Jim Knowles Ohio State Defensive Coordinator

Jim Knowles Talks Secondary Depth, Health Of Defense

COLUMBUS — Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with reporters for his weekly Wednesday chat session. He was asked about the health of starting middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, the improved depth of the secondary, the play of some true freshmen, and much, much more. The highlights of everything Knowles had to say can be found below.

  • When did you know that Jermaine Mathews could help you out this season? There were signs in camp. He competed right away. They put him in situations to test him out and he passed.
  • How has Malik Hartford grown? He has kept his focus. He didn’t let the bad start against Youngstown State get him down. He’s just been focused on learning the game. He’s been practicing well and staying with it.
  • How comfortable are you with the depth of the secondary compared to a year ago? “You just see it out there on the field.” Comfortable or uncomfortable, you’re playing with your guys. But he’s no longer holding his breath that something could go wrong like he was a year ago.
  • What’s your reaction to getting beaten on a trick play like last week? You have to take responsibility. There’s no tipping of the cap, or if you do it, it’s while you’re gnashing your teeth. Then you go back to your teaching. Did you talk about it in practice? Did you have the team prepared? Ultimately you take the blame for it and then fix it.
  • What stands out about this defense inside the 5-yard line? Real confidence. It’s not false confidence. Real confidence comes from practicing it over and over again. “You only play fast if you know what you’re doing.”
  • Was there anything keeping Kye Stokes off the field? He just had some guys in front of him. He’s always been a worker, a positive-attitude guy. His light bulb has come on in the last few weeks. He’s recognizing more plays and how he fits in the defense.
  • How concerned are you about Tommy Eichenberg? “Can’t play without an elbow or forearm.” But he’d play without an arm. He’ll play if they let him play.
  • Sophomore linebacker Gabe Powers is close. He worked his way onto special teams and he’s made plays on kickoff. Now he’s on the travel team and he is doing more and more things right.
  • How do you evaluate the run defense last week given the amount of rushing yards? You look at it play by play. He’s not as concerned with statistics as much as he is with progress.
  • What goes into success with red zone defense other than confidence? It’s just a lot of practice and study. There are only so many plays in football, so you have calls that you like that work.
  • Sonny Styles had a really good game at a high safety. Some may think he looks uncomfortable because he’s a “giant safety back there.” Does it shock you that he should still be a true freshman who is 18 years old? He doesn’t even think about that because he acts like a veteran.
  • How well is Jack Sawyer playing? He is noticeably getting better. There’s a lot of work that has gone into this. He’s controlling blocks. Getting off blocks. Making tackles. Affecting the quarterback.
  • How difficult is it to find guys who can handle the responsibilities of being the nickel? It is difficult to find them and you don’t know if they can actually do it until they put them to the test. It’s a little like having a quarterback who can run. They can get beat up because they’re defending the run, but then on the next play they have to defend a slot receiver.
  • Was Rutgers’ run-game success (7 explosive plays) a product of what Rutgers did or OSU didn’t? Some were bad calls, some were guys getting out of their gaps. Also Rutgers is an improved team. They are physical up front.

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