No position went through more turmoil in 2010 than the defensive backs. They endured injuries- lots and lots of injuries, position changes, schematic changes, bad stretches in games, criticism from fans, and everything in between.
Through it all, however, the secondary continued to play remarkably well. In fact, some fans might be surprised at just how successful they have been.
Led by the senior trio of Jermale Hines, Chimdi Chekwa, and Devon Torrence, Ohio State was able to field the fourth best pass defense in the country which only gave up 156.3 yards per game through the air. On top of that, the Buckeyes recorded 18 interceptions, tied for the 10th most in the country.
Stats, as always, should be taken with a grain of salt, but given the circumstances, those numbers are impressive.
The secondary will need to be impressive against a potent Arkansas passing attack led by Ryan Mallett. In fact, how well Ohio State defends the pass will be one of the top things to watch for in the Sugar Bowl.
Here is a look at how the players in the secondary have done this season, and what to expect in the bowl game. Read More
As always, Cole’s bringing us the plays of the week from Saturday’s big comeback victory:
I think their offense starts with the toughness that their quarterback shows. Their quarterback stands in there and holds that ball until the last second when the receiver is ready to break and runs when he has to run, kind of plays a little bit in the shadow of their rush game, which their rush game is — it deserves all the kudos that it gets, but their quarterback just kind of whatever the team needs him to do, he does, and he’s a veteran. He’s got a veteran offensive line who are very, very physical. Their tight end position is always one of the deepest and best utilized tight end corps in the Big Ten.
Well, they were going to be ready if we were 15th. I mean, I don’t know that that will change their readiness. What’s most critical is our readiness and our preparation and then how we handle the adversity and how we handle the situation there. There will be times when you can’t hear. There will be times when you’re not in the same comfort zone as you are back in your own meeting rooms at halftime or whatever, but I’m not sure that anything in terms of the rankings are going to change. I mean, Wisconsin is going to be ready, so I don’t know that that will change it.
Hard. Hard and long.
The Ohio Bobcats rolled into Columbus today to take on the Buckeyes and hopefully challenge them the same way that they did back in 2008. The Buckeyes weren’t having any of it as they raced out to a 43-0 lead before giving up a late touchdown in trash time to end the game with the 43-7 victory. Terrelle Pryor had another solid game with 22 receptions on 29 attempts for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns, though he threw his first 2 interceptions of the year.
The Ohio offense started out very poorly. After a short running play up the middle, Bates tossed a quick passing play to the left side of the field. Devon Torrence made a fantastic play on the ball by batting it into the air for Tyler Moeller to come down with. The interception gave the Buckeye offense fantastic field position. Unfortunately, after picking up a great game on their first play with a pass to Jake Stoneburner, the Buckeyes squandered their chance and was forced to kick a field goal in the red zone.
The Buckeye defense continued to be aggressive. With the Bobcats pinned close to their endzone due to a block in the back penalty on the return, the Silver Bullets made the most of the situation by not allowing Ohio any room to move the ball. On the ensuing possession the Bucks found plenty of room to move the ball. As usual, the offense promptly moved the ball into the redzone with confidence and authority. What was unusual was that Pryor found Saine over the middle for the Touchdown. It was exactly the kind of pass that Pryor needed in order to build confidence in his arm in scoring position.
Hmmm… I wonder if Woody was onto something heroic?
Fall camp always seems to produce the juiciest news of the year and this year has been no different. For the next couple weeks I will be scouring the Buckeye-sphere for all the interesting tidbits to share.
So far there has been almost nothing but good news coming out of the WHAC. Obviously the loss of Duron Carter plus the confusion regarding TE Nic DiLillo’s situation stings a little, but everything else has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. Let’s take a look.
The loss of multi-year starters Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell at safety combined with a spring game featuring a secondary that looked lost at times gives Ohio State fans the perfect opportunity to be concerned about something.
During a summer with very few question marks on offense or defense, the secondary will certainly be a topic of conversation. But let’s face it, when half of your questions that need to be answered heading into fall practice involve your third wide receiver and running back, you are in pretty good shape.
So even though the holes at safety and the apparent inability of Chekwa or Torrence to reach shut-down corner status are mildly concerning, count me as far from worried about it.
Here are a few things that I learned this spring about the secondary. Read More
For the last installment of my position breakdown series, I will look at the defensive backfield.
I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that All-American (and arguably the best CB in the nation last year) Malcolm Jenkins is gone and “starter” Donald Washington is also gone (he was in the doghouse so much I would call him a sometimes starter).
That means that Ohio State will be looking to replace two corners from last years team. On the bright side, as I mentioned, Washington missed quite a bit of time for various reasons which allowed Chimdi Chekwa to gain plenty of experience as a starting corner last year. More on that later though, on to the good news.
The good news is that both of the safeties are back. Making this good news even better, both of the safeties are each entering their third year as a starter.
First up is starting strong safety and captain #4 Kurt Coleman. Coleman briefly considered turning pro after last season before deciding to come back for his senior year (maybe will channel his inner Doss in 2009, we can only hope). He is the leading returning tackler on the team (78 tackles in 2008) and also led the team with 4 interceptions last season.
