Weeks from now, or perhaps as early as Saturday against Minnesota, when Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano asks “Who chopped down the tree?” he’s expecting to see many hands go up from his defense.

Not that he has a bunch of George Washington wannabes in training. He knows the truth will be obvious to all. A defense that has given up more than its fair share of big plays this season — Ohio State is tied for 77th nationally, having relinquished 79 plays of 10 yards or more, with 20 of those going for 30 yards-plus — is working every day to tighten up, middle linebacker Tuf Borland said.

“You know what the positive is? We gave up right around 100 yards in the second half” in the 49-26 win over Indiana last week after a tough first half, Borland said. “We made some plays, were able to force some turnovers. So I think things are heading in the right direction.

“The talk this week in practice has been ‘You’re chopping at the tree,’ and it’s just a matter of time before the results start to show, before the tree falls.”

There’s no doubt that analogy came from Schiano, who uttered similar challenges years ago when he was head coach at Rutgers.

“Yeah, that’s a Schiano — a Schiano thing,” Borland said. “That actually showed up this week, and I think it’s true. I think it’s going to show.

“The last few weeks, we’ve had really good days at practice and it’s about time the results come.”

As for that stat on big plays, keep in mind top-ranked Alabama is 68th nationally in the category, having given up 76 plays of 10 or more yards.

Harrison, Cooper status not clear

Coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday there’s yet to be a decision on the status of defensive end Jonathon Cooper and linebacker Malik Harrison for Saturday’s game. Meyer confirmed both were in concussion protocol after a collision in the third quarter last week at the end of an interception return by Harrison on a two-point conversion pass.

“We’ll know more (Thursday)," Meyer said.

More time for Cornell

If Cooper can’t go, that could mean more time at defensive end for versatile defensive lineman Jashon Cornell. That also could mean Cornell finding himself face to face a few times with the Gophers’ 6-foot-9, 400 pound freshman tackle Daniel Faalele, who is expected to get his first college start. He is an Australian who has played just two years of American football.

>>Video: Ohio State's Jashon Cornell on going against a giant

“ ‘Get your hands on him before he gets his hands on you,’ “ Cornell said his first thought would be. The challenge isn’t the height difference, the 6-3, 273-pound Cornell said, it’s “the weight – 400 pounds. What are you going to do with 400 pounds?”

Technically, he said, “if you can you use your speed and get your hands on him first, then rip off of him, it’s hard for him to keep his balance. What we’ve seen of him he’s top-heavy, so as long as you get your hands on him before he gets his hands on you, you’re pretty good.”

tmay@dispatch.com

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