Jim Knowles

Buckeye Defense Continues To Prepare For Final Tests

COLUMBUS — Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with reporters on Tuesday to answer questions about his defense and their performance against Michigan State. He also discussed this weekend’s upcoming matchup against Minnesota and answered a number of questions about specific players. The highlights of everything Knowles had to say can be found below.

  • If Mike Hall can’t go, who steps up? Hero Kanu has made a lot of progress. He made a big play last week. Jaden McKenzie has a lot of experience too.
  • What makes Sonny Styles strong at Bandit? Does he give you anything that Lathan Ransom didn’t? “I feel terrible for him to be out right now.” Sonny is taller. He has range. He has coverage experience from the nickel position, which is a difficult ask for the boundary safety. “He’s just got a lot of versatility.” Made some plays last game blitzing. He can be a real factor in the blitz game.
  • Is this secondary better equipped to absorb a loss like Lathan Ransom than it was a year ago? Yeah, “we’re better set up.” There’s more experience and versatility.
  • On Minnesota’s commitment to run the ball: Similar to Rutgers. They do a great job managing the drives and taking it down all the way to fourth and short. They’re the best fourth-down conversion team in the country. They stole the Tush Push “from my Eagles.” Defense needs to stay efficient and stay ahead of the sticks.
  • Ja’Had Carter gives them more depth. Sonny Styles is going to have to do more things as they move forward, so having Carter there as well allows them to move Styles around.
  • How comfortable are you with Cody Simon? “I’m very comfortable with Cody.” He plays well and manages the game like Tommy Eichenberg does.
  • Malik Hartford wasn’t as wide-eyed as he was in the start against Youngstown State. That’s a tough gig for a true freshman early in the season. He had his emotions under control on Saturday. They’ve seen the potential and production from the beginning of practice. He’s just always around the ball in practice and he catches the ball. To see him transition to play in the game now, it’s good for him and good for the defense.
  • Ty Hamilton is doing what he’s always done. “I’ve been trying to say it all along.” “Our defensive tackles have been making more plays in the running game. That makes your defense better.”
  • Tommy Eichenberg fought to play. He could’ve played, but they felt it was in everybody’s best interest that he took the week off. “He probably had some extra grunts…than his normal single grunt” because he couldn’t play.
  • “I adjusted to the talent, situation, the program, doing what’s in the best interest of the program, the team, to win games, to produce a top-5 defense.” That’s been the goal all along, to have a top-5 defense. It may not be as flashy, but “it is what it is.” They need to keep working on what is working for them and avoid the temptation to go after the flashy play that may expose something.
  • How much of the philosophy change involves the Michigan matchup? It’s about gearing towards the matchup games because they were not successful in those games last year because of the explosive plays.
  • Are you confident in the physicality of your front seven in matchup games? “Yes.” You have players that are hungry. College football at the highest level is about what you’ve done from February onward. “It’s real in college football because we’re still in the developmental process.”
  • Is the defense playing its best ball right now? “I would say yes but you have to keep getting better.” It’s always got to be improving. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.
  • Cody Simon actually speaks where Tommy Eichenberg grunts, so they can have conversations.
  • Calvin Simpson-Hunt is focused. Not a big talker. Good personality. Positive and focused kid. “You can coach him. He doesn’t get down when he makes a bad play in practice. And he’s fast. He’s really fast. And that helps.”
  • Senior Day thoughts? The seniors mean everything, particularly when you come in as a new coach. The older guys, if they buy in to what you’re saying, then you have a real chance to get things implemented that you need to do. “These guys have been great to me, and I have not been the easiest person to deal with.” “Yeah, we’ll miss ’em.”
  • The defense has become very business-like and accountable. Not a lot of debate. That reflects Tommy Eichenberg’s demeanor with the defense.
  • Is Tommy Eichenberg the ideal leader for you? You never want to have an ideal because you can try to steer people into that ideal when that’s not really what they are. You have to adjust to what you have and let them lead how they lead.
  • Marvin Harrison, Jr. is challenging for a defense. Knowles remembers a time they had him double covered and he went up and caught the ball. Knowles asked how that could happen. The answer? “That’s Marv.”
  • He doesn’t take a lot of stock in OSU’s statistical rankings right now, but he’d not rather have bad stats. What matters is at the end. “Defense is a right-now proposition.” You can’t punt on defense. Stats don’t matter. “Did you stop them or not? What have you done for me lately. That’s defense.” Stop rate is important. “It’s good that we’re doing well.”
  • CJ Hicks made a nice play last week. He’s the next guy in after Cody Simon. He’s always right there. He’s growing and learning. He’s talented. Gabe Powers is ready to go too. When you coach, you always have to think about who is one play away.
  • It’s a luxury problem when you’re complaining about a kicker making a 53-yard field goal to ruin a shutout.

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