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Grading the Buckeyes Defensive Performance vs. Akron

Ronnie Hickman's pick-6, nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss made for a great night for the Silver Bullets.

It was great to see the return Zach Harrison and Teradja Mitchell on Saturday night as the Buckeyes suffocated Akron's offense. The Silver Bullets were aggressive and finally played on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The opportunistic defense was able to have another touchdown this week and held the visiting Zips to 7 points en route to their first runaway win of the season.

As far as how to interpret the following grades:

Grading Key

  • A: National Championship-level play ... dominates the opponent and executes at the highest level.
  • B: Big Ten Championship-level play ... consistently beats opponents, but leaves a few areas to grow.
  • C: Bowl Eligble-level play ... does enough to win in a close game to just get bye. Needs to improve quickly.
  • D: Home for the Holidays-level play ... Exposed multiple times and a major liability to the greater whole.
  • F: Losing-level play ... unit was dominated in many facets of the game and is a major detriment to success. Major changes needed immediately.

If you missed our offensive grades, you can check those out here. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the grades across the offense that had its best game of the season so far.

Defensive Line: B+

The Buckeyes came into the game ranked 97th in the country in sacks per game. Saturday evening, Larry Johnson’s Rushmen wreaked havoc. 

The group was able to bottle up the run (1.9 yards per carry) and capitalize in throwing scenarios, getting home for a season-high nine sacks and playing a huge role in a season-high 12 tackles for loss. The tone was set early by Haskell Garrett. He penetrated and made plays all evening. He had three sacks and was a force inside. Tyleik Williams continues to grow. Two sacks and a team-leading six tackles was impressive. Zach Harrison returned and tried to shake the rust off against a good left tackle in Akron’s Xavior Gray. 

J.T. Tuimoloau

It was a great battle all night long. The excitement continues with the development of Jack Sawyer, who flashed. His solo tackle on D.J. Irons in the open field was a display of his rare strength and athleticism. J.T. Tuimoloau continues to grow and learn. He struggled at times with containing the aforementioned Irons. As the unit settled in, they dominated. Mike Hall was one of a few Buckeyes that negated big plays with immature penalties. This will be corrected as it was his first opportunity to play as a true freshman. 

Overall, this performance could be the confidence boost this unit desperately needed.

Linebacker: C-

This unit continues to be the big question mark for the program. Matt Barnes allowed them to be opportunistic by blitzing the inside A and B Gaps effectively all night long.

 But the elephant in the room has to be the departure of two players within the last 96 hours. Dallas Gant did it correctly, K’Vaughan Pope’s actions leave a great deal to be desired. It is frustrating that the unit is struggling and you are not getting the reps that you believe you deserve. Ryan Day assured this is an isolated incident. However, this may shed light into the linebacker room. 

Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton

There could be more time spent on handling personalities than being able to focus on fundamentals and play. Some rooms get better with subtraction. Pope’s potential departure and the manner in which it was conducted can only make one believe that Al Washington has one less headache to be concerned about.

On the plus side, Cody Simon had a solid game. His interception was a fantastic play.

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Defensive Back: B

Ronnie Hickman is maturing and the game is slowing down for him. His interception for a touchdown, masqueraded him more as a veteran player than someone that is relatively new to the Buckeye defense and Matt Barnes scheme. Denzel Burke continues to shine. Akron wisely went away from him. Sevyn Banks struggled in space and appeared to be an inferior athlete to Akron’s Konata Mumpfield

Ronnie Hickman

Demario McCall played significant time and made plays. He has been a great Buckeye, being passed over and moving back and forth to different positions. It is great to see a young man with humility get an opportunity. Marcus Hooker exploded on ball carriers and dominated at times. The unit executed and came away with a convincing win. The early quick completions for Akron were concerning, but the Zips did a good job of finding the soft spots in the Buckeyes zone defense. As confidence grows, continue to see the unit explore more packages and have a greater ability to better disguise their intent. 

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