Is Ohio State Football Soft?

From the Sidelines

Lately, there is a lot of talk coming from Michigan players and others that the reason Michigan beat Ohio State was because Ohio State plays “soft”.  That means they are not physical enough, they can’t run the ball effectively when they need to, nor can they stop the run when they need too either.  There are only two ways to tell or not and that is by statistics, and by your own lying eyes!

Let’s look at the statistics:   The Buckeyes defense certainly improved over the course of the season, and they currently rank 9th in total defense.  They rank 8th in passing defense and they rank 30th in run defense.  

Overall, that is a decent defense for most people.  However, as a follower of the game, the drop-off in their pass defense to the run defense is troubling.  Ohio State has one of the best defensive line coaches in the country in Larry Johnson.  Not only is he a good coach, but he is a tremendous recruiter as well. 

Ohio State gets more than their fair share of top prospects from around the country.  They seem to have the talent.  So why has their run defense been less than spectacular?  It seems like a mystery, but I have a theory as to why they have these problems.  My eyes tell me, they are not tough enough up front!

When Jim Tressel was coach, he was more in line with the Woody Hayes philosophy that “three things happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad!” 

Tressel liked to run the ball and that philosophy won him a National Championship against a perceived much better team, Miami.  I remember that game, and what I saw was after OSU beat on Miami for four quarters, Miami had enough!  

Miami was a team that loved to throw the ball to their speedy receivers……much like OSU now.  They were not as physical as OSU.  

Urban Meyer shows up next after the interim period with Luke Fickel.  Urban wanted to turn OSU into Alabama, which whether you like them or not, is the gold standard in college football. 

If you watch Alabama, they can throw the ball, but when they need 2 to 3 yards, they play smash-mouth football.  Urban accomplished his goal by beating Alabama in the semi-finals (remember Zeke Elliot’s run?  Taylor Decker the left tackle took his man outside, and Zeke was gone!) and then they just bludgeoned Oregon in the finals.  

In comes Ryan Day. An outstanding coach, recruiter, and a good model for Ohio State Football.  Watching Ryan you can see he is of a little different mindset.  He has come up with the most exciting offense in College football.  He always has top notch receivers and his quarterbacks are second to none. He always has at least one running back that gets a thousand yards, but can catch out of the backfield, too. 

When I watch OSU, I get the feeling that running the ball is a necessary evil.  Ryan much more likes to “finesse” you with offensive schemes to get his much valued wide receivers open.  It works most of the time.  However, when he needs to get that last 3 yards, they seem to fall short most of the time. 

Ohio State should line up and hit you in the mouth, instead they are not used to that.  This is not a knock on Ryan Day, just pointing out the difference between him and his predecessors. 

I think you see this problem with a lot of offensive minded coaches, they only think offense until something goes awry.  I think Ryan Day had an awakening after the Michigan game.  Let’s be honest, Michigan was the tougher team and pushed Ohio State around.  That should never happen!!  

Ohio State has now hired Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State University.  Mr. Knowles is a defensive coach.  His defenses got better every year, under another coach, Mike Gundy, who is offensive minded. 

This is a step in the right direction!  Time will tell if Jim Knowles can turn Ohio States defense into the terror it once was.  Now, OSU needs to get a new offensive line coach, one who believes that they can run the ball against anybody. 

Maybe with this new emphasis on defense and stopping the run, the offensive line coach, Greg Studrawa, will pick up his game.  He is smart enough because in his first four seasons, OSU ranked 5th nationally in rush yards per game (231.4ypg) and had eight straight seasons with a 1000 yard rusher. 

He knows how to do it, but maybe because of the offenses love of the pass, he has let his line get soft.  I hope he gets back to teaching his players that a 4 or 5 yard rush is just as effective at times as a 30 yard pass!  If he does, OSU will once again be a much better team than we have seen the last two years.

I learned a long time ago that football is a simple game; if you block and tackle, you will win.  If you can run the ball and stop the run, you will win. It really is that simple, and OSU needs to get back to that a little more. 

There is nothing more demoralizing than having a team line up against you and you know they are going to run the ball…and there is nothing you can do about it! That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.

Commissioner Mike Stegall

Mike Stegall / Correspondent

Mike Stegall is a GHS alum and played on the Green Wave's only undefeated football team. Served 27 years as an OHSAA football official and currently serves as a Darke County Commissioner

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