“Under his guidance, the Cougars had the No. 16 total defense in the country in 2017. That is a long way from the No. 97 total defense they had the year before Grinch was hired in 2014.”
With current Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano potentially headed to the NFL, newcomer Alex Grinch’s role on the defense could get a lot more robust. While his duties were never officially announced, Grinch was widely expected to be named co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach under Urban Meyer. The Ohio native, who played his own college ball at Mount Union, agreed to come to Columbus despite multiple offers for jobs in the SEC--a big win for Meyer in luring talented coaches to the Big Ten.
In three seasons at Washington State, Grinch improved the Cougars’ total defense to a top-20 ranking nationally--a vast improvement from where Mike Leach’s squad had been previously. Points allowed per game dropped for three straight years from 38.6 in 2014 to 25.8 by last season.
One of Grinch’s signatures on defense is forcing turnovers. While Miami got a lot of attention last season with its turnover chain, Washington State quietly snuck into the top-10 in turnovers forced with 28 (Ohio State was 29th nationally with 24 turnovers).
In addition, as a defensive backs coach by trade, Grinch’s pass defense has always been stout. Last season, the Cougars gave up just 170.9 passing yards per game, and were fifth nationally in passing touchdowns allowed. Washington State was also seventh in the NCAA in passing efficiency defense.
Grinch heavily favored the nickel while with the Cougars, though that preference may have been due to a higher rate of passing in the Pac-12 conference. However, he has been flexible with his schemes overall, shifting from nickel to 4-3 to 3-4 over the course of a game. While his reliance on the nickel may shift as he moves to the Big Ten, there is little doubt that Grinch’s trademark shutdown secondary will remain firmly in place.
“There was a lot of game left. We weren’t worried and knew we were gonna come back.”
One of the hallmarks of this year’s Ohio State basketball squad is its ability to come back when down. While many teams are unable to get out of the holes that they might dig themselves in early on in games, the Buckeyes have been able to steadily play their game and overcome even double-digit deficits, as they showed against Illinois yesterday.
Ohio State was down 15 to the Illini in the first half yesterday--a team that has won just two games in conference play this season. However, led by players like Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes did not panic. While turnovers remained an issue, and the team had to figure out how to play after losing guard Kam Williams due to suspension, Ohio State made adjustments and was able to take the lead at halftime.
Now, Ohio State must take that learning to West Lafayette, Ind., as they face No. 3 Purdue for a shot at the top spot in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have not lost since November and are undefeated at home. While the odds may be stacked against the Buckeyes, the fact remains that Chris Holtmann’s team has yet to play themselves out of a game in conference play. The loss to Penn State could just as easily gone to overtime, as Bates-Diop tied things up with just seconds left on the clock. In other instances, like Sunday’s outing, Ohio State simply cleaned up their game and played solid defense until they overcame their deficit.
Turnovers remain the Buckeyes’ biggest issue, however, having committed 18 Sunday against Illinois. While Illinois is tops in the Big Ten in forcing turnovers, several of those slip ups led straight to scoring plays. Those are the type of plays that Holtmann wants to limit, even if he can’t get the overall turnover number down.
“All I can do is be me. I’m comfortable in my skin.”
A former top pick in the NBA Draft, former Ohio State great Greg Oden perhaps is more famous for being selected ahead of Kevin Durant than for his own NBA career, which was cut short due to a string of injuries which ultimately led to his early exit from the association. Now, however, Oden is fashioning a new life and career for himself--but one which is still closely tied to Ohio State basketball.
In one year at Ohio State, the 7-foot Oden averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game on his way to being taken No. 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. He last saw action in the NBA during the 2013-14 season with the Miami Heat.
Coming back to Columbus, Oden credits Ohio State with being able to give him direction, especially after his tumultuous career in the NBA. Oden said that his time on campus as a 30-year-old is different than his experience more than a decade ago. Now, few of the students even recognize him as he spends most of his time either in class or working. Most importantly, he has the opportunity to complete his education, which is something he promised his mother that he would do. He comes to work and class each day with a new mentality, seeking to gain all of the industry knowledge that he can to set himself up for success in the future.
A sports industry major, Oden works as a student assistant coach on Chris Holtmann’s squad. As a 30-year-old coaching a younger generation of players, Oden brings a different perspective to many who, like Oden himself a few short years ago, have aspirations of playing at the next level. But Oden certainly doesn’t take it easy on the younger guys, acknowledging that he still has a “basketball mentality...I try to dominate them as much as I can.”