Ohio State football: Grading the defense at midpoint of the season

The Ohio State defense showed much improvement in the first six games of thes eason.

Here is a look at the way each position group performed for new coordinator Jim Knowles and a mostly new staff:

Defensive line: B+

After a down season, this group has been strong collectively so far in 2022.

The Buckeyes are 15th in the nation in rushing defense and 16th in yards per carry allowed (2.97).

They are 12th in Football Outsiders “Average Line Yards,” which credits the line for shorter carries and carries for loss, after rankings 51st in that category a year ago, and ninth in “Power Success Rate, which measures stops in short-yardage situations.

But the pass rush still leaves something to be desired with the Buckeyes 46th nationally with 2.3 sacks per game and ranking 74th nationally in Football Outsiders passing downs sack rate.

Linebackers: A

The new defensive scheme has played a role in the defensive line losing some sack opportunities by asking the group to spend more time soaking up blockers, but that looks like a net positive at this point as the linebackers are having their best season since 2019.

Tommy Eichenberg leads the Buckeyes with 50 tackles and is second on the team with 2.5 sacks while Steele Chambers is No. 2 in stops with 31.

Cody Simon is fourth on the team with 20 tackles despite playing only part time.

Safeties: B

There’s a lot to process here as three now play regularly, and they are key to the success of the scheme.

Ronnie Hickman has remained a versatile contributor all over the field while Lathan Ransom has looked good in center field and transfer Tanner McCalister has been strong at nickel.

Overall, the Buckeyes are eighth in passing yards allowed but 31st in passing efficiency defense, so there is room for improvement.

Cornerbacks: D

This group has struggled more than any other on the team.

Senior Cam Brown and sophomore Denzel Burke have both been benched at one time after making a series of errors in a game, and teams have been able to attack both on the perimeter.

Day said he feels as if they are often in position to make a play but aren’t able to do so, and they rank tied for 102nd in the nation with 3.5 passes defended per game (all defensive backs).

Coaching: B+

So far so good for Jim Knowles’ new defense, though it has not been tested by a good offense yet.

The Buckeyes have improved across the board, though he admitted he would like to see more turnovers and sacks.

Larry Johnson gets a nod for having his players adjust to a new style up front, and safeties coach Perry Eliano has been praised for helping prepare that group to be the focal point of the defense, but Tim Walton has some work to do with the cornerbacks.

NEXT GAME

SATURDAY, OCT. 22

Iowa at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410

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