2023 OSU Defense and Coaches Breakdown

August 31, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Andy Billman and Tony Camino Discuss The 2023 Buckeyes Defense and Coaches

Defense and Coaching Staff

Defensive Line

Andy –

The defensive line on paper has a lot of potential.  The ends really stick out with JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer.

Tuimoloau had a breakout game against Penn State and fans had to be hoping that would carry throughout the end of the season, but it did not.  When he is at his highest level, he can really wreck a game for an offense, but he does not do it consistently.  Hopefully, Tuimoloau can be more consistent and not disappear in games. 

Sawyer is more consistent, but not as talented as Tuimoloau.  From reports, Sawyer had a good summer, I can see him having a big season as teams have to focus on Tuimoloau.

At defensive tackle, the Buckeyes have Ty Hamilton and Mike Hall Jr. both good solid tackles.  Hall is getting some hype as a possible All-American, but I don’t foresee that in 2023.  That is a big leap for Hall, but he is getting a lot of attention for being improved, we will see.  Tyleik Williams is going to get some playing time as well at tackle.

Ohio State’s D-line has a lot of experience and I do feel like this is another position group that will take a step up in 2023.  In particular, I expect Sawyer to have a big season.

Tony –

With defensive ends Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau, the Buckeyes’ pass rush appears strong. Tuimoloau earned an 83.0 pass-rush grade last year, and performances like the one against Penn State underscore how he can single-handedly impact games. Sawyer had a solid showing last year, primarily serving as a rotational player in his inaugural full college season. Making him a consistent presence this year will undoubtedly aid his development and subsequently enhance the Buckeyes’ pass rush.

In the interior, Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton, and Michael Hall Jr. are expected to take on the majority of snaps. Williams is coming off an impressive year, concluding with an 80.9 grade over 251 snaps. He exhibited overall competence in all aspects of the game last year and should aim to build on that foundation this season. Michael Hall performed in a manner similar to Williams, showcasing strength in both defensive phases. Hamilton brings the most experience to the team, having played 305 snaps last year. While his grading wasn’t exceptionally high, he still managed to rack up 14 hurries and a QB hit.

Although the run defense might not appear to be completely impenetrable, it seems more than capable of holding its own against the majority of rushing attacks. The potential for a dominant pass rush exists, and it looks to be a pivotal factor in elevating the Buckeyes’ defense to one of the best in the nation.


Tony –

Tommy Eichenberg is garnering the most attention in this group, and perhaps he’s receiving the most recognition across the entire defense. This recognition is well-deserved, especially following a year where he achieved an 86.8 grade. While he might not be the dominant coverage linebacker patrolling the middle, he certainly leaves his mark in that aspect. His true strengths lie within the box, excelling at stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. He appears to have a solid grasp of his role and the defense as a whole, making him instrumental in organizing the team again this year.

Steele Chambers brings a wealth of experience, having logged 688 snaps last year. While he may not have been exceptional, he possesses a strong understanding of college defense and should be able to hold his own alongside the other talents in the front seven. Mitchell Melton is another player expected to see action at a linebacker-type position, known for his effectiveness in open spaces. Despite having no prior college playing experience, this four-star prospect from Maryland should serve as a reliable rotational player in his first year.

This group’s foundation and pinnacle revolve around Eichenberg, both in terms of his on-field production and his ability to ensure everyone is on the same page. His experience as a strong-side linebacker and his role in setting the defensive front are qualities that aren’t as prevalent in the rest of the unit. While Chambers brings experience, he likely wasn’t responsible for coordinating everyone’s positions. Regardless, this linebacking unit complements what is shaping up to be a dominant front seven.

Andy –

The defensive line strength always helps out the position of linebacker, and adding to it that Ohio State has a very good linebacker room adds to the excitement of the defense having a big year. I know fans were disappointed by the ending but the talent and depth at linebacker and defensive line is going to help coordinator Jim Knowles take the defense to one of the best in the country.  Both of these groups have a lot of experience as well to boot.

Tony said it, this group starts and ends with Tommy Eichenberg receiving a lot of chatter heading into 2023 with his breakout 2022 season.  He is a senior as well, which helps, one has to think he understands what is on the line this season for him. 

Eichenberg should improve in 2023 and with the strength and experience on the line, Eichenberg has a chance to have an all-American type of year.  He’s an exciting player and one the Buckeye fans will fall in love with again in 2023.

