Hero Kanu Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive Tackle

Jim Knowles Seeing Possibility Of ‘Bear Front’ For Ohio State Defense

“Double Eagle.”

With those two words, there is a segment of Ohio State fans — and former coaches — who find themselves both shuddering in fear and shaking their heads in disbelief.

The year was 2014 and houses only cost $1.76 per gallon.

Ohio State had just been stunned at home by Virginia Tech, losing to the Hokies 35-21 in a game where the Buckeye offense was held to a season-low 108 rushing yards on 40 attempts.

After the game, OSU head coach Urban Meyer praised the Virginia Tech defense, particularly defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s unexpected deployment of a “Double Eagle” front, also known as a “Bear Front.”

The alignment features a nose tackle over the center, a defensive tackle (“Eagle”) on both sides of the center but outside of the guards, and an “outside linebacker” outside each of the offensive tackles.

The Hokie usage of it way back when severely limited Ohio State’s inside run game, which is what it is designed to do.

The Chicago Bears of the 1980s made it famous and while it isn’t a base defense in today’s game, there is still a place for it situationally. Provided you have the personnel on hand to do so.

While the Buckeyes will remain a 4-2-5 defense, Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is interested in employing the “Double Eagle” this spring just to see if it’s something worth exploring further in the fall.

One of the key components in making this happen, however, is the readiness of redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Hero Kanu.

“Yeah, Hero really flashed last year at times when you go back and watch the film,” Knowles said last week. “So the fact that we play a lot of Rushmen, I mean, that’s a guy who needs to have a good spring for us because he’s going to be next man in. With a guy like Hero, if he starts to really come along, you start to look at some Double Eagle type of packaging.”

The development of Kanu is one of the reasons that Knowles wants to give defensive ends Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau some reps in the Bear defense as outside linebackers. He already knows that starting defensive tackles Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton can handle whatever he asks of them.

“My thoughts are with Jack and JT, that at some point I want to train them as outside linebackers,” Knowles explained. “So if you got Hero, Tyleik, and Ty, you can get to more five D-linemen in the game. It’s just kind of in my thoughts, like, if we’re strong inside, those guys can become more multiple. I think it’s techniques and things that they can use when they get to the next level. And so that’s kind of in my thoughts.”

One of the fun things about college football for fans is the varied styles of offenses and defenses seen from week to week. But what is fun for a fan is often a nightmare for the coaches who have to deal with all of the variety.

The idea this spring is to get the defensive personnel comfortable playing various alignments and styles of defense because what works against a team that throws the ball 80% of the time won’t work against a team that runs it 80% of the time.

And what an offense runs on third-and-one is much different than what they run on third-and-11.

But it’s also about getting the players who deserve to play off of the sideline and into the game.

“Well, you’re always looking to get the best 11 on the field,” Knowles said. “So when you look at a 12 personnel set (two tight ends, one running back), you say, ‘Okay, I got [linebackers] Sonny [Styles], Cody [Simon], and CJ [Hicks] with the four down. Could we have another component with Jack and JT and three tackles and Cody and Sonny or Cody and CJ, you know?”

Spring is always a time for experimentation on the football field, but it also gives the coaches an opportunity to figure out the pecking orders of their respective position groups.

“Who’s going to be to be the best 11 against bigger sets?” Knowles asked. “Could it possibly be Hero versus having a third linebacker? Could it be three tackles? That’s in my thoughts. We haven’t installed that yet, but I I’d like to get to that just to see. And like I said, I feel like with those guys, the more they know of how to really be an outside linebacker, the better it’s going to help them when they get to the next level. So it’s something I’d like to do for them too.”

Jim Knowles and his defensive staff are trying to figure it all out right now, and if things go as well as he’d like, then the next time Buckeye fans or former coaches hear the term “Double Eagle,” there won’t be an involuntary negative reaction.

Maybe soon that will be reserved for the opponent for a change.

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