1. Jim Heacock
If the NFL is any indicator, the Ohio State defenses over the last few years have had a lot of talent. OSU's defensive players from past years have turned into total studs around the league.
A.J. Hawk lead the Packers in tackles his rookie year and is a stand out LB. Donte Whitner has started every game he has attended as a pro at safety for the Bills. Bobby Carpenter is trapped on special teams by Ware in Dallas but is very impressive on special teams. Ashton Youboty is a starting corner for the Bills. Pitcock became part of the very deep Colts D-line.
The question is: How does a defensive unit with so much talent in it get embarrassed like it has? Simple answer: They are put in situations and coverages that don't take advantage of their ability.
Soft zones have tortured Buckeye fans in big games, and blown assignments have tormented the defense. Heacock's refusal to leave zone coverages and play a QB spy defense has lead to a serious book on OSU, which even schools like Ohio are picking up on.
He must go!
2. The Lines
Both lines have been very soft since the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. The O-line has struggled mightly the last three seasons. The pass rush of Florida started the tumble. They failed to show up against U of I, LSU, and now USC.
Aaron Boone is a total fold in big games, and the rest of the line fails to show up. The DL gets NO pressure up the middle, and as a result, our DEs, which have been a strength in recent seasons, have been contained, and the rest of our defense is left in coverage far too long.
3. Wide Receivers
Since the Ginn and Gonzo left for the NFL early, Ohio State has had no playmaking ability at WR, and the 2005 team was even stronger at WR with Holmes, who was an excellent vertical threat.
Robiskie is very crisp, but he doesn't have the speed of even a college No. 1 and will struggle to make slot in the NFL. Brain Hartline is not another Gonzo, as originally hoped. He doesn't have the hands, quickness, or ability to create separation.
DeVir Posey is a real ray of light for Ohio State WR, but their refusal to play the 5 star recruit means that with out a run game, their is no passing game for OSU.
4. The Big 10
In a word, bad the last few years. OSU has not been tested in conference by a real challenge. Yeah, there's an upset here and there, but no real nasty games since the '05 Penn State team. As a result, the team is a little soft.
5. QB Play
Troy Smith was an outstanding college QB, no question, and his very-high football IQ and his underrated ability to read coverages, I think, will give him success on Sundays as well.
Todd Boeckman is not a bad QB, but his play drops off a great against top-flight opponents. This is not all his fault. Look at all the other problems he is dealing with. His lack of mobility, his tentativeness, and his lack of big plays leaves the door open for Pryor, in what is looking, with poor play early and the injury to Wells, to be a potentially lost season for the Buckeyes.
His lack of experience also has kept the offense very simplified, and Ohio State has not run the open offense they did when Smith was at the helm. His struggles against ranked teams suggest that he is still unable to really read an offense.
Ohio State has the talent on defense, is lacking it on offense, and just can't get over that hump. Play the rest of the season out by shooting for a decent bowl game and start building towards another peak in 2011, with the outstanding 2006, 2007, and already building 2008 class.