Dave Thurman (2:27 pm)

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the 2002 Silver Bullet defense was their swagger. Guys like Will Smith, Mike Doss, Chris Gamble, and Matt Wilhelm walked into the stadium with an air about them that said, "We're bad, we know it, and you can't do anything about it!" Call it confidence, cockiness, or whatever you want, but that team knew they were good and they dared the opposition to move the ball on them. The offense was often unreliable during that National Championship run, because Maurice Clarett was hurt so often, and Craig Krenzel, for all of his moxie and leadership, possessed a very average arm. So the defense took it upon themselves to make big plays, and keep the other team from scoring. It was as if they took it personally when an opponent dented the end zone.

Move ahead to the past couple of years, and the one thing I see missing from the defense, more than any other, is that swagger. We've had some great individual players like Gholston, Laurinaitis, and Jenkins, but I don't see that "take no prisoners" attitude. I think we play on our heels most of the time, waiting for the other team to make a mistake, instead of forcing errors on their part. We hope they will self destruct, and too often it doesn't happen.

Now to be fair, our defensive line is simply not as talented as that 2002 group. I'm not sure if it's lousy recruiting or poor player development or both, but this is one of the weakest defensive lines I have seen in many years. I have a hard time believing that a good coach couldn't get better results, but I also have come to the conclusion that this group isn't as talented as the D-line that helped win OSU a national title.

However, on paper, our back seven this year is as talented as any team in the nation. So why aren't they playing better? Why do they struggle to stop people on third down? How come they miss so many tackles? Above all, I think they lack that intangible I am calling "swagger." They don't have meanness, the "go for the juggler" mentality, the "in your face" confidence that is needed. Every so often I see a glimpse of it from Malcolm Jenkins, and I think Jermale Hines and Kurt Coleman are close. But by and large I see guys who lack aggressiveness and self-confidence. That is particularly true with the linebackers. While Baby Animal is a great talent, the one thing I would like to see from him is more attitude. And he's by far the best we've got. Freeman plays scared half the time, and simply doesn't hit people with bad intentions. I had high hopes from Homan, but he looks a little slow and unsure out there. When is the last time you saw him deliver a blow that rattled someone's teeth? Honestly, I'm suprised we haven't seen more of Brian Rolle because he seems to have that killer instinct the others lack. And rest assured linebackers need both toughness and attitude. More than any other position they are supposed to be mean and fearless. Look at some film of Spielman, Katzenmoyer or Hawk. Go back in the NFL archives and watch Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert and Mike Singletary. Linebackers are supposed to have a mean streak on the field. I just don't see that with this group, and I think that is part of the problem. They need to regain that swagger.

Of course, at the end of the day, it comes down to coaching. Many are calling for Heacock's head, and I think the time has come to consider such drastic action. Our defense isn't aggressive enough, and good players are not making good plays. I believe a fiery, in your face coach, with a "take no prisoners" attitude could wake up this defense. I believe a new approach would lead to more sacks, more big plays, and a more intimidating presence. There was a time when teams feared facing the OSU defense. It's time to restore that sense of dread and panic. I for one am ready for some old-school swagger. How about you?

 


Comments

Phil
09/22/2008 11:32

Great article! Just watching the USC game this was clear. Maualuga had more swagger than our whole team combined...

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guy
09/22/2008 18:26

Yea, I'm ready. I think the new blood coming in the next few years will give everybody what they're looking for. Sabino, Bell, Whiting, and some others are gonna light people up. Hopefully we have a good DC by that time.

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pat
09/23/2008 16:17

i just watched the OSU v NC state game(2003) last night. What i noticed was how mean our defensive line was. Will Smith and Darion Scott didn't tackle people, they tryed to hurt them at every opportunity they got. And our DTs got a tremendous push up field. I would really say our linebackers and DBs are pretty similar. Except for on fact. Our guys, no matter what position they played, always let the other team know they were there by laying on them a few extra seconds, tapping them after they were down or getting in their faces afer the play. I don't see that fire this year. I know those traits might seem like they are border line dirty tactics, but who cares, its football.

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Tampa Buckeye
09/23/2008 16:50

The biggest difference is the d-play calling. In 2002 they would let the spread move the ball but once they got inside the 20 they would bring the house knowing they wouldn't be able to run it on us. I feel like if we see a more aggressive style of d-play calling,ie blitz from time to time we will start to see more blowouts and the bucks be able to stick in there with anyone.
That being said the Offense needs to get td's not field goals. I feel like Pryor is ready to address that and if he would have starter all the games this year the results would have been greater. Verse USC he avg. 5yds a play while boeckman avg. -2 and had 3 turnovers to Pryor's zero.

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