If you’re not worried about Ohio State’s offense this year, Saturday’s closed scrimmage provided reassurance that Jim Knowles’ revamped defense is making the progress the Buckeyes need.
“The thing I took from it was that the defense looks really good,” tight end Gee Scott Jr. said.
“Our defense is presenting a lot of good challenges,” sixth-year senior Mitch Rossi said. “They're very multiple. They disguise things well. and I think that it's really good work for us. We're used to kind of getting after them. It's good for us to have that competition upped, for sure.”
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With C.J. Stroud back at quarterback and a strong supporting cast, the offense should again be elite. The big question for Ohio State is whether and how quickly the Buckeyes can master Knowles’ defense, especially with No. 5 Notre Dame coming to Columbus for the opener.
“They look energetic," Scott said. "They’re consistent, too, and they’re coming out with a great attitude every day in practice. I can't wait to see them playing against another team. And we're getting so much better playing against them.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson also had praise for the defense.
“You just feel the defensive presence,” he said. “I think (linebackers) Tommy (Eichenberg) and Steele (Chambers) and Cody (Simon) are started playing with a lot of confidence. I think the secondary guys are starting to understand those fits, and they're so much quicker in the hole. I just think you feel, very early, a confident defensive bunch. There's a long way to go. I'm sure coach would tell you that. but man, it's just a dadgum fistfight out there.”
He spoke particularly highly about the depth on the defensive line.
“Mike Hall goes out there as a three,” Wilson said, meaning a third-teamer. “I mean, come on, dude. Jeez, that’s as good a three as I ever saw in my life. He’s no three. They're deep, and they just keep coming at you in waves.”
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Wilson was less impressed with his unit. He indicated that some established starters saw limited action in the scrimmage. Still, he described the offense’s performance as inconsistent.
“The defense created several turnovers, which was good for them, not good for us,” Wilson said. “We've got to run it better. It wasn't our best running day.”
He said freshman Dallan Hayden did break a couple of big runs.
But Wilson repeated what Day has said about the offense. Last year’s success means nothing, and behind the gaudy numbers, deficiencies in short-yardage situations need to be corrected.
“There’s a saying from a long time ago that as soon as you think you’ve got it, you’re getting ready to get it,” Wilson said. “It's always a fight to stay on point, to stay focused and keep evolving.”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State defense shines in Saturday's scrimmage