Jim Knowles Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive Coordinator

Defensively Speaking: Better Not Best

Ohio State’s defensive performance against Youngstown State was a little shaky at times. This was particularly true against the run in the first half. Let’s take a deeper look at what Jim Knowles’ defense looked like in Week 2.

More often than not, Ohio State stuck with their favorite coverage scheme – Cover 1 Rat – on Saturday. See an example below:

Everyone in the above clip is in man coverage except for Mike LB Tommy Eichenberg in the low hole and Field Safety Ja’Had Carter as the high safety.

Generally speaking, Ohio State did well defending Youngstown State’s passing attack, with the exception of one play early in the game that led to Youngstown State’s only touchdown (below):

It appeared as if Ohio State may have been in brackets coverage on this play, and there was some sort of bust/miscommunication. See a diagram of brackets coverage below:

However, aside from this lone play, Ohio State did not have any notable struggles against the pass.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing I saw on Saturday was the fact that this was the most creative Knowles has been with his pressure calls since the 2022 opener against Notre Dame. Knowles brought back a few pressure schemes that we saw last season, such as the Triple A-gap blitz:

He also called for arguably his favorite pressure scheme of 2022 – a blitz that sends the LB to Nose Tackle’s side through the A-gap while having the Nose Tackle Stunt to the opposite A-gap:

Furthermore, he called for a C-pick sim pressure a few different times throughout the day:

In a C-pick sim pressure, the Mike LB (Eichenberg) is reading the center. If the center steps towards the Mike (as he did in the above clip), the Mike will fight over top of the center to the opposite A-gap, and the Will LB (Steele Chambers) will work off the center’s backside to the other A-gap that was vacated by the Mike LB.

Behind the pressure, Knowles used a Cover 1 scheme with both DE’s dropping as underneath rats.

However, Knowles showed some new pressure schemes too. On the very first play of the game, Knowles called for what appeared to be a Cover 1 C-gap creeper with the Nickel (Sonny Styles) as the 4th rusher:

Furthermore, we saw a pressure scheme that sent the Boundary Safety (Lathan Ransom) through the B-gap:

Lastly, Ohio State got home for a sack on a pressure that sent both the Mike LB and the Nickel off the same edge:

While the pass defense and the variety of pressure calls were both positives, Ohio State had some issues defending the run. The first example of this came against Youngstown State’s first touchdown of the day, where they ran a Zone Read but Ohio State had no one there for the Quarterback:

One of the most common issues against the run throughout the day was that Ohio State would play to spill (meaning they would be trying to force the run to bounce outside to free hitters), but there would be no one there on the outside to make the tackle. See below for an example:

As you can see in the above clip, Ohio State’s defensive line uses a “Pinch” stunt (meaning every defensive lineman is stunting to next gap inside) against Split Zone to force the ball-carrier to bounce outside, but Chambers got pinned inside and Denzel Burke missed a tackle.

Similarly, in this next clip, Ohio State again runs a “Pinch” stunt (this time combined with a Boundary Cornerback blitz) against Split Zone, and again there was nobody there to meet the Running Back after he bounced to the outside:

However, Ohio State did get better against the run as the game went on, such as on this next play against Split Zone:

And in the next clip, Ohio State does a good job maintaining their gaps and stuffing Youngstown State’s Zone Insert play:

I do not think the defense had a bad game on Saturday. There were some mental mistakes, but I believe they are all correctable. We should get a better look at Ohio State’s pass defense against Western Kentucky this week.

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