September 28, 2010

Defense moves on as Big Ten season arrives

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio State defense finds itself in a familiar position going into the start of Big Ten in most of the statistical categories. The junior and senior led defense is 5th in Rushing Defense, 14th in Passing Efficiency Defense and 5th in Total Defense.

One stat is a little bit higher however than the Buckeyes are used to and that is the Scoring Defense. So far Ohio State has given up as 14.5 points a game and that only checks in at 19th in the nation. Granted, 21 of those points should not be hung on the defense after special team gaffes led directly to those three touchdowns.

Deducting those points would have the Buckeyes only allowing 37 points as a unit which is a pretty good stat until you realize that the Buckeyes gave up 20 of those against Eastern Michigan last week.

"Obviously you are never excited about it when someone scores against you but Eastern Michigan has some great athlete and some great players and they were going to make some plays," Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon said. "They did and it is how we handle that adversity. We watched the film and saw some of the things that we did wrong and we are going to try to correct them."

The Bucks have not been exactly lighting it up when it comes to sacks (T-91st) and tackles for loss (T-88th) but is that a true indication of where the defense is at or is it more of a result of what has been called upon the unit and more importantly how teams have been trying to attack the Buckeyes?

"I think statistically our defense is pretty good," head coach Jim Tressel said during his weekly address of the local media. "I mean, I don't have it in front of me. I don't see a whole bunch of missed assignments or those kinds of things. Sacks don't grow on trees. Some people leave extra people in to chip you or whatever when someone's trying to block you, someone's on you and they're chipping you as well."

On a player standpoint however there is still that desire to get in there and make the special play. Each member of the defensive line knows however that is anyone plays out of their assignment that things can go downhill in a hurry but that doesn't mean that each and every one of them wants to see more momentum changing plays out of the unit.

"I think we are doing well but we are never satisfied but we are getting better every week," Simon said. "Just anything we can do to help the team with guys like Dexter Larimore, Cameron Heyward and Nathan Williams and all our second guys in there in the mix making plays, I think it helps out the defense a lot."

But there are no complaints from the head coach when it comes to the overall position that the defense has put the team in.

"There might be a play that we're disappointed with that play," Tressel said. "But overall, I think our defense has prepared hard, played well, come up with a lot of takeaways for us."

Road Warriors

Saturday's game at Illinois will be the first time that the Buckeyes have opened the Big Ten schedule on the road since the 2004 season. The outcome of that game was less than favorable for the Buckeyes dropping a 33-27 overtime decision to Northwestern. That game also launched the Buckeyes into a three game league losing streak with losses coming to Wisconsin and Iowa.

But the past is the past and there is still a great deal of excitement among the team to get on the road and play in front of hostile crowds. None of the current starters (outside of Devin Barclay) were even in high school in 2004 and history is just something that stays in the past.

While that 2004 history may not play a factor something that will is the fact that the Buckeyes and Illini have played each other tough in the past generation. The Buckeyes lead the overall series by a wide margin at 62-30-4 but what happens when you look at a much more recent snapshot of history?

"We've played them many times in our guys' lifetimes and the record is 10-9," Tressel said. "So in our guys' lifetime, they've known full well that the Ohio State-Illinois game is a big deal and there have been battles and they know we're heading on the road. They know we have to get to work (Tuesday) afternoon to prepare."

The Las Vegas odds makers have decided that the Buckeyes are a 17 point road favorite going into this game. Last year Ohio State was a 12 point road favorite going into West Lafayette (Ind.) to take on Purdue and dropped and ugly game (from a Buckeye perspective) to the Boilermakers.

"We won't talk about Purdue," Tressel answered when asked about if Purdue would be used as any sort of reminder or rallying cry. "You would hope those that boarded a bus and headed to the airport to do that would still have the understanding very deep in their sole that you better be prepared when you're on the road, but our focus will be simply on here's what we think Illinois' going to do, they've had two weeks to prepare some other things, you're going to have some adversity, you're not going to have that crowd there to help you through it, so you better play as well or better than you've ever played this year if you want to be successful."

Futbol or Football?

Ohio State kicker Devin Barclay has seen it all during his athletic career. The former MLS soccer player had the chance to travel and play in Europe during his soccer days, play across the United States with four different teams and now he is the main place kicker for the No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

That is not bad for a player who turned 27 this year and is enjoying his last season of college football. It was a long and winding path for Barclay and not one that he ever imagined that would happen.

"Never in the back of mind when I was playing soccer did I think I was going to kick field goals," Barclay said. "I don't think any soccer player thinks that but it just so happened that one thing led to another and here I am.

Often there are field goal kickers that have been described as being a soccer style kicker as opposed to the straight-ahead style of kicking. The soccer style is much more prevalent in the game of American Football but that doesn't mean that there are just a bunch of former soccer players rushing over to try and for their local football teams and excel.

"I think you have to have a certain base because I think there are certain types of soccer players that are more inclined to be good at kicking field goals," Barclay added. "You have to be a good striker of the ball, you have to know how to hit the ball. There are guys that are good at dribbling but they don't necessarily know how to hit the ball right. I think it just depends on what kind of soccer player that you are."

Injury Updates

Travis Howard - Should be back

Dorian Bell - Should be back

Jake Stoneburner - Team should know more this week about how his rolled ankle is holding up.

Chimdi Chekwa - Dealt with back spasms last week but should be ready to go.

Nate Oliver - Sounds questionable coming off of a hamstring injury.


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