Jim Knowles Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive Coordianator

Jim Knowles Talks Five-Man Fronts, Sonny Styles, Having All The Pieces Defensively

Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with reporters for the first time this spring. He discussed the move of Sonny Styles to linebacker, his feelings on this defense having everything they need, Caleb Downs, and much, much more. The highlights of everything he had to say can be found below.

  • Caleb Downs has great football intelligence. He plays like a veteran. He corrects his mistakes immediately.
  • It’s humbling to have players return rather than moving on to the NFL or transferring. The players are showing a belief in the program and the overused cliche of culture.
  • Do you have all the pieces you need on defense? “Absolutely. And I took that for granted when I came to Ohio State.”
  • Sonny Styles has made a change into the box from a low position, instead of dropping in, so things happen a lot faster. He’s reacted superbly. He has football intelligence. It’s going to go great for him. He’s already showing the knowledge of the defense to excel at linebacker.
  • The move of Sonny Styles is permanent but there are things and packages to create multiplicity.
  • Sonny Styles had to fight to stay lean “and now he gets to eat.”
  • When he first met Sonny Styles, everybody said he would eventually be a linebacker, but he and Styles both wanted to see him at safety first. The vision was similar to what he had with Malcolm Rodriguez at Oklahoma State who also started out at safety.
  • There are times when all three linebackers will be on the field together. CJ Hicks and Sonny Styles can be on the field together. Hicks has a great attitude and he’s coachable.
  • Gabe Powers over the second half of the season last year was one of the most improved guys. He made a huge jump last year in practice. He’s a guy that’s going to be ready.
  • CJ Hicks is moving around as well. He has some versatility in that three linebacker package. Hicks needs to know how to play the Sam as well.
  • “We’re still a 4-2-5, but multiple deployments.” They still have Sonny who can play Sam and it creates multiplicity.
  • James Laurinaitis is a lot nicer to the linebackers than he is.
  • How confident are you in the linebackers? “Really confident.” Adding Sonny Styles helps. Cody Simon is a guy that they think is going to be great.
  • Arvell Reese can be a great linebacker.
  • The Jack is always there. “I’d like to get it in this spring.” Didn’t use it last year. It’s always in the package.
  • Lorenzo Styles, Jr. at nickel: He’s got great speed. He looks like a nickel. They’ll continue to develop him there.
  • Hero Kanu continues to develop. When he starts to come along, you can do some different alignments with him. At some point, he’d like to train JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer as outside linebackers and have five defensive linemen in the game. “It’s just kind of in my thoughts.” “You’re always looking to get your best 11 on the field.”
  • Jordan Hancock really improved over the course of last season and stepped up when Sonny Styles had to move to strong safety.
  • Jim Knowles hasn’t run much 5-man fronts/Bear fronts/double eagle, but you have to do what’s best for the team and put the best 11 on the field.

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