Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers had arguably his best day as a Buckeye in Saturday’s 49-10 win over Rutgers. He posted a career-high 11 tackles, a career-high two tackles for loss, and tied his career high with one interception.
He was part of an OSU defense that held the Rutgers running game to just 107 yards on the ground, which was about 80 yards below the Scarlet Knights’ average. Chambers made plays in the backfield, at the line of scrimmage, down the line of scrimmage, and everywhere in between.
But would he consider this his best outing as a Buckeye?
“I think that was one of them,” Chambers said after the game.
What made his playmaking possible?
“Just trusting my assignments,” he said. “Really just doing what’s needed for the defense, and then the coaches put us in some spots to make plays.”
Chaos Is A Ladder
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles brought over his defensive scheme from Oklahoma State. The Buckeyes picked up the defense quickly in the offseason, which was helped by Knowles bringing over some reinforcements with him, like graduate assistant Koy McFarland who works with the linebackers.
The defense has been a success to this point, and among the beneficiaries have been Chambers and the linebackers. It doesn’t hurt that Knowles is the Buckeyes’ linebackers coach, which allows the players to go straight to the source when they have questions.
Having a constant direct line to the coordinator was huge for Chambers in becoming a more productive linebacker this season.
“Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah,” Chambers said. “Especially all the stuff in the offseason, getting with Coach Knowles, getting with Koy. And just going over the defense, just understanding how to be a better linebacker in general, just outside the scheme. I think that was really big for me and just getting me to be a better player.”
The work in the offseason allowed him to be more comfortable in a new system, but he’s also a year older and is no longer playing a new position. The experience has helped him on the field, but Chambers also credits the new defensive scheme for putting him in a position to make plays. Including the two tackles for loss he had against Rutgers.
“I think it’s just a mixture of both those things,” he said. “It’s the defense creating chaos upfront with a couple of those calls. I was just really doing my job, so I’ve just got to execute my job and then you see what happens.”
Chambers intercepted a third-quarter pass from quarterback Evan Simon. It was a third down and featured pressure by defensive end Zach Harrison. Harrison hit Simon’s hand as he was throwing, and Chambers came down with the pass at the Rutgers 32-yard line. He then added a 12-yard return before being tackled by Simon at the 20-yard line.
What did Chambers see on the play?
“I saw a bat. I caught it, kind of caught it by a tip, just felt really weird,” he explained. “So that’s what really messed me up at first, and then after that I just ran, then got tackled.”
Chambers lamented his return. Like all defenders, he wanted a pick six. Instead, he was brought down by the quarterback, which his teammates reminded him of when he made it back to the sideline.
“I got made fun of a lot because, I mean, that was kind of my position. My whole job a couple years was to make people miss, and I couldn’t make the quarterback miss,” the former Buckeye running back said. “It felt terrible. I didn’t know what to do afterwards. I haven’t had the ball in my hand in like two-and-a-half years or something. So I just kind of ran to the sideline and ended up getting tackled by the quarterback. But it is what it is, at least I caught it. But I didn’t do too good after the catch.”
The best way for a defense to remain hungry is to focus on the bite that never quite happened. Steele Chambers had the best game of his career, but when he looked back on this game, he was shaking his head at the one that got away.
The next time a pass comes his way, you can expect him to be ready.
No matter who the quarterback is.