Looking for more pressure

Ohio State looking at different methods to jumpstart its pass rush

Updated: September 11, 2012, 2:38 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The list of potential excuses is long, even after two games.

Ohio State started against a rapid-fire spread offense that relied on getting passes out quickly. The next opponent focused its attention on the best Buckeyes up front, electing to use extra blockers to keep its quarterback upright. If they wanted, the Buckeyes could look at their own roster and blame a pair of significant injuries for slowing them down early in the season.

[+] EnlargeJohn Simon
Phil Sears/US PresswireJohn Simon, Ohio State's sack leader in 2011, is still looking for his first sack in 2012.
But none of those is topic for conversation as Ohio State tries to regroup and recharge a pass rush that it expects to be among the best in the nation by the end of the season. Because for now it's simply searching for answers, knowing full well that even if everything does go perfectly in the trenches, that doesn't guarantee anything on the stat sheet.

"Pass rush is a huge part of football," defensive end John Simon said. "But it's tougher than you think to get a sack."

Simon speaks from experience, both as a veteran who led the Buckeyes with seven of them a year ago and as a guy still looking for the first of his senior season.

Collectively, Ohio State has just three sacks after two games. The Buckeyes still are 2-0 and won both of those contests thanks in large part to the work the defensive line has done stuffing the run. Still, there has been a bit of concern and a sense of urgency to start affecting the quarterback the way the coaching staff anticipated.

Having ends Nathan Williams and Michael Bennett healthy would certainly provide an easy solution. But Williams continues to deal with soreness in his surgically repaired knee, and Bennett's injured groin is expected to keep him out again Saturday with California visiting the Horseshoe, so Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer is willing to look elsewhere for help.

"I could list a multitude of reasons and excuses and so on and so forth, but we have to get better and hit the quarterback or it's going to be a long year," Meyer said. "There's two ways of doing it. One is defeating the man in a pass rush, 'I'm going to go beat him and rush the quarterback.' Or, I'm going to blitz and try to confuse you.

"Traditionally are we a huge blitz team, or [defensive coordinator Luke] Fickell or the Buckeyes for the last decade? No, but that's certainly in our package and it might happen this week."

The preference for Meyer would be to simply use three or four linemen to get after the passer, and with Simon and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins pacing perhaps the deepest and most talented position group on the team, there didn't seem to be much need to plan on dialing up many exotic blitzes.

The Buckeyes still might not have to, because despite giving up 281 passing yards per game, they have already come up with five interceptions to help offset that. And though they aren't piling up sacks, those protection-heavy schemes they've faced produced only a total of 26 points for opponents -- and two losses.

"It's very important to rush the passer, and we still have to be there as fast as possible," Simon said. "Our secondary is doing a great job of creating turnovers, getting in the way of receivers, things like that.

"An interception is better than pressure any day."

What Ohio State would prefer is to find a way to get both.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter