Urban Meyer will rely on a veteran defensive line to help lead a turnaround for his struggling defense.
Despite Ohio State moving to 7-0 after last weekend’s 52-49 win over Indiana, the mood in Columbus has been far from celebratory.
That is because the woeful Hoosiers rolled up 481 yards of total offense on the vaunted Buckeyes defense.
After head coach Urban Meyer called a Sunday meeting with his defensive coaches and players, it’s clear that changes are in order for a team that has relied largely on the brilliance of quarterback Braxton Miller to remain unbeaten (h/t, espn.com).
Those changes have to begin up front for the Buckeyes defense, especially considering that they start three seniors and a junior in the trenches—with defensive end John Simon and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins ranking among the top NFL prospects at their respective positions.
That unit is the one area where Meyer has a combination of veteran leadership and proven difference makers capable of turning things around for a defense that has allowed an average of 400 yards per game to this point.
As my B/R colleague Adam Jacobi astutely points out, mental breakdowns are likely the culprit instead of a talent or coaching deficiency.
The ability to control the line of scrimmage is the greatest equalizer for a team that is struggling with giving up big plays.
In addition to Simon and Hankins, Meyer was able to lure several elite defensive linemen in the 2012 recruiting class—with ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington plus tackle Tommy Schutt all seeing action to this point.
With that kind of depth and talent in place, Ohio State will be able to wear down its remaining opponents enough to plug the leaks that have led to its breakdowns.
Factor in that three of the Buckeyes' remaining opponents (Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan) are three of the weaker passing offenses in the league (each average fewer than 200 yards per game through the air), the defensive line is more than capable of effectively handcuffing those offenses by stopping the run.
The Buckeyes have also shown the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks—as evidenced by racking up 16 sacks on the year, which ranks third in the conference.
The combination of stopping the run and pressuring opposing quarterbacks will help curb the issues currently plaguing the secondary.
After giving up 87 points over the last two weeks in a pair of embarrassing efforts, expect an angry and motivated Buckeyes defensive line to lead that unit’s turnaround over the second half of the season.