After seeing two games of defensive mistakes and a lack of significant change, Ohio State coach Ryan Day handed playcalling duties over to secondary coach Matt Barnes on Saturday against visiting Tulsa .
Kerry Coombs, the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator, had been calling plays from the sideline to start the season, but after the 41-20 win over Tulsa, Day told reporters they made the change earlier in the week to give the defense its best shot at success.
“We just took a hard look at it and had a lot of hard conversations and tried to figure out what gives us the best chance to move forward,” Day said. “This is kind of the rhythm and the structure that we feel like, right now, is best suited for the defense. [Coombs] is a professional. He’s an Ohio guy from the state of Ohio, he’s got a lot of pride, and he just wants to win, so he’s still very much a big part of this defense and a big part of Ohio State.”
Coombs had been on the field for the first two games, but was in the booth on Saturday while Barnes was on the field.
The Buckeyes gave up 408 yards in the first game of the season against Minnesota and gave up 505 yards in a loss to Oregon . The secondary has been a point of concern going back to last season, and Ohio State gave up over 200 yards passing in each of its first two games.
When asked if this would be a permanent move, Day said he wants to go back and review the film and see how it worked, but that he does believe this is how the roles will stay going forward.
“I thought we changed things up, just how we did things structurally on game day, which, again, we’ll look at the film and analyze that and see how that went,” Day said. “But I thought for the most part, they played with good energy, they prepared well during the week, everybody was on the same page. There were some in-game adjustments that were done much better and more efficient than the week before.”
Defensive players Ronnie Hickman and Cam Brown spoke to reporters after the game and said there wasn’t much difference in the game from Barnes calling the plays compared with Coombs, and they felt the change went smoothly.
Day said he felt the change was necessary, but the defense still struggled against Tulsa, giving up 501 total yards, including 428 through the air. The game was close until late in the fourth quarter, when Ohio State pulled away for the win.
Day acknowledged there is still more to work on, but he was encouraged to see growth from some of the young defenders starting to contribute. True freshman corner Denzel Burke is in a starting role and true freshman defensive tackle Tyleik Williams had a sack Saturday. Redshirt freshman Cameron Martinez returned an interception for a touchdown.
“It’s kind of like give and take, and there’s going to be growing pains along the way, but whatever you invest in these guys, you’re going to get back here in the future, and that’s the exciting part here,” Day said. “I think we have a really exciting young team here. I mean you look at those guys [on defense], you look at TreVeyon [Henderson ] and you see some of the guys we have up front in the O-line, our quarterback’s young — I mean we’re young, but we’re also talented. So, if we can keep building and get stronger, then the future is going to be really, really bright.”
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