New Ohio State football defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has most of playbook installed
With a week of spring practice left, new Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has put in most of his playbook.
Safety Tanner McCalister, who spent the past four seasons playing for Knowles at Oklahoma State before transferring this offseason, said Friday that the pace of the installation has been accelerated and benefited the Buckeyes.
“Now everybody can see this is what the defense is going to look like,” McCalister said. “It’s exciting that everyone’s really been picking it up, and you’re not just seeing guys lost out there. Guys really look like they know what they’re doing.”
It was after the first couple of weeks of spring practice when McCalister took notice of the number of plays that were being introduced and brought it up with Knowles.
He said Knowles told him that he wanted to put a lot on the plate for the players and present them with a full picture of his 4-2-5 base defense.
“I know they’re going to mess up, but I just want to get it in,” McCalister recalled Knowles’ reasoning, “so the guys get a feel for it.”
Much of the playbook has carried over from Oklahoma State, as McCalister said “it’s pretty much been the same for me.”
One difference could be an increased usage of certain sub packages.
McCalister expects the Buckeyes might more often line up with an additional third linebacker and swap out a safety to better match up with physical Big Ten offenses that feature multiple tight ends.
With the Big 12 littered with wide-open spread offenses, Oklahoma State largely stayed in its base defense.
Asked about the Buckeyes’ grasp of Knowles’ system, McCalister pointed to the hiring of support staff members who had worked with Knowles in previous stops at both Oklahoma State and Duke.
The staff includes Matt Guerrieri, a senior analyst who had been at Duke for a decade and spent the past four seasons as the Blue Devils' defensive co-coordinator, as well as Koy McFarland and Brent Zdebski, who had been assistant linebackers and safeties coaches at Oklahoma State.
Their presence has helped players pick up terminology and broaden their understanding of the scheme.
“I think having those coaches in each room has helped in the transition for guys learning a new defense,” McCalister said. “They've got guys in every ear. You can talk to coach Knowles. You can talk to me. You can talk to coach Koy, coach Zdebski, coach Guerrieri, these guys that know coach Knowles’ defense as well.”
Safety Kye Stokes became the first member of Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class to lose his black helmet stripe, the team announced Friday.
For newcomers to the program, black stripes are placed on their helmets, concealing the ordinary scarlet stripe, and are then removed when they officially become a Buckeye in the eyes of the coaching staff.
Stokes is one of 11 freshmen who enrolled a semester early in January to participate in winter strength and conditioning workouts and spring practice.
A native of Armwood, Florida, he was a composite four-star prospect who was listed as an athlete by most recruiting services after having played wide receiver, cornerback and safety in high school.
McCalister, the Oklahoma State transfer, was the first of all the Buckeyes’ midyear enrollees to lose his black stripe last week.
Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.