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Defensive Expectations for the Scarlet and Gray

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Photo: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State had their chance to set expectations for the upcoming season at this weeks Big Ten Media Days, and head coach Ryan Day set some rather large goals for the new man on campus in defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jim Knowles.

“In terms of expectations, we expect a Top 10 defense. That's what we want,” Day said. “When we've played our best football, it's because we played really good defense, and we've been balanced and played complementary football. We want to obviously stop the run to begin with, and then go from there, but we expect a Top 10 defense.”

Last year, Knowles turned around one of the worst defenses in college football in Oklahoma State and made them into a Top 5 defense in the country while sending two guys to the NFL to go along with the impressive turnaround. He did that with much less talent then he will be working with in Columbus, so the expectation of a Top 10 defense is reasonable for Ryan Day to expect with a unit loaded with four- and five-star recruits.

The biggest question remaining after Ohio State's media day is can Jim Knowles actually bring the high level defense back to Columbus? The Buckeyes lost two of the top defensive recruits in the 2023 class to USC in linebacker Tackett Curtis and Alabama in safety Caleb Downs, two guys that normally would have been locks for Ohio State. Knowles has also not added any linebackers to the 2023 class so far, which leaves Buckeye fans wondering what has the new DC done since being in the 612.

There are still months remaining until national signing day. Perhaps Knowles is waiting until high school football begins in the next month to turn on the linebacker recruiting. Either way, the linebacker position is of major need for Ohio State, and if they are going to have a Top 10 defense this year like Day expects.

Ohio State returns a defense that was tied with Middle Tennessee for 59th in total defense last season. They were tied for 25th in the nation in points allowed at 20.9 with Arizona State. They allowed 366 yards against per game last season, which ranked them well outside of the Top 30. They were Top 25 in sacks, but even still, sacks felt few and far between compared to what Buckeye fans were used to.

The defense for Ohio State would be acceptable at most places around the nation, but Ohio State expects to compete for a National Championship, and they likely could have won one last year with one of the best offense's in the nation, but the defensive woes cost them their two biggest games of the year. Jim Knowles was brought in to fix this issue with Ohio State. The bar has been set, now the clock is ticking for Knowles.

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