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Penn State at Ohio State Facing a Brinks Truck of Talent Part 2: Defense

Updated: Oct 20

by Emmet Mahon

Photo courtesy of PSU Athletics.

In Part 1 of Draft 412’s preview of the most anticipated game of the weekend, the offensive

prospects that permeate throughout Ohio State’s offensive roster were highlighted. If the

Buckeye threat were limited to just those players, Penn State Head Coach James Franklin might

have slept a little easier this week.

As talented and deep as Ohio State’s offense can be, the defense might be even better. Drew

Allar and company are currently riding a 13-game streak of scoring at least 30 points, tops in

FBS. It would be mildly surprising if that streak continued in this game. Ohio State Defensive

Coordinator Jim Knowles has the tools to shut down Penn State Offensive Coordinator Mike

Yurcich’s high octane scoring machine.

Overview: #6 Penn State (6-0, 3-0) #3 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0)

PPG: 44.3 36.0

Opponents PPG: 8.0 9.67

Rushing YPG: 203.3 135.0

Opponents Rushing 69.8 109.2


Passing YPG: 223.3 308.0

Opponents Passing 123.8 154.3


Time of Possession: 34:36 28:46

Opponents Time of 25:24 31:14


Ohio State Players on National Watchlists (courtesy,

Bronko Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year): EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, LB Tommy

Eichenberg, S Lathan Ransom

Jim Thorp Award (Outstanding Defensive Back): CB Denzel Burke, S Lathan Ransom

Dick Butkus Award (Outstanding Linebacker): Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers

Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman): DT Michael Hall Jr.

Notable Ohio State Players (all rankings courtesy of Top 300):

#23 EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, 19 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 TFL

Tuimoloau is a four-letter word to Penn State fans after last season single handedly demolishing

the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. A defensive domination like that has not been seen since

Charles Jefferson’s revenge filled rampage in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. On that day last

fall, he recorded 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 INT, one of which was a pick six, and forced and

recovered a fumble. The box score does not indicate if he recorded a partridge in a pear tree.

That is a season, if not a career, for most players.

Tuimoloau is obviously extremely athletic and very capable on the rush, against the run, and in

pass coverage. His speed and instincts are his calling cards. He is instinctive and a sure tackler.

He takes good angles to the point of attack and finishes. He needs to polish his ability to shed

bigger blockers to raise his game to elite.

#43 CB Denzel Burke, 8 tackles, 5 pass defended, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble

Ohio State has a rich history of placing defensive backs in the NFL. At this point, Burke is not the potential star that Cleveland Browns' Denzel Ward is, but he has the tools to be outstanding in his own right. Tall with long arms, Burke can deny receivers on contested catches. He is an instinctive ballhawk. However, his aggressiveness sometimes causes him to overplay ball fakes, surrendering big plays. His speed allows him to recover from some mistakes. He is not a sure tackler against the run.

#45 Michael Hall Jr., 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL

Hall is physically strong enough to take on multiple blockers, allowing teammate to rush to the

play and create negative plays. Prototypical plugger. Quick hands and feet help him get the better

of the offensive linemen but is hampered by less-than-ideal arm length. He's a high motor type of

player. He has seen action all three years he has been a member of the Buckeyes program.

#61 EDGE Jack Sawyer, 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL

The combination of Tuimoloau and Hall prevent opposing offenses from keying on one side of the field. Quick and explosive on the snap, he easily gets by less mobile offensive linemen. He relies on speed more than technique and strength to get to the quarterback. He is a sure tackler. Not as naturally gifted as his counterpart but is a maximum effort type of player.

#69 LB Tommy Eichenberg, 46 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble

Take a quick glance at his stats and you can see that Eichenberg is always around the football. The

fifth-year senior is the rare Buckeye star that exhausts his eligibility. His leadership is a key component of Ohio State’s collective defensive mindset. Rangy and quick to diagnose and react

to plays, he takes excellent angles to get to and put down the ball carrier. He is the Swiss army

knife of Knowles defense. If he improves his wrap up capabilities, he will enhance his draft


#70 DT Tyleik Williams, 27 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 1 pass defended

Opposing offenses should be allowed to charge him rent for the time he spends in the backfield.

He uses leverage and speed effectively to disrupt plays before they have an adequate chance to

form. Quite athletic for a player his size. Diagnoses plays well. Hard to knock off his feet when

moving forward. Relies heavily on straight ahead attack and could improve deceptiveness and


#147 S Lathan Ransom, 28 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble

If Ohio State’s stout front seven doesn’t stop the play, Ransom is on the back end to clean it up.

He has the non-stop motor that coaches at all levels love. He is frequently around the ball and

employs the ability to find the ball and attack it. He lacks elite speed but closes quickly enough

to limit big plays. Too often, he allows too much cushion than necessary, surrendering underneath


#213 S Josh Proctor, 23 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 passes defended, 1 INT

Proctor is a physical, attacking safety. Tremendous diagnostic skills and burst to the ball. He

feasts on quarterback mistakes. Will close on the ball carrier quickly and wrap him up. Active in

the run game although blockers can get him tied up if he does not properly set.

238 LB Steele Chambers, 36 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass defended, 1 INT

If his future does not involve football post Columbus, with the name Steele Chambers, this

Buckeye might find steady work as an action movie star or in professional wrestling. Three-year

starter who has logged over 1,200 snaps for Ohio State. Like most of his fellow defenders, he

locates the ball quickly and attacks it. Fast and athletic, his movements are fluid and decisive.

His intelligence and athletic ability allow him to be effective in pass defense. Solid but not sure


The Penn State current streak of 30 plus point scoring games has not come against a defense like

the one they will face in Columbus. To date, their offense has not relied on splash plays, and that

will probably continue as the Buckeyes do not surrender many. The Nittany Lions will have to

grind out drives and points to prevail. By doing so, they will position themselves for their best

season under Franklin.

Notes: Penn State players were profiled in Draft 412’s pre-season PSU Player Prospect Profiles.

Kick off for this game is noon this Saturday and will air on Fox affiliates. As of publication time,

no significant injuries preventing participation have been reported by either team. However, CB

Denzel Burke is listed as questionable (lower body). Ohio State won last year’s contest by a

score of 44-31. The two teams have met once in a bowl game, the 1980 Fiesta Bowl with #10

Penn State downing #11 Ohio State, 31-19.

Emmet Mahon can be reached at

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