Ohio State Buckeyes Defense
Football

Buckeyes In Process Of Deciding Defensive Aggressiveness

The Ohio State defense has been a tale of two seasons since Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day hired Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator prior to the 2022 season.

Knowles improved the defense greatly from 2021 to 2022, cutting their yards allowed from 372.6 to 321.5. The Buckeyes played a more aggressive style of defense, which led to too much booming and busting.

For instance, in 2021, the Buckeyes allowed just nine plays of 40 yards or more from scrimmage. In Knowles’ first year, that number doubled. Missed tackles, players out of position, and vacated zones allowed a number of big plays.

Last year, however, with a less aggressive and safer style of defense, Knowles’ crew gave up just two 40-yard plays from scrimmage. It was the Buckeyes’ lowest such total since 2010.

This year, with a number of returning starters and a great deal of talent, experience, and versatility, just how aggressive the defense is going to be is still up in the air.

“I think that’s kind of the balance that we’re trying to figure out as we continue to work into the season of what are those things that we need to enhance?” Day said on Tuesday. “And then what are the things that we need to have for curveballs and mix ups? I think that’s the art of it and that’s all the stuff that we’re working through now.”

With so much productive talent returning, the Buckeyes could field a successful defense by being relatively bland. They should be able to win more matchups than not, and by not being too aggressive and creating cracks to be exploited, an offense would have to earn everything they get. That style of defense can be very effective.

On the other hand, there is also enough talent on this defense to ask the secondary to handle more man-to-man coverages so that the Buckeyes can bring extra rushers. Without a secondary that can cover in one-on-one situations, blitzing becomes a much bigger gamble.

Day and his defensive staff are still trying to figure out how high to dial things up this season.

“You’ve seen us do both, and so what is that right mixture?” Day said. “Then it’s putting the guys in the right position to do their job. You can just up draw a blitz but is that guy a really good blitzer? And what kind of stress are you putting on the back end?”

The more stress the back end can handle, the more stress the front end can put on an offense.

Jim Knowles has plenty of blitzes in his bag, but the process of finding out which ones are actually going to be pulled out will be decided down the road.

“All those things come into play,” Day said. “There’s a lot of blitzes out there but what are going to be the right ones for us at the right time? And then how much we do it is going to be based on the opponent, but also the success that it’s having throughout the year.”

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