Ohio State Defensive Grades vs. Tulsa

The Buckeye defense took a step forward, but still has a long way to go.
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Ohio State came away with a win Saturday afternoon in The 'Shoe, behind a tremendous day in the run game and an improved defensive effort. The defensive staff was creative in their blitz packages and the ability to slant and angle the defensive line to allow them to demonstrate their athleticism more consistently. The Buckeyes spent far more time in zone coverage and kudos to the Golden Hurricane, they took what the Silver Bullets gave them. It wasn’t attractive, but it was far more effective than the previous three games.

Of course, it's also worth noting that defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs went up into the booth and secondary coach Matt Barnes called the defense from the sidelines.

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, check those out here. Let’s take a look at the grades and how the Buckeyes got to their three touchdown win on Saturday.

Defensive Line: D+

The Rushmen have not been as effective so far this year as they have been in years past. Take LeBron off the Cavs, Brady off the Patriots, Batman out of Gothic City, The Cheesy Gordita Crunch off the menu at Taco Bell…I think you know where I’m going with this. There is not that one superstar on the defensive line yet that garners the vast majority of offensive line’s attention.

17. Larry Johnson

This unit is young and with Zach Harrison nursing a bad back, someone needs to step up. J.T. Tuimoloau has the most natural ability, but has only been on campus since July. He is going to have more impact every week. It is just not enough yet. Tyreke Smith flashes, but the senior out of Cleveland Heights needs to step up now. His athleticism should be an asset and right now he’s rushing too much down the middle of tackles, in lieu of attacking part of the man and making a decision to defend the run or pressure the quarterback. 

It was exciting to see Tyleik Williams come up with a big play in a crucial situation. Expect his role to expand going forward. This unit is in great hands with coach Larry Johnson, and when it starts to click, look out.

Linebackers: D

Teradja Mitchell was sorely missed yesterday and hopefully he will be able to get back sooner rather than later for the group. Cody Simon has made plays at times, but only had three tackles yesterday. He runs well and is asked to do a lot right now. Palaie Gaoteote IV had a big stop on the goal line early in the game, but disappeared after that. Tommy Eichenberg did not register a tackle on the day and that is a tough stat for an inside linebacker.

88. Palaie Gaoteote

Matt Barnes did a good job of adding this group into some of their zone blitz schemes, but they didn’t get home as much as you would like to see. This unit is still searching and it is going to take reps and time. The good news is, the Buckeyes don’t potentially play another Top 25 team again until hosting Penn State on Halloween weekend.

Defensive Backs: D+

Matt Barnes essentially said we are not going to get beat on the home run play and the Buckeyes left the middle of the field open with a two high safety look and took a more conservative approach by playing more zone. It allowed Tulsa - a run first (and second) team - to throw for 428 yards. Two passing touchdowns and 13.8 yards per completion are nothing to hang your hat on, but it actually is improvement. 

A pass rush is sorely needed to help this group, being asked to cover Division I wideouts for four seconds or more is nearly impossible on a regular basis. Denzel Burke is special and is putting in a freshman All-American season. He had an interception taken away by a questionable overturned call. Watch Burke's eyes - it's really exciting to see how he sees the game. He plays that ball the entire way and that enables him to make such an incredible play. He has presence beyond his years. Burke understands angles and route breaks better than most. 

Ronnie Hickman, Lathan Ransom, Bryson Shaw, Cameron Brown, and Cameron Martinez all looked improved. It is still a long way to go, but an increased pass rush and more confidence in getting home on blitzes will help this group go a long way.

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