kind of leads me to doing well at this position.”