Before heading into the gist of this article, I believe @TomOrr4 summarized my feelings on the 2013 Ohio State season very well...
Can't get over how much this feels like 1995. Really great start to the season, but the last two games... guh.
— Tom Orr (@TomOrr4) January 4, 2014
Another excellent thought from @Kirk_Barton. Barton not only was a standout for Ohio State along the offensive line, but may have a future in prognostication...
Sun came up today. I bet some people went double or nothing after the game that it wouldn't.
— Kirk Barton (@Kirk_Barton) January 4, 2014
As Mr. Barton pointed out, the sun did come out this morning. Living in northeastern Ohio, especially during the winter months, that is not necessarily something I take for granted. With the benefit of a decent night's sleep (yes, I did toss and turn over this game, but I eventually fell asleep), a good breakfast, coffee nearby, a sunny morning, and some hindsight, here are some thoughts for Ohio State fans to contemplate heading into the 2014 season...
- The Defense Will Be, And Must Be, The Focus All Offseason ~ The #FireFickell chants have grown from a steady murmur to an incessant shout. Regardless of Luke Fickell being on Ohio State's coaching staff in 2014, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer realizes the Ohio State defense has been the weak spot of his tenure. Changing coaches and/or coordinators may soothe the feelings of angry fans, but the root symptoms are much deeper.
With a deep defensive line heading into 2014, has Ohio State truly embraced the concept of rotating multiple defensive linemen throughout the game? Highly-touted players fill the roster, and others are on the way with the next recruiting class. The Orange Bowl performance of redshirt freshman Jamal Marcus is a clear example of someone deserving of playing time. Can Ohio State Defensive Line Coach Mike Vrabel come up with a rotation that will keep all the players fresh and opposing offenses uneasy?
The linebacker corps has been a weak spot since Coach Meyer was hired in November 2011. Transfers, career-ending injuries, and graduations have depleted a position area that is arguably the proudest in Ohio State's football history. Ryan Shazier has contemplated an early departure to the NFL; this area could only be weakened by such a move. The inexperience of this group will be concerning heading into 2014, especially with an opening game at Navy and a vaunted triple option attack that is difficult to simulate and prepare for in summer camp.
Lastly, the secondary. Bradley Roby departs for the NFL, and Ohio State fans may not necessarily believe that is a bad thing, based on tweets that were sent and seen throughout the evening.
Armani Reeves and Doran Grant return, but other defensive backs on the roster need to step up in preparation for the 2014 season. Vonn Bell played well after a rocky start in the Orange Bowl, and Tyvis Powell also returns. The key to the secondary will be improvement all across the board - coverage, turning for the ball, tackling. Every area is room for improvement. As Everett Withers leaves Ohio State for James Madison's head coaching position, a new coach can come into this position group and make an immediate impact.
All across the defense, fundamental improvement is necessary. Tackling drills, taking proper angles to the ball carrier, etc. - all should be covered extensively and exhaustively heading into spring drills and summer camp.
My Dad used to say that anyone can be a fan when a team is winning. Being a true fan means wearing the team's stuff after a tough loss, when things are not so easy. As Mr. Barton stated, the sun did come out, and I have Ohio State garb on today, as I write this post.
24-2 over the last two seasons, yet it feels lacking, a la 1995. Wear Ohio State garb proudly today. Prepare for a strong finish to the incoming recruiting class over the next few weeks, and anticipate Ohio State being very defensive heading into the 2014 season.