Ohio State football: Changes coming to struggling Buckeyes’ defense

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football coach Ryan Day said there will be changes on defense for the ninth-ranked Buckeyes this week.

That was about as specific as he was willing to get Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

“We’re giving up too many yards and too many points,” he said of Ohio State’s 35-28 loss to Oregon. “Now it’s become a little bit of a pattern. So, had a long, hard look the last 48 hours at everything that was going on, and we’re certainly going to make some adjustments here not only in how we’re attacking other offenses, but also just structurally how we’re doing our day-to-day operations.”

Here are five takeaways from Day’s press conference to open a week in which Ohio State will play host to Tulsa:

1. Kerry Coombs is still the defensive coordinator, but Day would not say who will make the defensive calls this weekend.

“I don’t want to get into specifics, I want to keep looking at it this week,” Day said. “I don’t think it’s something that we’re going to decide right now either. It’s going to be something where we all get in there, take a hard look at everything we’re doing from scheme to structure and figure out what gives us the best chance to win against Tulsa. No hard decisions have been made that way yet.”

2. Day has had difficult and “honest” talks with the staff, but he eschewed sharing specifics.

“Yeah, I’d rather not share the conversations but yeah I mean when you look at the results over the last couple games and then coming off the last year, it’s not what we expect here,” Day said. “It’s not our expectation. And so, that’s all part of looking at how we even move forward.

“You want to act. You don’t want to overreact. You have to make sure you do things the right way. You allow people to do their job but when it gets to a certain point you have to get things fixed.”

3. He acknowledged the rotation might be too big on defense.

Ohio State rotated heavily at several positions in the first two games, particularly linebacker.

The coaching staff has espoused the positives of playing depth, but so far those have not been evident in the play on the field.

“It’s like anything else — when it’s not working, then you have to look at all those things,” Day said.

4. He reiterated he did not make changes in the offseason because of mitigating factors contributing to last season’s struggles.

After Coombs was hired in February 2020, the Buckeyes had most of spring practice canceled, little offseason program and an unusual preseason as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much coaching was relegated to video conference last season, and there were much fewer game and practice reps available for development of young players tasked with replacing high draft picks lost off the stellar 2019 defense.

All of those things came together to give Day the belief a fresh start could yield better results in ‘21.

“It was hard to identify exactly what the issues were, or I felt confident that we could get it fixed and addressed,” Day said. “And when we made the adjustments to help in the pass game, it certainly wasn’t adjusted in the run game. So, you know, a different issue but the same outcome. And so now here we are and we’ve got to get some things fixed.”

5. Day was unhappy to suffer his first regular-season loss as head coach of the Buckeyes, but he hopes the setback will lead to positive gains in the long run.

“That’s the key,” the third-year head coach said. “The great thing about something like this is, one, the issues that are there are exposed and you get a chance to address them with this group. The you find out a lot about a lot of people when adversity hits. You find out about their true character.

“It’s one thing when things are going well. People can be frontrunners. They can pat you on the back, whether it’s inside the program or outside the program, but this is like life. It’s a great opportunity for our guys to learn about that and grow. If we come out of this stronger, it can make us better. We have to use it to build some strength and some leadership. That’s what we’re going to do.”


Tulsa at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., FS1, 1410

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