September 18, 2012

Week 3: Evaluating the Buckeyes' defense

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Each week at Buckeye Grove, we'll examine the current state of the Ohio State position groups, with insight from Buckeyes' players and coaches.

Earlier today, we took a look at the Ohio State offense, which put up 35 points against 2011's top Pac-12 defense. Now, we'll examine the OSU defense, which is facing more questions than it was expecting to entering its final game before Big Ten play begins.

Defensive Line

After being the subject of criticism in the days leading up to Saturday's game due to the mere three sacks that it recorded in the Buckeyes' first two games, the OSU defense tripled its sack total on the season, sacking Cal quarterback Zach Maynard six times, with three of those sacks coming from the defensive line. Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel, and John Simon all recorded their first sacks of the season, with Meyer commending the efforts of the latter, who played through the game despite an injured shoulder.

"He maybe didn't play as well as he could have played because he was injured," Meyer said of Simon. "He was in excruciating pain to the point where I saw him on the field and he won it."

The Buckeyes' line also got a boost from the return of Nathan Williams, who after playing in the season-opener missed OSU's game against Central, but still managed to play the majority of the Buckeyes' snaps at strong-side defensive end on Saturday. While happy to be back out of the field, Williams was far from satisfied with the defense's effort, which yielded 512 yards to the Bears.

"Cal mixed it up and gave us a lot of looks. We executed as well as we could have, but we do have to improve a lot," Williams said. "Our defense is disappointed in our effort. We're going to try to get it corrected. It won't happen again next week."


If the OSU defensive line took the brunt of last week's criticism, then the Buckeyes' linebackers can expect the majority of this week's. Although Ryan Shazier played well with a 13-tackle effort that earned him a 'champion performance' acknowledgment from Meyer, OSU's tackling- or lack thereof- was a major topic of conversation in Meyer's Monday press conference.

"That is the most alarming thing. I can't remember Ohio State defense- I've watched them for a long time, and I can't remember the defense I've been around that's given up this many (big plays)," Meyer said. "We've got to stop or we'll lose the game."

A senior captain, outside linebacker Etienne Sabino acknowledged that the OSU players are also concerned about their failure to bring ball-carriers to the ground on a consistent basis.

"We have to get better at tackling," Sabino said. "At the same time you need to give Cal credit, they are a good football team."

Defensive Backs

In fairness to the Ohio State linebackers, they weren't the only ones who had problems when it came to tackling on Saturday. The OSU secondary also gave up some big plays- including one that prevented safety Christian Bryant from grading out with his second champion performance of the season.

"Can't afford those type of mistakes late during the stretch like that," Bryant said. "It's just something I can learn from."

On a positive note, the OSU cornerbacks put together a solid game for the third consecutive week, with Bradley Roby earning a champion performance grade for his nine-tackle, two-pass breakup, one-sack, performance. The redshirt sophomore's first sack of the season came on a blindside blitz, which Maynard never stood a chance against.

"I wish I could've gotten the ball out. It was a big play for our team," Roby said "That's what I want to do. I just want to make big plays for my team."


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