For the past several years we have been told what a great defensive mind Luke Fickell has. He even was a winner of the 2010 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Assistant Coach of the Year award. Yet when he took over for Coach Tressel on an interim basis last year, much of his decision making left a lot to be desired. Regardless, I felt like he handled an impossible situation well. Upon the hiring of Urban Meyer he was retained as Co-Defensive Coordinator, sharing that title with Everett Withers.
During the Jim Tressel era, a couple things were certain. The Buckeyes would have a Top-5 ranked defense on a yearly basis and an offense that would take care of the football and dominate the time of possession. In many cases the success of the defense would be able to carry the offense as long as they were not put in bad situations. This year it seems like the exact reverse. Our offense seems to want to get off the field with points as fast as possible, while our defense is employing a severe bend, but don’t break mentality. Only it appears to be breaking time and time again.
Coming into this season, many fans felt like we would be able to rely on the D while the offense gained experience with the new system. That has not been the case. It’s the defense that has looked lost and well over-matched at times. I know the spread can be a difficult offense to slow down, but considering that Ohio State’s offense runs it, the defense should be well prepared. I for one, do not doubt the talent on the defensive side of the ball. I believe our d-line has two potential All-Americans in Simon and Hank. While our secondary has a great set of safeties and what I believe is the next great Buckeye shut down corner in Bradley Roby. Our linebacking corps has had its fair share of injuries this year, but I feel like it still is a talented group, but the least talented position group on our defense.
So what does all that mean? I feel like the Buckeye’s have the personnel to be a top flight defense. I am starting to believe that they are not being put in a position to succeed. And that is a failure of the coaching staff. I’m not sure the best way to utilize the talent that we have on defense. If I was I surely wouldn’t be writing this column today, I would be prepping for practice because I would be holding a D-1 coaching position. All I know is that our defensive coaches are not doing it the right way. There is no way that a defense that was perennially tough to score on should be giving up 49 points to Indiana.
Everett Withers was a hand selected Urban guy. I believe it’s very unlikely to see him let go. I am starting to believe though that if this defense isn’t fixed soon, Fickell will be shown the door. I have long been a Fickell fan, but enough is enough. This is Ohio State if we are going to be anything, we should be a defensive stalwart.