Jim Knowles Will Quickly Turnaround Ohio State’s Defense In 2022

Jim Knowles Will Quickly Turnaround Ohio State’s Defense In 2022

Football

Jim Knowles Will Quickly Turnaround Ohio State’s Defense In 2022

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Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State finished the 2021 football season with a 10-2 record. While compared to other records in 2021 this isn’t horrible, but it didn’t live up to the standards the Buckeyes had set the last few years. The two losses would come against Oregon and their rival Michigan, who hadn’t beaten Ohio State in 10 years. A contributing factor to those losses was the defense not being able to stop the run game. Against Oregon, they allowed 269 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Against Michigan, it was worse with 297 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Even when they knew the run was coming the defense lacked the ability to adjust on the fly. Head coach Ryan Day knew a change was needed, and he has done so by completely overhauling the defense. 

On December 7, 2021, former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles was announced as the Buckeyes new defensive coordinator. In the 2021 season, his defense led the nation in sacks with 55, was fifth in rushing yards allowed per game with 89.2, and second in third-down percentage allowed with only 26.1%. These are all areas Ohio State struggled with in 2021 as they only had 36 sacks, allowed 119.7 rushing yards per game, and allowed a third-down conversion percentage of 41.4%. Knowles also has shown the ability to adjust in-game, as shown in their game against TCU. Oklahoma State safety Tanner McCalister brought this up after the game by saying “Knowles is a really good adjuster, early on their first drive they hit us on one or two shots so we had to make some adjustments and we did that, and ended up leaving the half with only three points.” This has been commonly said between the players and the Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy. An in-game adjuster is exactly what Ohio State needs. 

What has helped Knowles be successful is his coaching experience in all defensive positions. In 2003 he was a linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for Ole Miss where he helped lead the defense to be ranked 14 nationally and held eight opponents to fewer than 21 points. Then from 2010-2017, he would go on to coach at Duke where he served as a safeties coach, linebackers coach, and defensive coordinator. Again at Duke, Knowles would help elevate the defense as seen in 2013. In that year they had three All-ACC picks in Kelby Brown, Jeremy Cash, and Ross Cockrell to tie a school record of selections for the first time since 1974. His defense would play a pivotal role in helping the team make five bowl appearances. Then in 2017, the defense would be ranked fourth in the league with total defense and the program’s fewest points allowed per game with 20.23. Knowles would then go on to be hired by Oklahoma State in 2018 and improve the defense each year he was there.

The last time Ohio State’s defense ranked top in the nation was in 2019 where they had the third-best defense in points per game allowing only 12.5. They were also allowing only 247.6 yards per game which was second in the nation. This was with Greg Mattison as the defensive coordinator, now with Knowles, they will hope to get back to this standard. 

 

The hire of Knowles also means defensive staff changes as a whole. Day announced that the team would be moving on from defensive assistant Kerry Coombs, secondary coach Matt Barnes, and linebackers coach Al Washington. The Buckeyes would then go on to hire Perry Eliano to be the Buckeyes safeties coach. Perry is coming from being the corners coach for the Cincinnati Bearcats where he helped develop stars like Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant. They also hired Tim Walton as their cornerbacks coach. Walton has 25-years of coaching experience and also played at the cornerback position for Ohio State from 1990-to 1993. 

Knowles will also be going into a situation with some continuity. The Buckeyes defense will be getting back Josh Proctor who is coming off his 2021 season-ending injury. There will also be the return of players like linebacker Teradja Mitchell for his fifth year, defensive tackle Jerrion Cage for his sixth year, and defensive end Zach Harrison for his senior season. Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV will be returning to Ohio State via the transfer portal for his fifth year. Tanner McCallister is also a vital addition, he transferred from Oklahoma State where he already knows Knowles’ system and can help his teammates adjust. 

With the veteran experience returning the Buckeyes also have 2022 star recruits coming in like linebacker C.J. Hicks, cornerback Terrance Brooks, defensive lineman Hero Kanu, as well as the addition of highly touted safety Sonny Styles. Under Knowles, he is the perfect coach to bring out the best in all of the players on this team and get the defense back to being successful quickly. 

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