Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 11, 2015

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — What is it like to face Ohio State?s offense? Oregon has studied hours of footage. But, that can?t replicate the experience of lining up across from this prolific Buckeye attack.

I talked to an anonymous Big Ten defensive coordinator who game-planned and faced Ohio State this season.

[ MORE: Jacoby Boren Q&A | OSU hype video | Ezekiel Elliott feature ]

Here are his thoughts on facing the prolific Buckeye attack.


On Ezekiel Elliott:

You want to try to wall the first level when facing him. By that, I mean you have to try to cover all of the gaps. The problem for us when we played Ohio State, Ezekiel was as big as our linebackers. I didn?t want him to get a head of steam-which he did. You want to try to get him sideways. You get him sideways, then you have a chance to take away his power base and you have a chance to get him down. If your DBs are making tackles, you lose the game. That?s what ended up happening to us. And we lost the game. You have to get him before he gets a head of steam and his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.

His size and speed make him special. He has average vision. We played against backs with better vision. I think Melvin Gordon has better vision. (Tevin) Coleman at Indiana has better vision. But Elliott is bigger and plays bigger. So when he hits you, he lays a pop. And he does a good job of keeping his shoulder pads square, and downhill in the hole. He is running through guys who are trying to tackle him who aren?t his size.


On the offensive line:

They got better. We tried to mimic some of the things Virginia Tech did because we saw some things. They ran ?Bear,? we saw the one-on-one blocks they had. Ohio State wasn?t prepared for that vs. Tech. So we tried to attack them that way-and we got in and out of a lot of fronts. But Ohio State?s line came together and communicated a lot better. Anytime we switched fronts on them, the center did a good job double-checking that they all were on the same page.


On the receivers:

They are the best in the Big Ten. Whose are better? I look at how wideouts impact a game. Their guys always impact the game. Always. Look at the Michigan State game. Ohio State made it look like Michigan State?s DBs couldn?t run. (Evan) Spencer, (Devin) Smith, that whole group. It?s pretty salty-and the tight ends aren?t bad.


On Cardale Jones:

Believe it or not, I think he has been better than J.T. Barrett. This guy is hurdling guys. Me and you could hurdle guys diving at our legs. This guy can hurdle players who are standing up. I think the ball he throws is more accurate. They control things with him. They don?t give him a lot of reads-stick, double-in, double-out. But he throws a good ball.

Do they have him run the play called? Or do they try to check in and out of things? Would I blitz him? It depends on what they have him do. If (play calls are) sideline-driven, then there is no need for you to do a whole bunch of disguising because it isn?t gonna affect him. You have to disguise up top-see what they don?t like and what they are trying to check into. If they are just letting him run the play called, now you have to move around on him and try to take away his confidence. It depends on who you are trying to fool-the sideline or him.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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