Defense is getting rough for everybody. It feels like even the chompiest defenses get ripped from time to time and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. Against that backdrop has been the Buckeye defense, which over the past three seasons has varied from decent to competent to bad. Last year, they looked pretty good until the last few games of the season, when they started playing teams with a functioning quarterback. Can the 2023 edition stop being the cut brake lines of the team? Let’s see.
Starters: J.T. Tuimoloau, Tyliek Williams, Michael Hall, Jack Sawyer
Depth: Ty Hamilton, Caden Curry, Kenyatta Jackson
OSU does have some turnover here. Zach Harrison has moved on to the Atlanta Falcons, while interior starters Jerron Cage and Taron Vincent are also gone. In their place is a bunch of guys on NFL radars who have yet to really look like monsters.
Much has been expected of the five star DE tandem of JTT and Jack Sawyer, but outside of one game against Penn State, they weren’t particularly impactful. Tyliek Williams and Michael Hall have both shown flashes - Hall had 2.5 sacks in seven snaps against Michigan State. But all of these guys are going to be asked to pay a lot more and I’m officially a hit dog when it comes to the Buckeye defense. The hope is they show a lot more playmaking, especially in passing situations, and erase a few big plays.
Starters: Steele Chambers, Tommy Eichenberg
Depth: C.J. Hicks, Cody Simon
No mysteries here. Chambers and Eichenberg were both very good - Jim Knowles signaled a change in philosophy where the line protects the linebackers, and these guys flourished. Don’t be shocked if Eichenberg is on All-American lists to end the season. The only question is whether they find room for C.J. Hicks, who everyone likes but doesn’t have a clear path to playing.
Starters: Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, Lathan Ransom, Cam Martinez, Josh Proctor
Depth: Sonny Styles, Ja’Had Carter, Davison Igbinosun, Jyaire Brown
The biggest changes Jim Knowles has brought have come in the secondary. After the Cover 3 scheme Ryan Day favored look like poo, Knowles was tasked with changing things up. While he still played a lot of Cover 3, he slowly brought along other looks as well, most infamously a commitment to playing pure man (cover 0), something that looks great when it works and not so great when it doesn’t work. You might have noticed this in the Michigan game.
In any event, OSU returns a lot in the secondary, losing only Cam Brown and Ronnie Hickman. They clearly targeted this area in the portal and brought in highly regarded guys in Igbinosun and Carter, who both could figure into the lineup. More important, for everyone, is learning the array of looks and make fewer disastrous mistakes. Lathan Ransom had a pretty good year last season, especially if you don’t look at five plays where he messed up and the other team scored. Some improvement here would go a long way.
Starter: Jesse Mirco
If the revolution comes, it will start at punter. The spirit of Jim Tressel can infuse this team with a stiff upper lip and a powerful right boot. They just need to accept him into their life for a chance to go to the Promised Land. Will you also accept the Good News of Punting?