Jim Knowles Press Conference

Jim Knowles Sees Buckeye Defense Taking Shape

COLUMBUS — Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with reporters on Tuesday to preview the Buckeyes’ season-opening game at Indiana. He discussed the health of his defense, the depth chart, plans for playing time, and a ton of other items. The highlights of everything he had to say can be found below.

  • Malik Hartford is smart. Has football intelligence. A safety who can play as a freshman is rare. They have an understanding of the game. It jumps out at you.
  • You’ll probably see all of Ja’Had Carter, Josh Proctor, and Malik Hartford at the adjuster. Proctor has great closing speed and is a factor in run support. Carter has played a lot of football. He’s coachable.
  • Kenyatta Jackson started shining in the spring. The more opportunity he gets, you don’t have to be a coach to see him jump off the field.
  • Tommy Eichenberg can relate what play is happening in front of him to how the defense works. He knows where the escape hatch is for the ball carrier and he gets there. They are looking for some improvements in his pass defense to make him a more complete player. “I think he’s the best in the country.”
  • The more somebody understands the complete system, rather than just an individual part, the faster they can play.
  • Jack Sawyer has a better understanding of the defense now after being moved around a little bit last year. They know he needs to be attacking at defensive end right now.
  • Defensive tackle has a whole grouping of guys that can play. “I think we’re really solid.” Tyleik Williams is really athletic. He’s back. Mike Hall “is gonna be really hard to handle.” Have to keep him healthy. Ty Hamilton is a guy that you want on the front line. A stalwart who will take two blockers. Don’t sleep on Jaden McKenzie. Hero Kanu has really shined in camp.
  • Rotating up front is its own entity. “We’re not looking for any of those guys to get a lot of reps.” They want the defensive line to all be fresh and attacking in the fourth quarter. At linebacker, Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers have to play the majority of plays, but Cody Simon and CJ Hicks will both play.
  • Tyleik Williams’s next step is consistency. He’s tremendously athleticism. They just need consistency. All the time, every play.
  • New IU defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri is like a son or little brother to him. “He’s a team guy first.” He’ll operate within the system that IU has.
  • One of the reasons they moved Arvell Reese to defensive end is because he’s a guy who plays fast and pursues the ball. Plays with some reckless abandon. As a freshman, you just look for ways to get him on the field because he’s shown that.
  • How do you stop the big plays this year? “I’m ever evolving. I want to be.” There are sleepless nights trying to be better. In the matchup games last year, they didn’t do what they needed to do. So how do they stay aggressive, but eliminate the explosive plays? That’s what they have spent time working on and evolving.
  • They expect a cornerback rotation of Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and Davison Igbinosun. Hancock can also play some nickel, so when that happens, they can move Sonny Styles to a deep safety or a linebacker spot.
  • Kyle McCord went to Jim Knowles’ high school. He’s a cool, level-headed guy. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Strong arm. “I always look at him as that calm, collected, composed…” He gives everybody confidence.
  • All three free safeties can play. “Let’s go out and see what you’re made of.” Is that a concern? “Yes.” When you don’t have one particular guy that “hey, this is our dude,” there is always angst. “There’s something to that.”
  • It’s a blend of finding time for the younger guys like CJ Hicks and Malik Hartford, versus the veterans who know exactly what they’re doing. You can’t be hard one way or the other. You have to blend it to find the best option.

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