Changes likely coming to OSU defense
LOS ANGELES — It was a record-setting year for the Ohio State defense, but don’t expect to see it referenced that way in the school annals.
The marks set were most yards allowed (404.3) and most points allowed per game (25.5).
As grand as the finish was to the Buckeyes’ 13-1 season — thumping Michigan like never before, beating Northwestern for a second straight league championship and holding off Washington 28-23 in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday — the returning players on the defense know change is likely on the way.
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Now that Ryan Day is the full-time head coach, taking the place of the retired Urban Meyer, he will have to determine who will be reassigned and/or let go from a group of defensive assistants that includes coordinator Greg Schiano, co-coordinator Alex Grinch, linebackers coach Bill Davis and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson.
There’s no chance the job of defensive line coach Larry Johnson is in jeopardy.
But Day has been pondering many major decisions, and the players understand that.
“It’s one of those things where whatever happens or does not happen, whatever coaches that I have on this staff, it’s not going to change the culture,” defensive tackle Robert Landers said. “It’s not going to change the mindset. We’re always going to be ready to work.
“When you are a part of the Silver Bullets, you are a part of the family. When you’re a part of the family, you know we’ll die for each other. You we’re going to go out there week in, week out, day in, day out and give everything that we’ve got for one another.”
Some of the defenders thought they proved that in those last three games, which came after a surprisingly close 52-51 overtime victory at Maryland.
But it’s not like the Buckeyes came close to shutting out the rest of the schedule.
In the Rose Bowl, after they took a 28-3 lead in the third quarter, it seemed like the offense cashed in its chips, leaving the defense on the field time and again to stop the desperate Huskies. The defense, especially cornerbacks Kendall Sheffield and Jeffrey Okudah and the front line, played well the first three quarters, but then the Buckeyes gave up three touchdowns in the last 13 minutes.
Once safety Brendon White intercepted Washington’s two-point conversion attempt after the final TD with 42 seconds left, the secondary could leave the field with a bounce in its step.
“I think it says a lot about perseverance,” Okudah said. ”We heard a lot of stuff this year and it feels good to just go out go into 2019 on a positive note.”
Okudah’s rise showed the improvement that was masked by the overall problems the defense dealt with. The sophomore is a former five-star recruit whose best days appear to be ahead.
“I think during the year my confidence has been kind of going uphill, so just knowing I can never get too high, never get too low, and watching a lot of film, I’m a pretty confident — I mean, at this point, game 14, there’s no reason to be out there scared,” he said.
The way Okudah played “was pretty big,” he said, because “it gives the coaches some confidence going into next year and gives me some confidence.”
But it will be up to Day to decide which coaches and in what capacities.
Taylor on field
for final snap
When Ohio State took its final snap in the Rose Bowl, Brady Taylor was on the offensive line, just as he had expected to be all season.
But that snap on the Buckeyes’ kneel-down after they recovered an onside kick was the Ready graduate’s only snap after the season opener. Taylor was expected to start at center for Ohio State, but he fought knee issues.
He played as a backup in the opener against Oregon State before having arthroscopic knee surgery. He didn’t play again until offensive line coach Greg Studrawa had him take the final snap at right guard.
“It meant a lot to me,” Taylor said. “Coach Stud looked at me and told me to go in. He knows what I’ve been through in my five years here. It really brought a tear my eye. I closed out my career in a Rose Bowl and it’s something you dream about.”
Dispatch reporter Bill Rabinowitz contributed to this story.