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Ohio State’s secondary looks to benefit from a simplified scheme in 2019

Co-defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison are hoping that simplifying things will lead to more turnovers for the Ohio State defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 Big Ten Championship Game - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“We’re just having athletes out there going out and making plays, not too much thinking. They don’t want us thinking too much, but go out there and play ball. We have certain plays where we have to think here and there, but at the end of the day, the defensive game plan is lowered a little bit, which allows us to go out there and make plays.”

Ohio State safety Brendon White via Joey Kaufman, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State is known as “DBU” but lately that moniker hasn’t been fitting of the performance on the field. In 2016 the Buckeyes intercepted 21 passes, but over the last two years Ohio State has only picked off a combined 24 passes. Along with intercepting just 11 passes last year, the performance of the secondary was especially lacking, as the Buckeyes allowed 242 yards per game through the air, which was 70 yards per game more than they allowed in 2016.

With the overhaul of the defensive coaching staff that Ryan Day made when he was named head coach, Ohio State is getting back to basics. The last couple years, the defensive schemes of Greg Schiano left players thinking too much. New co-defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison are simplifying things and just wanting to see players in the secondary out there using their athletic talents to make plays.

So far in practice the simplified schemes have paid off, with the defensive backs creating more turnovers. With an offense that is still working on getting comfortable with new quarterback Justin Fields behind center, creating turnovers early is going to be key for both sides of the football. More interceptions will not only build up the confidence of the defense after their subpar play last year, but the defense has the chance to give the offense some short fields and allow them to put some points on the scoreboard.

Expect a bounce back year from the defense this year, as those remaining from last year’s team know they have a lot to prove to quiet some of the doubters. With the plan Hafley and Mattison have in place, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Ohio State return to the levels of dominance that was seen from the Silver Bullets in 2016.

“I think Garrett has done a phenomenal job of growing, maturing and talking coaching. The growth has been really good, and I’m really happy with it — especially with a young guy like that, we’re not even close to scratching the surface of where we want to be. But I can’t say enough positive things about the way he’s going about his business and the way he’s going to grow day in, day out.”

Ohio State wide receiver coach Brian Hartline on freshman Garrett Wilson via Austin Ward, Letterman Row

Garrett Wilson was one of the most sought-after wide receivers in the country coming out of high school, and at the spring game Wilson gave Ohio State fans just a taste of what’s to come. Wilson finished April’s scrimmage with four catches for 44 yards, with one of those being a highlight reel 18-yard touchdown grab.

With all of the talent that Wilson possesses, it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t even played his first true college football game yet. Luckily for Wilson, he has former NFL wide receiver Brian Hartline as his wide receivers coach. While Hartline is impressed with the work Wilson is doing during training camp, he knows there is still plenty the talented freshman still has to learn to reach his potential.

Not only will Wilson benefit from Hartline’s coaching, but he’ll also have a chance to prove himself on the field early. Ohio State will be looking to replace three senior wide receivers, and Wilson is a part of a group of six wide receivers who should see a good amount of playing time when the season starts next Saturday against Florida Atlantic. The amount of talent Ohio State has amassed at wide receiver will also allow Wilson to get comfortable on the field at Ohio State without being expected to live up to the hype early on.

As if Cleveland Browns fans didn’t have enough to be excited about for the upcoming NFL season, today the team announced they signed wide receiver Braxton Miller. The former Buckeye will be entering his fourth year in the NFL after he was taken by the Houston Texans in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Miller caught 34 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns in 21 games for the Texans before being released prior to the 2018 season.

Last season Miller spent the year on the practice squad of the Philadelphia Eagles before being released over the weekend following the signing of quarterback Josh McCown. The Eagles deemed Miller expendable after he was overshadowed by a number of young wide receiver in camp with the Eagles.

Miller will join fellow Buckeye Denzel Ward on the Browns’ roster, but it will likely take a huge showing from Miller over the next couple weeks to make Cleveland’s 53-man roster. The Browns already have good depth at wide receiver with Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and a number of others. If Miller isn’t able to impress enough to make the 53-man roster of the Browns, the team might possibly look at adding him to their practice squad, since NFL players can spend up to three seasons on practice squads.

While one former Ohio State wide receiver looks like he might be getting his last shot at latching on with an NFL, another former Buckeye wideout could have a bright future ahead of him. Noah Brown was taken in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Brown hasn’t made much noise in his first two years in the NFL, catching just nine passes for 87 yards.

Things could change this year for Brown though, as his versatility is giving new Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore some options with how to utilize Brown. Even though Brown is still young and raw, his size and skill set makes it so that Dallas can’t just get rid of him like many players that are taken that late in the NFL Draft.

Even though Brown doesn’t quite have the size of a true tight end, he could make an impact with Dallas with his blocking. Brown won’t be able to block some of the stronger defensive ends in the game, but he can hold his own while trying to tie up linebackers. Moore could also use Brown at fullback this season, which would allow Brown to sneak out of the backfield for some catches.

With his size and hands, expect the Cowboys to target Brown more in the red zone this season. Not only does Brown provide value in the ability to block for Ezekiel Elliott, or whoever lines up at running back for the Cowboys this year, but he will provide Dak Prescott a big, reliable target in the cramped confines of the red zone.

Brown doesn’t just provide value catching the football and blocking, but he is also a key part of Dallas’ special teams unit. Had it not been for his ability to contribute on special teams, the Cowboys might have already given Brown his walking papers. Urban Meyer emphasized special teams during his time at Ohio State, and it looks to have been what has kept Brown in Dallas so far. Now that Brown is healthy after spending the first half of last season on injured reserve, he seems primed to see his role expand with the Cowboys.