Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
The Ohio State defensive line boasts a preseason All-American, a projected first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and multiple players that were five-star prospects coming out of high school. The unit many claim to be one of the best in the country at its craft hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far this season, though.
Through two games against Miami (Ohio) and Central Florida, the stat line for the Buckeyes’ front four reads: three sacks and five tackles for loss.
In other words, not the production first-year coach Urban Meyer expected out of his pass rushers.
Not even close, really, Meyer said.
“The negative I see right now is I don’t see the quarterback getting hit. And that’s something that has to be addressed,” Meyer said after Saturday’s 31-16 win against UCF.
The talent on the defensive line is evident in practice, but those skills have not been translating into performance on gameday.
“I feel like when we get to the game, we forget about all our moves and everything. I don’t know, we’re just not living up to our potential,” said freshman defensive end Noah Spence, a top-10 player from the 2012 recruiting class.
After a lackluster outing in the Sept. 1 season opener against Miami (Ohio) in which the Buckeyes’ front four recorded only two sacks, Hankins and Simon vowed that they, along with their teammates, would be better.
That wasn’t the case, though.
OSU’s defensive front was worse against the Knights than it was against the RedHawks, at least statistically.
On Saturday, sophomore defensive end Steve Miller was the lone Buckeye to record a sack after two players got to the quarterback Sept. 1.
The absence of hits on opposing team’s quarterbacks has not just disappointed Meyer; it’s been somewhat of a shock to the players.
“I’m a little surprised. We just have to keep working hard and keep getting better every week and start trying to put a little more pressure on the quarterback,” Spence said.
Rushing the passer has been something OSU has been stressing in practice, and Tommy Schutt, a freshman defensive tackle out of Illinois, said the Buckeyes might have to be more creative with their schemes.
“I think just different ways to get to the quarterback. Different rushes, different blitzes, different techniques and some moves,” Schutt said.
The quarterback can’t be hit if the pass rushers don’t have enough time to get him, though, and that’s been the case for OSU’s defensive line in the majority of their games so far.
Miami used a three-step drop most of the time in their game against the Buckeyes, and UCF, for the most part, followed suit, irritating OSU players.
“It’s very frustrating because you prepare to get off the ball and get to the quarterback, and all of a sudden you get there and the ball is already gone,” said freshman Adolphus Washington, a highly recruited defensive end from Cincinnati.
Spence echoed his teammate.
“It’s real frustrating. You work so hard on the line and everything like that, and for him to drop back three steps or whatever and just throw it immediately … but it’s no excuse for what we’re doing right now. We need to get better,” Spence said.
While the quick passes annoyed OSU defensive linemen, the Buckeyes’ front four also recognized the respect Miami and UCF showed them. Many players also said it’s something they expect to continue for the rest of the year, too.
“So far, that’s what it’s really looking like. The good thing for us is it shows the respect they have for our defensive line,” Schutt said.
Washington agreed with Schutt, but said that eventually, OSU’s talent on the defensive line is going to shine. When that does happen, Washington said Meyer and the rest of Buckeye Nation will see opposing team’s quarterbacks on the ground, a lot.
“If they hold that ball too long, then we’re there, without a doubt, we’re there,” Washington said.