Ohio State Football: What's Wrong with the Buckeyes Defense?

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6:  Storm Klein #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sacks quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a loss in the third quarter at Ohio Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Nebraska 63-38.   (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Dating back to Ohio State's Week 2 victory over the UCF Knights, the Buckeyes' defense has surrendered 162 points in six games.

During the regular season of Ohio State's 2002 National Championship season, the Buckeyes' defense surrendered 159 points in 13 games.

That's seven more games, and three fewer points.

It doesn't stop there.

The Buckeyes surrendered six fewer points in 12 regular season games during the '05 season. They surrendered 40 fewer points in 12 regular season games during the '06 season. A year later, they gave up 41 fewer points. In 2008, they gave up five fewer points in their first 12 games. In 2009, they gave up 27 fewer points. In the 2010 regular season that never happened, Ohio State surrendered 14 fewer points.

That's seven teams in the last 11 years that have given up fewer points during the regular season than Ohio State has given up in their last six games.

In short, this isn't the type of defense Buckeye fans are used to watching.

So what's wrong? What's going on with Ohio State's defense?

The unit doesn't lack playmakers.

The defensive line is anchored by Jonathan Hankins, who has consistently made appearances inside the top 10 of Mel Kiper's mock NFL draft this year. The team also has John Simon and Nathan Williams, two of the better edge-rushers in the Big Ten. Ryan Shazier is just a big ball of anger in the linebacker core, and Bradley Roby and Travis Howard have played fantastic football this year at cornerback.

With that much talent, how is this defense struggling?

It could be coaching. Urban Meyer's new defensive staff features new faces in Everett Withers and Kerry Combs, alongside the holdovers from last year in Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel.

Combs installed a new scheme in the secondary that has the cornerbacks playing off the ball, giving opposing receivers more of a cushion at the line of scrimmage. The idea is to give the cornerbacks a better vantage point of the quarterback's movement, while also giving them more time to break on the ball to either knock a pass down or snag an interception.

The Buckeyes have picked off 10 passes this year—tied for 8th in the country—but that has come at a cost. Opposing teams have attacked Ohio State's perimeter with an embarrassing amount of success through seven games. The Buckeyes have given up an average of 277 yards per game through the air, ranking No. 103 in the country in pass defense.

It could be a lack of fundamentals.

Ohio State has displayed some poor tackling ability at times this year. While that has improved recently, there are times where it appears Ohio State defenders are more interested in making a highlight-hit than bringing a ball-carrier down.

On top of the poor tackling, we've watched defenders take poor angles in pursuit on multiple big plays this year. 

Whatever the case, there is something fundamentally wrong with this defense, and it isn't getting better as the season progresses.

What do you think is ailing Ohio State's defense this year? Bad coaching? Lack of fundamentals? Something else? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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