Indiana co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler knows he and his defense are in for their toughest challenge of the season on Saturday.
Under new coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State has unleashed quarterback Braxton Miller with the spread option offense and become perhaps the most explosive offense in the Big Ten. The only team in the conference that has scored more points this season is Nebraska, but the Buckeyes just pounded the Cornhuskers in a 63-38 shootout.
“Their offense is extremely multiple,” Ekeler said. “They’ve got playmakers all across the board. Great tight ends. Great receivers. Quarterback could be one of the more electrifying athletes I’ve ever personally seen. And I’ve seen a lot of great players over the years. Adrian Peterson, just a ton of guys. He’s right up there with the Reggie Bushes. He’s pretty phenomenal. Special, special athlete. He makes them very hard to handle.”
He’s even harder to handle under Meyer’s offense than he was a year ago. Meyer obviously utilized the quarterback run game a lot in his time in Florida with Tim Tebow and is doing so again with Miller this year. Miller also got plenty of carries a year ago, but running out of the shotgun formation has made him more dangerous.
“He took the majority of his snaps under center last year,” Ekeler said. “That element wasn’t there. Then you toss in the quarterback run that they’re doing with him, and it’s completely, completely different. They’re spreading you out and making you make plays on space again with maybe one of the most electrifying players in college football.”
Ekeler was asked if it was scary to see the Buckeyes score 63 points on Nebraska, where he spent three years as a linebackers coach.
“I don’t know if it was scary,” he said. “Those are a lot of my good friends at Nebraska. I was more disappointed for those guys. They’re kind of hitting their stride. They’re a great team and they’re gonna be a great challenge for us.”
That being said, Ekeler said he feels confident because he believes in his defense. He bristled at the idea that Saturday’s game — when the Hoosiers held Michigan State to 22 yards in the first quarter and generally had their best performance to date even in a 31-27 loss — was a revelation.
“You guys don’t see it,” Ekeler said. “You guys don’t get it because you’re not here every day. No disrepect to ya, but our kids have been playing their tails off all year. To say that we come out and played inspired last week, to me, that’s an insult. Our kids have been playing their tails off from the first game all the way up until last week. That’s just who we are character-wise. They’re gonna play hard and they’re gonna do what we’re coached to do and we’re gonna give everything we got.”