Steele Chambers will be the other starting linebacker and he was also productive in 2022.  He does not wow anyone and will not be hyped, but he is a solid college starting linebacker. 

Last season, this group was seen as a weakness, not in 2023.


Andy –

This position group I’m all over the place on this when it comes to predictions.  Part of me wants to buy into some hype that this group will be improved.  But my eyes in 2022 saw a secondary have issues and I’m not sure that has been solved heading into the fall.

The cornerback position is where I have the most concern.  Frankly, the Buckeye’s corners did not play well last year in multiple games, they need to show improvement to win the national championship

The Buckeyes will have Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock starting but I could see that change.  Burke had a disappointing year in 2022 and I’m not sure what to expect from Hancock.  Don’t be surprised if the Ole Miss transfer Davison Igbinosun gets a look.  Cameron Martinez will be the third corner when needed.  I don’t have any sense of if we are going to see big improvements at cornerback or more of the same giving up big plays in the passing game. 

In the safety position for Ohio State I feel better than cornerback, but not by a whole lot.  Sonny Styles is receiving a lot of buzz and it does sound like he’s going to be an impact player at safety as a sophomore. Sounds like Ja’Had Carter, a transfer from Syracuse who is a solid starter along with Lathan Ransom will fill out the safeties.  Josh Proctor will also get some time, but Proctor and Ransom are average safeties and Carter and Styles have the most upside.

Styles gets the most buzz out of this group and some believe that Burke is going to have a bounce-back season.  But by far in my view, this is the biggest question mark out of position groups heading into the 2023 Buckeyes season. 

Tony –

This unit appears solid on paper and is banking on internal promotions to lead the way this year. In the safety positions, Sonny Styles and Josh Proctor are stepping in to fill the roles previously held by Ronnie Hickman and Lathan Ransom. Proctor showed promise in his limited snaps but faced challenges in coverage at times. Styles only played 69 snaps last year, and the results weren’t particularly impressive. As a sophomore, he needs to make significant strides to bolster the defense’s back end.

The cornerback roles will mainly be handled by Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and Cameron Martinez in the nickel position. Burke had struggles in the run game and tackling last year, but he provided solid coverage over 585 snaps. Hancock had minimal playing time last year and didn’t showcase his best form, representing another young player who needs to progress this year. Martinez is anticipated to see a considerable number of snaps in the slot and displayed moments of potential in his 175 snaps from last year.

Transfers Davison Igbinosun and Ja’Had Carter put together commendable performances at their respective Power Five schools last year, positioning themselves as possible contributors this year.

From the highest level to the lowest, this group carries numerous uncertainties. While there’s experience at the top, the group heavily relies on young players making substantial advancements to keep pace with the nation’s elite receivers.

Coaching Staff  

Tony –

Ryan Day has fulfilled nearly every expectation as the Buckeyes’ head coach, with one notable exception—dominating Michigan. A record of 45-6 over four years and only two losses against Big Ten teams (both to Michigan) is undeniably impressive. The team’s performance against Georgia last year demonstrates that Day and his team can hold their own against the best, even in games they should have won. Securing a victory against Michigan this year is paramount; failure to do so might lead to calls for his job.

With Day at the helm, it’s a clear choice to promote Brian Hartline to offensive coordinator. Given his track record with receivers—both in recruiting and their NFL success over the last decade—much of the credit can be attributed to Hartline. His expertise in developing receivers is top-notch, and his increasing experience makes him an ideal fit as the coordinator at Ohio State.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles had an outstanding debut year in Columbus. He transformed a defense that ranked 51st into the sixth-best graded defense in the country. The defensive improvements were pivotal to the previous season’s success, and this year should see similar results.

The coaching staff stands as one of the best in college football, well-equipped to position their players for a successful 2023 season.

Andy –

Head Coach Ryan Day entered last season with a team of expectations to win the national championship, and that has not changed for the entering 2023.  The difference between the seasons is the quarterback situation is uncertain, the patience of the fanbase, and the need to beat Michigan. 

The Michigan fear of losing factor is very real now in 2023 and has not been swirling since the turn of the century.  Day has to figure out a way to beat the Wolverines.

I applaud Day for his promotion of Brian Hartline to offensive coordinator and for allowing him to do more on offense so Day can focus more on the overall team.  Jim Knowles has a lot of pressure on him and his defense did pretty well up until the end, the defensive line and linebackers are improved so there should be a jump on the defense. 

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