COLUMBUS – Urban Meyer called it a conversation. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell described it as a different perspective.
Whatever you call it, Ohio State’s head coach apparently had a hand in some of what OSU did on defense in a 63-14 win over Penn State last Saturday night.
The Buckeyes’ defense, which hadn’t gotten much of a pass rush and hadn’t been covering receivers well, excelled in both those areas against Penn State with four sacks, six tackles for losses and two interceptions.
At his weekly press conference on Monday, Meyer said he had talked to the defensive coaching staff about the need for the defense to put more pressure on opposing offenses.
“We did have some conversation. I think (linebacker) Ryan Shazier is one of the blitzers in America, but he doesn’t blitz very much. We had that conversation. I’m an offensive guy. I know disruptive defenses are very hard to work against,” Meyer said.
“I thought Luke and Everett (Withers) did a very good job mixing some pressures in. We disrupted the quarterback,” he said about Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
This isn’t the first time Meyer has addressed a defensive problem. Last season, it was his decision to move Zach Boren to linebacker from fullback.
When the head coach speaks, the assistants obviously listen.
“I think it brings a lot to us. The more ideas and more minds in that room at times especially when somebody comes from a different perspective, sometimes coming from the offensive perspective gives you some real insight,” Fickell said.
“ It’s tough at times when they come in and say, ‘I think you should do this,’ or ‘I think this hurts us.’ But the reality is it elicits some conversation. You’re always looking for new ways and new ideas. Sometimes it’s tough, but the reality is it makes us better,” he said.
While the defense improved, Meyer is still looking for it to take more steps forward, especially at one position.
“The linebacker position is still not solidified yet. We’re not at an Ohio State expectation level at the linebacker position,” he said.
“After this past week, I think most other positions played at a very high level. And so the linebacker position is one we’re keeping our finger on real hard because we need to improve the level of play and the number of backers we have in the program.”
The chances No. 4 Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will have another good week on defense when it goes to Purdue (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) on Saturday appear to be good.
The Boilermakers rank last in the Big Ten in scoring, total offense and rushing offense. Their only win is over FCS school Indiana State. Since then, they have lost four in a row.
INJURY UPDATE: Quarterback Braxton Miller (sore knee), receiver Evan Spencer (leg) and linebacker Curtis Grant (sore neck) will be ready to play Saturday, Meyer said.
“He got hit on the knee a little bit and it’s sore, but he will be fine,” Meyer said about Miller.
Special teams player Devan Bogard will have surgery for a torn ACL later this week and will be out for the season. He missed the second half of last season with the same injury.
OFFENSIVE LINE DELIVERS: Meyer praised the work of Ohio State’s offensive line again.
“It’s hard for me to say we’re the best offensive line in America because I just don’t get to see everyone else. But I’ve done this a while, and I would take this offensive line over any offensive line that I’ve seen. These guys are tremendous players and their work ethic and alignment and cohesiveness is arguably one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
OSU CONNECTIONS: Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell spent seven years as an assistant coach at Ohio State and former OSU linebacker Marcus Freeman coaches the Boilermakers’ linebackers.
JUST A PREVIEW: Freshman Dontre Wilson displayed the speed that made him one of the top recruits in the country when he scored on a 26-yard pass and returned a kickoff 49 yards against Penn State.
But there are even better things to come in the future from Wilson, Meyer said.
“Wait until you see him next year. We’re going to get him bigger and stronger. He has gained 15 pounds since he got here,” Meyer said.