Jim Knowles Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive Coordinator

Jim Knowles Sees Confident Defense Heading Into Michigan Game

COLUMBUS — Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with reporters Tuesday afternoon to preview Saturday’s game at Michigan. He answered questions about his defense, the scars from last year, and much more. The highlights of everything he had to say can be found below.

  • Was it possible that maybe you didn’t need to make changes with your defense based on last year and it was other factors that led to the big plays? “We have to be focused on what’s happening right now. The things that are in our control. Lack of ego and being selfless.” “The highest form of sanity is live in the present moment.” The things that happened in the past, “I need to figure all that out and process that and figure out what’s important and pass that on to the team because they don’t need to be worried about that.” They need to play hard, fast, and tough. “Ultimately we’re better right now because of [the changes].”
  • How excited are you to see this defense against this Michigan team? You want to be the best, compete against the best, and challenge yourself to see how you stack up. Everything you do is to give the players the best chance to win right now. You just have to be physical, fast, and can’t be thinking too much.
  • It’s a big challenge dealing with Michigan’s offense and the number of linemen and tight ends they use. There’s a measure of exactness required that a lot of people don’t understand. There’s a lot of different gaps. Their running backs are talented. The receivers and tight ends are talented.
  • Confidence is playing fast with competitive excellence. Be in the right place at the right time. When you watch it, you can see it with this defense. “Let’s be a defense that everybody can watch…and they can see everybody playing fast and showing up in the right places.” The confidence spills over to everyone.
  • It’s hard to pinpoint the biggest concern with the Michigan offense. The running game is multiple because of their formations. They do a great job of hiding their formations and the intent. The offensive line is as good as they’ve faced. When you look at the history of The Game, you have to stop the run. The balance becomes preventing the explosive plays on the back end while not allowing the running game to get going up front.
  • Mike Hall lifts everybody up around him. He helps the defense by not just using up blocks. He makes tackles, like the other OSU defensive tackles.
  • How much more prepared is this secondary to handle one-on-one situations? It started in the spring competing against their own offense. The best receiver in the country. “Forget about the scheme. That’s not their issue. That’s my issue. But they played with a more competitive nature.” That makes him confident and the rest of the team confident.
  • How does Michigan’s offense make you think about how you’re going to use Sonny Styles. Without Lathan Ransom they can still do some different things with Styles. “We think he can make a lot of plays.”
  • At what point did you really start to grasp this rivalry? “When you live through it and you feel the disappointment and you take that personally … like you don’t want to let anybody down … you see how they feel, and you just want to do better.”
  • What stands out about Michigan’s commitment to the running game? That shows they have great confidence in the running game and their defense. A team that is willing to do that is willing to play the long game and trust their defense, offensive line, and running backs. “That shows me we better be ready to slug it out for four-plus quarters or whatever it takes.”
  • Jordan Hancock has played well and shown the ability to make the right decisions in the running game. But it’s a question of how much do you really want him to do that against this offense. It’s like balancing how much you want to run an athletic quarterback.
  • JJ McCarthy’s running ability as an X-factor? “I expect him — he’s a really good runner.” He runs when they need it. He’s a competitor. “You always have to be ready for it, and you have to understand the types of scrambles he likes.”
  • You have only given up one play of 40 yards this year [Knowles knocks wood], at what point do you feel like you have things “down.” You never think you’ve got it down. Look at the fake sneak play that got them against Rutgers. You never know where it’s going to come from but you have to be ready. Statistics say it has been a real factor in this game so you can never stop practicing and studying it.
  • What is the pursuit like to fix last year’s loss? It’s a long, arduous process, but it is extremely rewarding. You learn from your mistakes and you can’t have an ego, which a lot of coaches do. You then have to have a vision of how to fix it, then you’re communicating it and growing it and watering it.
  • How much does Tommy Eichenberg want to play in this game? What will he bring? “Everything. Tommy will bring every single ounce of his person to this game. He will fight to defend our honor. That’s just the kind of guy he is. He’s the kind of guy we all want on that wall.”

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