Ohio State Football: Fixing the Secondary Is Urban Meyer's Bye-Week Priority
After two alarming performances in back-to-back weeks against Wisconsin and Northwestern, Ohio State's secondary—which was supposed to be the team's strength on defense—is Urban Meyer's biggest concern.
The week off has given Meyer an opportunity to address the Buckeyes' surprisingly ineffective pass defense, and he's hoping to get things patched up for the second half of Ohio State's regular season.
According to Zack Meisel of The Plain Dealer, Meyer explained that some of the Buckeyes' issues stem from a concerted effort to limit their opponents' rushing attacks.
We made a conscious decision to stop the run. As a result, sometimes you leave people on islands and you don't have the same focus on the back end. That's who we are. We've won a lot of games doing it and now we have to improve the other end. We're working, as a staff, very hard on it.
The numbers certainly support Ohio State's slanted defensive strategy.
The Buckeyes have been stout against the run, ranking No. 7 in the country while holding teams to just 86 rushing yards per game. Ohio State has been good against its best competition, holding Wisconsin 246 yards under its season rushing average while keeping Northwestern 171 yards under its usual 265-yard clip.
The numbers against the pass swing wildly in the opposite direction.
Ohio State is No. 76 in the country defending the pass, giving up 240 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. Wisconsin's Joel Stave threw for a career-high 295 yards against the Buckeyes in Week 5, and Northwestern's combo of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter completed more than 80 percent of their passes in a 343-yard game last week.
|Rush Defense||Pass Defense|
|San Diego State||64||216|
A lot of Ohio State's struggles are the result of soft coverage. Bradley Roby, who entered the season as one of college football's most talented cornerbacks, has struggled while giving receivers a big cushion at the line of scrimmage. The Buckeyes have also missed a number of tackles, which have led to big plays.
Meyer wants his secondary to execute the game plan, according to ESPN's Austin Ward.
I believe we’ve played soft coverage at times, and then the two big hits that we gave up last week were pure missed tackles. ... That’s not because of poor scheme, it’s just you have to make the play.
The Buckeyes will need to fix their passing issues without the services of three-year starting safety Christian Bryant, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury on the second-to-last play against Wisconsin.
Doran Grant, who starts opposite Roby at cornerback, says it needs to be a team effort.
"We just have to sharpen up a few things," Grant said, via Meisel. "We can't have missed tackles as a team. Everybody has to keep running to the ball and we have to keep playing."
Meyer and the Buckeyes' secondary has one more week to solve its issues before being thrown back into the fire.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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