The 2021 Ohio State buckeyes went 11-2 and won the rose Bowl over Utah in a shootout. While the offense was elite all season, we cant say the same for the defense. The defense struggled most of the season being the driving force to the losses against Oregon and Michigan. After the season Ryan Day cleaned house on the defensive side of the ball. The Buckeyes hired Oklahoma State Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The expectations are high for Knowless after Day said he wants a top 10 defense this season. Today we will look at how good this Ohio State defense can be in 2022.
Ohio State’s 2021 defense ranked 42nd according to Football Outsiders FEI ratings while Jim Knowles defense at Oklahoma State ranked 2nd. Knowless runs a 4-2-5 defense with a position called the Leo. Leo is a hybrid edge rusher/linebacker that can play on the edge or play standing up. Knowless defense is mostly known to play man to man but he’s not afraid to make adjustments. Through out Jim Knowles’s tenure at Oklahoma State his defense improved each season to eventually be one of the top defenses in college football. Knowless puts a strong emphasis on tackling, which the buckeyes seem to struggle with at times. The Cowboys rarely missed tackles last season. Jim Knowles scheme should improve the Buckeyes defense in 2022.
While Jim Knowles is the biggest addition to this defense he also brought his top safety from Oklahoma State, Tanner McCalister. McCalister was a big part of Oklahoma States success last year. McCalister was a top safety in the Big 12 last season. He’s a versatile safety that can play the run and is great in coverage. The lead player in the Buckeyes 2022 recruiting class CJ Hicks could do a lot to improve this defense. Hicks is a fast linebacker that also has good ball skills. With the struggle at linebacker last season, Hicks could add a lot to the group. CJ Hicks could fit in as the Leo for this defense if he shows he’s capable of starting from day one. Another freshman who could improve this defense is safety Kye Stokes. Stokes is a really good player who can play safety or cornerback. Knowless runs a safety heavy defense and Stokes would fit in perfectly.
The defense was poorest at best last season but there were a few young studs who are returning. The Buckeyes were one of the youngest teams in college football last season. The Buckeyes defense is led by Safety Ronnie Hickman who led the team in tackles last season. Hickman is always around the ball. The surprise of last year was freshman cornerback Denzel Bruke. Bruke was one of the Buckeyes top corners last season as a freshman. Ohio State also has a young stud duo on the defensive line with Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau. We expect those two to take massive leaps forward in production.
How Good Can The Ohio State Defense be?
I think Ryan Day’s expectations are a little far fetched. While Knowles has a lot of talent to use and is a great defensive mind, i think top 10 will be hard to reach. The Buckeyes with all their young talent and new DC can be a top 20 defense. With the young guys getting more experience and adding Jim Knowles, this defense can be a lot better in 2022.
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