I need to start off with a disclaimer: I absolutely hate writing these kinds of posts. Whenever there is a controversial topic where both sides are passionate and stubborn it is nearly impossible to convince either side to be reasonable and have a discussion and not a fight.
Having said that, I want to tackle the issue of Ohio State’s defense and, in particular, Luke Fickell.
First lets start off with some facts.
Facts for 2012:
- Ohio State is 7-0
- The defense is giving up 24.6 PPG
- OSU is giving up 122 YPG on the ground
- OSU is giving up 277 YPG in the air
- Total defense is 399 YPG
Facts for 2011:
- Ohio State was 6-7
- The defense gave up 21.0 PPG
- OSU gave up 141 YPG on the ground
- OSU gave up 180 YPG in the air
- Total defense is 321 YPG
Now, for some of you, at the beginning of the year I heard a lot of people saying, “Coach Meyer better not FIRE Luke Fickell after he guided OSU through a 6-7 campaign and gained a lot of respect from fans and the media for helping guide OSU through a difficult time.” Fast forward ten months and OSU is now 7-0 and I am hearing a lot of fans screaming, “Coach Meyer better fire Luke Fickell.” WHAT?????
That alone might make my case. But if it pleases the court, I’d like to introduce some additional evidence for the jury.
Exhibit A – Last year, Luke didn’t call defensive plays and the defense was just as bad if not worse in some categories. Such as: in the seven losses, OSU gave up 25.5 PPG and in the seven wins this year OSU is giving up 24.6 PPG. Sounds like an improvement to me.
Exhibit B – OSU is running a completely new offense that is based on speeding things up and scoring as fast as possible. This strategy keeps the offense off the field a lot more and the defense on the field A LOT more. The more they are out there the more tired they get and more chances they have to make mistakes. Nine chances per game, to be exact. Last year, the defense was on the field for an average of 64 plays per game. Through the first seven games of this year, the defense is averaging 73 plays per game. A lot can happen in nine plays.
Exhibit C – OSU has lost a lot of talent to transfers and injuries. Of the last ten linebackers recruited, two are still with the team. TWO. We are decimated with injuries all over the defense to some of our key players. Some of those injured are still not 100% and are playing hurt. Every starting defensive back has missed time this year. We have had two of the three linebackers miss extended time. Half the defensive line has missed extended time.
Exhibit D – OSU has a serious depth issue and because of that they have to play a lot of freshmen who just aren’t ready to play at this level without making mistakes along the way.
Exhibit E – OSU is so depleted they have moved a fullback to linebacker and a defensive end to linebacker. Both of whom are seniors and have spent the previous three plus years playing at that position. That is a recipe for disaster.
Exhibit F – It is a time honored tradition for sports fans to blame the coaches when something goes bad. Maybe, just maybe, the players aren’t as good as we had all hoped. That’s not to say they can’t or won’t be great players but right now we have very few ELITE players on defense and those we have have been injured a lot.
Exhibit G – OSU has two defensive coordinators and a head coach and multiple defensive assistants. Somehow, Luke Fickell has become the scapegoat. If Coach Meyer thought Luke was the problem I am sure he would ask Coach Withers, who has had success calling defensive plays, to take over. Or any of the other defensive assistants. Truth is, he calls the plays and sometimes he calls bad ones. Sometimes the players just aren’t making the plays they need to.
Exhibit H – Coach Meyer and his staff will fix this problem and will do it by recruiting better defenders. They will put the best guys on the field and put them in a place to have success and if they fail they will replace them. That same theory will apply to the coaches as well.
What we have here folks is a perfect example of sports. There are very few “complete” teams, teams with great offenses, defenses, and coaching. Those teams are so rare and yet fans expect to have them every year for their teams. When it doesn’t happen some fans revolt and look for a scapegoat. Some fans blame the coaches. Some fans blame the players. Some fans blame the referees. In actuality there is enough blame to go around. So spread it around but make sure you have the facts and don’t blame blindly and be a lemming joining the masses in a good old fashioned rage-mob carrying pitchforks and torches.
Lastly, If I were to tell you two months ago OSU would be 7-0 right now and fans would be angry and wanting to see Luke Fickell fired, would you believe me?