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New set of Buckeye defenders excited for explosive results

08/27/2014, 12:00am EDT
By By DAVID BRIGGS BLADE SPORTS WRITER
New Buckeyes on defense

Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant breaks up a pass. Grant is the only returning starter in the secondary. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

COLUMBUS — An Ohio State pass defense designed to bend but not break instead shattered last season.

Naturally, the Buckeyes decided on just the opposite approach for this fall.

Asked if there are any quick-hitting passes the team will be fine allowing this season, new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash replied, “No, no, no.”

“We're not going to be happy with anything,” Ash said. “Are there going to be completions? Absolutely. But our mentality is that we're going to challenge everything. If a ball is completed, it better be challenged.

That’s a sweet sound to the guys doing the challenging.

A year after fielding the worst pass defense in school history, the Buckeyes argue any comparisons to last year are misguided. They did not so much tweak the back end as they did stuff it with 100 sticks of dynamite.

Under Ash, who previously served as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Arkansas, the Buckeyes intend to go from on their heels to in your face.

It is the high-risk, high-reward answer to the low-risk, no-reward scheme of 2013. A year ago, Ohio State’s issues in the secondary included repeated miscommunications and — if you ask the armchair quarterbacks — the cushions defensive backs gave wideouts. The idea was to prevent big plays, though the passive approach didn’t prevent much of anything. OSU ranked 110th nationally in allowing 268 passing yards per game.

“We saw all these screens being completed, and it got kind of frustrating to keep watching,” sophomore safety Tyvis Powell said. “And we were just kind of questioning why don't we just switch it up. I guess it’s because we didn't practice [something different].”

Now, there’s a new cast, and they are practicing something different.

While six of seven starters return from the front seven, senior cornerback Doran Grant is the only returning full-time starter in the secondary.

Redshirt freshmen Gareon Conley and Eli Apple are competing for the other while sophomores Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows are battling to start alongside Powell at safety.

Ash has implemented a simplified, more aggressive style, including press coverage. It didn’t take much convincing. As nickelback Armani Reeves said, ”What corner doesn’t want to play bump and run all day? It’s exciting.”

“Now you go out there and see people making more plays on quick, short stuff, and you're more confident in the game plan,” Powell said. “You know that the coaches know exactly what they're doing.”

That’s the idea, at least. The first exam comes Saturday.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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Tag(s): Ohio State