Four spring practices into the Urban Meyer-commissioned, Chris Ash-inspired makeover of Ohio State’s defense, there’s still a lot of hammering, painting and hardware-choosing to be done. But there are signs of progress.
“A lot more physical, a lot faster,” running back Warren Ball said of the defensive revisions after practice yesterday. “Every time there is a loose ball, you will see a defender pick it up and sprint 20, 30 yards down the field.”
They weren’t doing that last year?
“No. The ball would be dead and the play would end,” Ball said. “It’s a different mindset, go beyond the whistle, a more physical defense.”
Ash, the new co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach, was tasked primarily to fix a pass defense that was one of the poorer in the nation a year ago, especially at season’s end. Toward that goal, Ash and coordinator Luke Fickell have implemented a simplified approach this spring that stresses effort above all else.
“The way you get great effort and minimize mental errors is simplicity — be simple with your approach and do what you do extremely well, and then you can branch off from there,” Ash said.
Tyvis Powell, who has stepped up from nickel back into one of the two open safety spots, said he and his teammates understand the revisionist approach, and it’s paying dividends.
“The biggest difference is we’re all running to the ball,” Powell said. “And if you don’t run to it, he (Ash) is going to let you know.”
Coming off the 2013 debacle, the goal is obvious, Powell said.
“We’re just trying to learn from our mistakes from last year,” Powell said. “… We’re basically just trying to get the identity of the Silver Bullets back, just flying around to the ball, hitting hard, running fast.”
He expects the defense to gain more complicated parts as the season approaches in August.
“But we’re not going to be what I call a ‘guru defense,’ or a junk defense,” Ash said. “We’re going to be executers about what we do. We’re going to be about the effort, the fundamentals and consistency.”
Redshirt freshman receiver/running back Jalin Marshall suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in practice on Tuesday and will undergo arthroscopic surgery today, a team spokesman confirmed.
Marshall, one of the more highly rated members of the 2013 recruiting class, had been expected to challenge for a starting spot this spring. He is expected to be ready when the team starts offseason workouts in May.