Coleman is a ball hawk and a leader not just of the defense, but of the entire team. He should be a key component of the Buckeye defense in 2009 and is one of the best players on the team.
Backing up Coleman at SS are redshirt freshman Orhian Johnson (#19) and senior Aaron Gant (#8). Johnson is long and lanky for a SS at 6’2″ and 178 pounds but he has tremendous athletic ability and a knack for going up and getting jump balls. He has obviously been impressive during practice because he is listed ahead of Gant (Tressel is loyal to his seniors and all that) on the depth chart.
Gant has been a solid contributor on special teams for his entire career and has seen some time on defense. He is a big hitter but the fact that he has been passed up by Johnson on the depth chart makes me think that he probably has trouble in pass coverage.
Johnson apparently has an ankle injury so it looks like it will be Coleman and Gant (edit: it seems like Gant may have suffered an injury now as well, I will be curious to see who plays at safety tomorrow) at SS for the Navy game. Johnson probably won’t miss very much time with the injury, so the Buckeyes look to be solid at strong safety in 2009.
The other three year starter coming back at free safety is redshirt senior Anderson Russell (#21), who has significant experience (obviously) and will be another leader on the defense.
Last year Russell had 67 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. I expect Russell to be a solid contributor this season, but he has Jermale Hines nipping at his heels for starting time.
That brings us to the (somewhat surprising) backup at free safety, Jermale Hines (#7). I think Hines will get most of his reps this year in the nickel formations when an extra DB is brought on the field to replace a linebacker (which is usually done against spread teams), but the fact that he is listed as the backup at safety is encouraging because it means he is impressing the coaches.
Hines is a junior who received extensive playing time last year and I think he will see the field extensively this year as well. As I mentioned, there have been reports that Hines is pushing Russell for the starting spot at safety which means that Hines must be doing something right.
Even if Hines doesn’t end up starting at safety, he will see the field plenty this year and with his speed and hitting ability, he will be an impact player on the defense.
With Russell and Hines, free safety is solid for 2009 as well.
If you are feeling pretty good right now about our secondary (and you should be, our safeties are going to be good), I am about to rain on your parade, sorry.
Cornerback is the biggest question mark on the entire team as far as I’m concerned. I think the players here have the ability to perform but have had very few chances to prove it, leaving questions (and concerns) galore.
One thing that hasn’t been a question is that redshirt junior Chimdi Chekwa (#5) will be starting at one of the cornerback positions. Chekwa has plenty of starting experience as a cornerback (in 2008) and as a nickelback (in 2007), but with the departure of Jenkins he will be expected to step in and become the next lock down corner at Ohio State.
Chekwa has ideal size (6’0″ 188 lbs.) and speed (anchored the 4×1 relay team that won the Big Ten championship in the spring) and I am confident that he has the ability to cover the best receivers in the nation, but until he actually does it there will still be some doubt in people’s minds (also raising some doubts, at least for me, is the fact that Texas went Chekwa’s way constantly in the Fiesta Bowl).
Backing up Chekwa is redshirt freshman Travis Howard (#18) who unfortunately has been hit by the injury bug and will miss the game against Navy. Howard is a young guy who has tons of potential but limited experience and losing him is a bit troublesome as it leaves the Buckeyes thin at an already thin position. Hopefully Howard will be able to return to the field soon and gain some much needed experience.
Battling for the starting spot opposite Chekwa are 5th year senior Andre Amos (#13) and junior Devon Torrence (#10). Amos has had injury problems his entire career up to this point and Torrence has played baseball in the Houston Astros farm system for the past several years and has only seen limited action at cornerback, making both huge question marks.
[little side note here: I can't seem to find a single picture of Torrence or Amos playing in a game, which I think illustrates the whole "lacking experience" thing nicely]
BothAmos and Torrence have good size (both are listed at 6’1″ and around 185 lbs.) and elite athleticism, but like I said, neither has seen much game action which is cause for concern. Also, neither player has separated themselves as the starter (even though Amos is listed as the starter) and they will both probably rotate frequently.
So, big questions at cornerback, and considering the anemic Navy passing attack, we may have to wait until September 12th to find out what shape we are in at the position. That makes me more than a little nervous.
Hopefully the defensive line will be able to get plenty of pressure on apposing QBs and the safeties will be able to provide the leadership (and the over the top help) needed to allow the CBs to transition into their new starting rolls seamlessly. That would be the ideal situation. Cross your fingers (only with one hand though, save your other hand to cross your fingers for the offensive line), I know I will be.
That wraps it up for my position previews (whew!). If you will notice, there is now a bar at the top of the BBC homepage (thanks Jeff!) that has links to all of the previews I have done. Remember to check back periodically throughout the year for updated reviews of how each position is performing.
I am not sure what position I will start with or when I will do them, but the situation at offensive tackle has already changed drastically since my preview (Mike Adams has been demoted to third string and is suspended for at least the first game) and the situation on the defensive line looks to be even more fluid than I anticipated (Doug Worthington claims that he will play as much at DE as Heyward this year) so there should be plenty to talk about.
I have had fun doing these breakdowns and I hope you enjoyed reading them and continue coming back to The Buckeye Battle Cry throughout the season. I think that we will have plenty of interesting material to keep you occupied during the week as you daydream of football at work.