September 3, 2012

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 performed well in its first game under head coach Urban Meyer. Now, we'll take a look at the state of the Buckeyes' defense, following its dominating performance against the Miami (OH) RedHawks.

Defensive Line

With all of the preseason hype surrounding the blue chip defensive linemen that Meyer made a part of his first OSU recruiting class, at least two new Buckeyes showed signs that they can live up to the hype on Saturday. Both Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington recorded sacks in their Buckeye debuts, and were joined at times on the line by freshman defensive tackle Tommy Schutt.

"That's unusual to have three true freshmen defensive linemen play, and they played well," Meyer said.

Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel was forced to do some last minute adjusting before the game as starting strong-side defensive end Michael Bennett re-aggravated a groin injury in warmups, leaving J.T. Moore to start in his place, with Nathan Williams also playing about 30 snaps on Saturday.

"You look at having a game plan and you have a lineup and then things change in warmups, guys get hurt and really can't can't go," Vrabel said. "We worked Nathan out before the game and he showed us enough that we were comfortable putting him in there."


Facing a Miami offense that attempted 54 passes on Saturday, the Buckeyes often dropped eight players on defense into coverage- including linebackers Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier. Both linebackers in the nickel package responded, with Shazier leading the team with eight tackles and one pass break up, and Sabino registering five tackles of his own.

"I felt like I played well, but I can do a lot better," Shazier said. "There are little things I can work on like my coverage, but I feel I had a decent game and I will continue to get better."

The OSU linebackers could face a bigger test defending the run on Saturday, when Central Florida will bring a more balanced offensive attack to Ohio Stadium, with Miami (Fla.) Storm Johnson expected to take the reins at running back with Latavius Murray expected to miss the game with a shoulder injury. Shazier, however, is confident that the work the Buckeyes put in during the offseason has properly prepared them to face any sort of team.

"We went through one of the hardest training camps in the nation," Shazier said. "When we transfer that to the field we can really be great."

Defensive Backs

If one unit starred more than any other on the Buckeyes' roster on Saturday, perhaps it was the secondary. Three members of the unit- Christian Bryant, Travis Howard, and Bradley Roby were named the Meyer's 'Champions Club' thanks to their efforts on Saturday, with Roby being named the team's defensive player of the week.

"What we do on the defensive backs is how many opportunities you have to make a play, and he had an incredible amount, 30 opportunities to make a play," Meyer explained. "In that kind of game where they throw all over the place, he was 25 of 30 for 83 percent."

In addition to his efforts on the defensive side of the ball- which included five tackles and three pass breakups, Roby made his presence felt on special teams for the Buckeyes. After a ball was hiked over the head of Miami punter Zac Murphy, it was Roby who came up with the ball in the end zone to record the first special teams touchdown of the Meyer era at Ohio State.

"I rushed the punter, heard the crowd and figured something had happened. I saw the ball and just went for it," Roby said. "I felt the ball and muscled it away from the others. I don't know if it was my teammates or not, but I just wanted the ball."


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