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Ohio State’s linebacker positioning has been a big reason for defensive woes

The Buckeyes have been victimized by playing too close to the line of scrimmage this year.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“I thought their linebackers were good players, but they were up in the line of scrimmage a good bit. And if you could get past that first level, there was a bigger level between them and the safety because they play up so far.”

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm on Ohio State’s linebackers via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

There is no questions Ohio State has had problems on defense this year, but now with the loss to Purdue on Saturday night, those problems are becoming a little clearer. The Ohio State defense have given up countless big plays this year, and a reason for that could be because their linebackers are playing too close to the line of scrimmage, leaving opponents plenty of space to attack if they are able to get through the first level of defenders.

The Buckeyes actually made an effort to try and not have their linebackers so close to the line of scrimmage last week. The plan was foiled though numerous times on third down, when the Buckeyes had to walk their linebackers up closer to the line of scrimmage because of some of the blitz packages they were calling to try and create some pressure. Purdue recognized this and was able to exploit the strategy since Ohio State’s linebackers had a hard time shedding blocks.

With the linebackers spending a lot of time out of position, it has led to way too many missed tackles. As the game went on, the missed tackles felt like a snowball effect, and was most embarrassing on Rondale Moore’s 43-yard touchdown with just over three minutes to go.

With a bye week to recover from the embarrassing loss to the Boilermakers, Ohio State is planning on tweaking some of their strategies before the Buckeyes take the field next week against Nebraska, but no wholesale changes are planned. The defensive coaching staff feels it is pretty tough to make major changes eight games into the season, they just have to get better at executing the schemes they are comfortable with. If Ohio State doesn’t get a better grip on what they are trying to do on defense quickly, they’ll see their College Football Playoff hopes go up in smoke.

“Well, once again it’s very complicated just with personnel and what we’re seeing. And once again, I’ll know more [after the week] ... I know we’re going to work on the red zone the next three days straight.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via John Brice, Letterman Row

Defense isn’t the only area where Ohio State has had issues this year. The offense has largely been good, but their performance in the red zone has been concerning. In last week’s loss to the Boilermakers, Ohio State made five trips inside Purdue’s 20-yard line and were only able to muster two field goals. For the year, the Buckeyes have failed to score on nine trips inside the opponent’s 20, which is already more than in 2017, when they scored on 61 of 68 trips inside in the red zone.

A big reason why Ohio State has been so ineffective inside the 20 this year has been because of their lack of a running game. Last year the Buckeyes had 25 rushing touchdowns, while this year they only have 10 rushing touchdowns in eight games. The absence of quarterback J.T. Barrett, who gave Ohio State versatility with his running ability, has seen the Buckeyes struggle inside the red zone more than anyone could have predicted.

With Ohio State moving to an offense that is built more around passing the football, the Buckeyes are having a hard time finding holes inside the 20, where the field shrinks and receivers have less room to work. If Ohio State wants to restore some of their red zone success of past years, they’ll need the offensive line to do a better job at create some holes to allow for running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to pick up some of the workload on the ground inside the 20 that has been left by Barrett. If they are able to fix some of their red zone issues, the Buckeyes could still salvage a season that looked severely damaged by the loss to Purdue.

“It’s a lot of emotions, a wild 24 hours. I’m happy to be here and can’t wait to go to work.”

Former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple after being traded to the New Orleans Saints via Rod Walker, The New Orleans Advocate

The New Orleans Saints are hoping familiarity breeds success for former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple. On Tuesday, the Saints traded two draft picks to acquire Apple from the New York Giants, who he was in his third season with. Apple will join fellow former Buckeyes Marshon Lattimore, Vonn Bell, and Kurt Coleman in the Saints secondary.

After being taken with the 10th pick by the Giants in the 2016 NFL Draft, Apple has failed to live up to expectations. The cornerback has been hampered by injuries during his NFL career, and only recorded one interceptions in 30 games. Problems in the Giants locker room over the past couple years also haven’t helped Apple as he tries to make a name for himself with his performance on the field. A fresh start could be just what the former Buckeye needs, and at least now he’ll be surrounded by plenty of friendly faces.

“That’s what you need to do, you need to build momentum and learn from some of the mistakes we made throughout the weekend. We need to build off the good we created. Taking three points from a No. 3 team in the country was huge at their rink nonetheless.”

Ohio State women’s ice hockey coach Nadine Muzerall via Brian Nelson, The Lantern

Last weekend Ohio State’s women’s ice hockey team hit the road and took on Minnesota, splitting two games with the Golden Gophers. Now the No. 4-ranked Buckeyes will hit the road for another tough weekend series, taking on St. Lawrence, who is No. 10 in the country.

The Buckeyes looked like they might be in a little over their head last week when they dropped the first game against the Golden Gophers 3-0, but Ohio State rebounded to split the weekend series with a 3-2 win on Saturday. Now Ohio State sits at 6-2 after eight games this year, and 3-1 in WCHA play.

The star of the weekend for Ohio State was again freshman goaltender Andrea Braendli, who won WCHA Goaltender of the Week honors for the second week in a row. Barendli has started five games for the Buckeyes this year, and is sporting a .950 save percentage. The freshman could have another big weekend, as St. Lawrence is scoring the fifth-fewest goals per game in the country.

The biggest challenge for Ohio State this weekend will be getting pucks into the net. While the Buckeyes do have a strong offensive attack, St. Lawrence is allowing 1.88 goals per game this year. If Ohio State is able to score a few goals, they’ll have a great chance at sweeping the weekend series with St. Lawrence’s woes scoring goals. The two teams drop the puck at 6 p.m. ET on Friday and then 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.