COLUMBUS, Ohio — The athleticism speaks for itself. The numbers make a pretty compelling case as well.
Urban Meyer has spent years looking at blitzers capable of sabotaging an offensive game plan, so he knows a wrecking-ball defender when he sees one on film.
+ EnlargeJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesRyan Shazier is blitzing more and getting more quarterbacks in his grasp.But when the Ohio State coach puts all that together and evaluates star linebacker Ryan Shazier, something isn’t quite adding up. If the junior is among the most effective players in the country at piercing into an opponent’s backfield and racking up tackles for loss, why exactly aren’t the Buckeyes letting him do that as often as possible? “We had that conversation,” Meyer said. “I’m an offensive guy, and I think disruptive defenses are very hard to work against.
“We did have some conversation, because I think Ryan Shazier is one of the best blitzers in America. And he doesn’t blitz very much.”
In the past, there have been some valid reasons for scaling Shazier back and trying to dialing down some of the aggression.
The elite speed he brings to the position is great, and it’s certainly a critical part of his success when Shazier comes around the edge with a quarterback in his sights. But unless he’s heading in the right direction, that natural ability doesn’t do much good. Ohio State first had to teach him the proper way to aim his blitzes.
His instincts are invaluable in tracking down defenders. But even by Shazier’s own estimation, that’s only 40 percent of the battle, and he’s had to spend more time both breaking down tendencies of opponents and watching his own footwork on film to help find a more consistent edge.
And while his nine tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and two sacks provide a handy argument for turning him loose as often as possible, the Buckeyes obviously can’t just dial up extra pressure on every snap, particularly since their most productive defender has also proven to be successful in coverage with 12 career pass breakups and an interception.
But there is surely a happy medium between an all-out onslaught and a small handful of blitzes, and Shazier obviously won’t mind more chances to add to his Big Ten-leading total of tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“I’m blitzing as much as the coaches want me to, and I’m going to try to get there every time,” Shazier said. “If the coaches want to keep sending me, I’m going to keep going.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do. I love blitzing, and the coaching staff is starting to realize that I like blitzing and we’re going to start being more aggressive, sending more people.”
That ramped-up approach can benefit more than Shazier’s individual numbers, and even when he doesn’t quite get to the passer, he can still have an impact that benefits the rest of the defense.
The Buckeyes have had some communication issues and coverage problems at times in the secondary, with the loss of safety Christian Bryant to a broken ankle only adding to the difficulty. …
Continue reading this article at ESPN: Buckeyes ready to turn Shazier loose