Schiano says Ohio State defense getting closer to where it wants to be

Ohio State fans hoping to see a different defense when the Buckeyes return from their week off might be disappointed.

“I don’t think any of us believe we should make wholesale changes, but you can tweak your scheme to say, ‘How are we going to help this position be better?’” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said.

“And without having a team to get ready for you can really drill down on it and whatever that change is you can really work on it in practice to help put that player in position that next time out he can do better.” 

Here are five takeaways from Schiano’s press conference on Wednesday:

1. Critical errors continue to derail the Buckeyes.

Ohio State trailed 21-6 through three quarters then gave up 21 points and 187 yards (plus a touchdown by the Purdue defense) en route to a 49-20 drubbing.

“We had a tough night Saturday night without a doubt, but there’s a lot of stuff in there you say we’re playing solid football. We’re giving up too many big plays. We have to get that straightened out. That would be the big thing.”

He estimated about half of the Buckeyes’ 20 missed tackles — double the usual tally for a game — came in the fourth quarter.

“I’m not saying we’re were knocking the cover off it, but we’re playing solid,” Schiano said. “And then the fourth quarter really got away from us.” 

2. Youth is not an excuse.

Although Ohio State’s defense starts no seniors, Schiano does not see that as a negative.

“At Ohio State, young is good because that means old went to the (NFL) early and guys are moving along at a good clip,” Schiano said. “We need to get guys plays, and when you log plays, things happen easier for you.”

3. They don’t want to abandon man coverage in the secondary.

Leaving defensive backs on an island in coverage has contributed to some of Ohio State’s big play problems, but Schiano said the Buckeyes will remain committed to being a man-to-man team in the secondary — at least for the most part.

“Well in the (run-pass option play) world in which we live now you need to be in some degree of man because if you don’t and you leave too much space they pull the ball up and throw it,” Schiano said. 

“We have traditionally around here been a man team whether it was man quarters or man single-high. We have played more zone this year probably than we have in the past. Can we play more of it? Sure we can. Might that aid and assist some guys who right now are maybe not ready to play 60-70 snaps of man a game? Without a doubt. That’s all part of talking about tweaking what we’re doing, but to say you’re going to come out and see a Tampa 2 zone team 60 plays a game, that won’t happen and we don’t want it to happen here.”

4. Adjustments to the linebackers’ alignments have already been made.

A favorite recent critique of Schiano’s scheme this season has involved linebackers lining up on the line of scrimmage, leaving them vulnerable to being washed out of some plays and the second level of the defense empty.

“Now there’s a lot of positives that can come out of that if you can get good at it, the main one being getting double teams off your defensive line,” Schiano said. “We thought as we went through the season we would get more and more comfortable with it. That hasn’t been the case so Saturday we really limited it and picked our spots to do it.”

In two of those spots in the fourth quarter, Purdue ripped off long touchdown runs

5. He still thinks they are close to turning it around.

This will not reverse the result of the Purdue game — is it likely to satisfy many Ohio State fans wondering when the Buckeyes will start to resemble the Silver Bullets again —but if Schiano is right, it might mean November goes better than October did.

“We’re getting closer. I see it in practice where we do it exactly right. There’s this thing called the pressure of the game that can make a player do something he hasn’t done in practice. That’s where you’ve got to take it from the practice to the game field, and I think we’re really close to doing that.” 

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