It began with just a few whispers, but Luke Fickell is rapidly coming under full-throated criticism for the performance of his defense.
Fans became accustomed to rock-solid units churned out year after year under Jim Heacock, but the truth is that down through the years Ohio State has more often than not boasted stellar defenses. Since 1970, the Buckeyes have been honored with 88 first-team All-Americans, and 49 of those have played defense.
Ohio State remains a hard-hitting unit which seems to have a penchant for coming up with a big play at just the right time. But this year’s defense also leads the league in its maddening number of missed tackles, blown assignments and personal-foul penalties.
During my years covering OSU, I have seen some struggling defenses. The 1980 unit was so porous in pass coverage that Illinois quarterback Dave Wilson established an NCAA single-game record by throwing for 621 yards against the Buckeyes. In 1988, when the Buckeyes stumbled to a 4-6-1 record, the defense surrendered a program-record 283 points. The following year, it re-established that mark when it gave up 297.
This year’s team is on pace to challenge that record, currently giving up an average of 24.6 points per game. In terms of total defense, the Buckeyes are surrendering 400.0 yards per game on average. To put those numbers in some sort of free-falling context, just two years ago during the 2010 season, Ohio State ranked among the top five defenses in the nation, giving up averages of 14.3 points and 262.2 yards per game. This year’s unit doesn’t rank among the nation’s top 50 in either category.
Read the rest by clicking on this link: Rea's Say Blog: Oct. 19.