BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — As Ohio State opened the season at Indiana on Thursday night, the Buckeyes were on the attack.
The offense? Well, yes, but that’s what it’s supposed to do. It was the defense, the front four in particular, that went into the Big Ten game intent on being offensive in the first year under the full leadership of coordinator Greg Schiano.
It’s a departure, sophomore end Nick Bosa said, from the scheme employed last year under the direction of coordinator Luke Fickell, now head coach at Cincinnati. It’s one Bosa thinks better fits the personnel of the veteran, fast defensive linemen, including Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones and Jalyn Holmes, just to name a few.
“Just the scheme — coach Fickell, obviously a linebackers coach, he kind of set up all the plays for the linebackers to make,” Bosa said. “Now it’s us (linemen) pinning our ears back and going instead of sitting at the line waiting.”
The former approach worked, but it also worked against one’s instincts, he said.
“It was definitely frustrating, just being tight on the tackle, like on first and second down, it’s tough to get pass rush because you’re so tight anticipating run,” Bosa said.
Schiano said in an interview with the Big Ten Network early in preseason camp that the defensive line, which is at least two-deep with game-worthy players at all positions, is the best top to bottom he has ever had at his disposal. And remember, he was coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and ’13. As he pointed out, the Bucs had Gerald McCoy, but not the overall quality depth.
“I thank him for the compliment — we thank him,” said Lewis, the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year in 2016. “We know anybody can throw that out there, but we definitely believe we have the chance to be the best defensive line. We go in and we work, that’s our main focus.”
The launch of the new approach came against 6-foot-6 quarterback Richard Lagow and the Indiana offense, which was reconfigured to be more of a pocket-passing team under new coordinator Mike DeBord.
Lewis had two of the Buckeyes’ five sacks, and the line was kept busy as Indiana attempted 68 passes. OSU totaled nine tackles for loss, and held the Hoosiers to 17 yards rushing.
But as Bosa had cautioned, individuals’ numbers alone won’t tell the whole story, especially for a group that line coach Larry Johnson intends to keep fresh with continual rotation of personnel.
“We’ll see what the stats are like, but I think as a unit it’s just going to be like a tag team” through the season, Bosa said. “I think every single one of us has gotten better, even the older guys. We’re going to be a unit that’s just going to tire guys out.
“I mean, they’re going to get the ball off a lot, we might not get as many stats as people think we will. But we’re going to be coming.”
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