Jim Knowles

Cotton Bowl Notes: Jim Knowles Sees A Full-Tilt Defense Suiting Up In Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON, TX — Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with the media on Tuesday following the Buckeyes’ morning practice. He discussed the Cotton Bowl matchup with Missouri and the problems that the Tigers offense poses. He also answered questions about the immediate future of many of his players, as well as his expectations for 2024 as well. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.

  • Steele Chambers has gotten better every day since Knowles has been at Ohio State. He’s a great athlete with an increased knowledge of the game.
  • Ty Hamilton is “a force inside.”
  • The reason this defense has done so well is because the defensive tackles “are actually making tackles.” When they are making plays, “it changes things.”
  • Josh Proctor has always been a guy you were waiting to break out. “He could always hit and run, and now he’s deciphering offenses and understanding our package.”
  • Jack Sawyer has graded out extremely well all year long. His run grades have been “extremely high.” You can count on him to control the edge, but also make plays. “He does all the right things.”
  • Will the defense have any opt-outs? “Not that I know of.”
  • “You love to see a bunch of guys who believe in the brotherhood. They believe in how far our defense has come, and they want to finish the job.”
  • “I’m optimistic” on the juniors on defense returning for their senior seasons. They all have the opportunity to refine their game in this defense.
  • Missouri’s offensive line combines size and athleticism. They can run and they understand their scheme very well. “They seem to be in the right position all the time.” “They’re as good as anybody we’ve played.”
  • This is the best group of receivers the OSU defense has played against. They spread the field and they motion to create mismatches. “They’re really good, but their offense is structured to get them free through movements and shifts.”
  • The defense always must know where Missouri receiver Luther Burden is. He lines up everywhere.
  • Young linebackers CJ Hicks, Gabe Powers, and Arvell Reese will need to step up next year, and they’ve shown in bowl practice that they will.
  • “It was joy” when Cody Simon said he’d be returning for a final season. “I rarely smile, but Cody is that kind of guy.” He could be a starter anywhere in the country, so it’s big that he’s coming back. “Everyone is going to see how talented he is.”
  • Sonny Styles continues to give them a lot of options. Knowles still believes he could be a dominant high safety. “He has really shown he can be anything we ask him to be.”
  • Josh Proctor’s story says to future players that it is okay to stick it out and “to not jump ship when times get tough.”
  • You have to tackle Luther Burden before he gets started.
  • You have to be judicious with how you’re going to handle the receivers because you don’t want to make it too easy for the Missouri running game to have success.
  • Asked about being interested in the Duke head coaching job, Knowles said he wasn’t going to speak specifically about that job but he’s at a point in his career where he has everything he could want in terms of opportunity to win and mechanisms put in place to make that happen. “I see myself as being at the best place right now, so I have to always look at that and say: Why would I want to go anywhere? Why would I want to go anywhere else? Ohio State is the top of the top. So I think when you are a young coach and you aspire, yes, you aspire to be a head coach, and I have done that. But once you get to a play where winning is expected, where it’s a purpose driven program with a great head coach with the chance to run the defense, I couldn’t have imagined anything better when I was a young coach.”
  • The corners that Ohio State signed “are premier talents.” The linebackers are “as tough as they come.” Losing Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers after this year, incoming freshmen Payton Pierce and Garrett Stover represent the hard-nosed mentality this defense requires.
  • It is still up in the air whether or not Tommy Eichenberg will be healthy enough to play. He is still dealing with an elbow injury.
  • Knowles previously wanted to unleash CJ Hicks, is that still the plan? “I did hope to do that, and I don’t know that it will get done in this bowl game, but I still think of that term as unleashing him and it will happen eventually.”

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