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Defensive Resurgence: Ohio State's Path to 2023 Success

In recent years, Ohio State's football journey has been marked by both highs and lows. Their high-powered offense, capable of scoring at will against most opponents, has often been offset by a defense that struggled to make crucial stops at the highest levels of the sport. This issue was glaringly evident in the final two games of the 2022 season.


Heading into the showdown against Michigan, Ohio State's defense had shown success in limiting opponent offenses, but there were cracks in their armor. In the Penn State game, they allowed significant plays, even trailing at one point in the 4th quarter before JT Tuimoloau made game-changing plays on defense. Maryland also put up a stronger fight than expected against OSU's talented defensive roster.


In the last two games of the season, the defense surrendered five touchdowns of over 50 yards, with Michigan responsible for four of them. Big plays were the Achilles' heel in The Game, where Michigan amassed 350 yards and five touchdowns in just five explosive plays. Outside of those plays, they managed only 181 yards and one touchdown, illustrating the boom-or-bust nature of the defense.

Players
Credit: Rebecca Benson via Toledo Blade

Against Georgia, Ohio State struggled with multiple plays over 40 yards, including a backbreaking 76-yard touchdown due to a defensive breakdown. This allowed Georgia to mount a comeback in the 4th quarter, ultimately winning the College Football Playoff Championship.


Looking forward to 2023, Ohio State is focused on addressing these defensive challenges:

 

Experience and Depth: The return of key defenders like JT Tuimoloau and Tommy Eichenberg, both All-Conference in 2022, provides valuable experience. Tuimoloau's remarkable performance against Penn State is a promising sign for the upcoming season. Additionally, Ohio State has bolstered the defense with transfers from the portal, such as Jahad Carter, Davison Igbinosun, and Lorenzo Styles.

 

New Talent: Excitement surrounds emerging talents like Sonny Styles and CJ Hicks. Styles, a standout from Pickerington Central High School, has impressed in camp and is expected to play a pivotal role in the secondary. Hicks, a highly regarded linebacker, poses competition for starting positions, considering the changing landscape of college football, where the transfer portal and NIL offer players more options.

 

System Experience and Scheme: Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' system, known for its success at Oklahoma State, is evolving in Columbus. While the defense showed improvement in 2022, challenges with assignments and breakdowns persisted. Knowles anticipates that another year of system familiarity and adjustments tailored to the rugged Big Ten will propel the defense into the top five nationally, as he envisions.

 

In 2023, Ohio State aims to build on its defensive strengths and make strides toward a national title, driven by experience, talent infusion, and continued system development under Coach Knowles. The offense will continue to do its part, even with a new quarterback. It will be the defense that either propels Ohio State to the promised land or holds them back.


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