Ohio State Football: Pizza Boy Was Right, Buckeyes Defense Needs Some Work

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterOctober 12, 2012

November 26, 2011; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Luke Fickell during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

So we probably have to talk about this pizza boy business, right? Kid finds out he's delivering a pizza to defensive coordinator Luke Fickell's house, meets his wife Amy Fickell at the door, makes some jokey comment about the defense needing to improve and the next thing you know, pizza boy is out of a job.

Here, the unnamed pizza boy's and the Fickells' stories diverge: He says Amy Fickell called the restaurant and complained, which got him fired. Per WSYX in Columbus, the owner and Ohio State both say no complaint was made, and the manager just found out about it from other employees.

At any rate, something like that warrants a write-up and that's probably about all, but the pizza boy had a point. It was stupid and unprofessional of him to make that point and if I were Luke Fickell's wife (note: this is the first and last time I am ever typing that), I sure as hell would have called to complain. But it's true that defense could stand to improve.

The key to moving the ball on Ohio State is to challenge its secondary. Cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Travis Howard are fine in coverage—in fact, Roby's better than fine—but they're not sure tacklers, which means if you have the speed to get the ball in space and in one-on-one situations, you have an opportunity to move some chains.

The rush defense is good but not nearly as great as it ought to be. Curtis Grant is not playing that MLB spot at a high level, and yes he's only a sophomore, but that youth hasn't stopped fellow '10 recruiting class member Ryan Shazier from being a force at OLB.

On the whole, even with space-eaters like John Simon and Johnathan Hankins (both strong first-team All-Big Ten candidates) up front, the Ohio State rush defense is remarkably average. The Buckeyes are ranked 35th in overall rushing yards given up, but a big component of that is just how often teams throw on the OSU defense—usually because of being down. In terms of yards per carry given up, Ohio State is barely in the top half of the nation at 3.91 yards per play.

The good news is that the Ohio State defense is young, and although the losses up front are going to be severe come next season (especially if Hankins' draft stock is high enough to lure him to the NFL, which it easily could be), the defensive line just so happens to be where Urban Meyer has been recruiting like crazy. Those four insane, true freshmen, led by Noah Spence? They'll be more than happy to take the starting roles there, thank you.

Elsewhere, barring an early entry into the NFL, the only departure is Howard at cornerback, and Ohio State's been working backups Doran Grant and Adam Griffin well enough that there probably won't be a big step back in coverage. If Roby also calls his Ohio State career early, that would hurt, but again, Ohio State has cultivated depth, so it wouldn't be crippling.

All of which is to say the pizza boy sort of had a point. It was totally unprofessional of him to make that point, even as a goof, and we're not over here shedding tears for his lost job. But he wasn't exactly talking trash about the '85 Bears here. Ohio State's defense is good—but it should be quite a bit better.