Overheard Miami 2011Every week I clean out my reporter’s notebook to bring you things you may or may not have already seen from coverage of the Buckeyes’ and their next opponent.
FICKELLISMS: (summarizing the head coach’s press conference)
He acknowledged Braxton Miller was dinged up a bit during practice last week but said that was not necessarily the reason Miller never got into the Toledo game. They had a plan that had to be changed (pretty sure this was a result of the third series of the game coming after Toledo took the lead on the blocked punt and two-point conversion). They know he needs game reps because you never know how a player will react to opportunities until he gets them, but he has prepared well and maintained a good attitude. The staff intends to focus on what is best for the team and wants to get him more involved. Fickell said later in the week Miller is full-go and practiced well this week.
Asked about the running game that produced 112 yards on 34 carries against Toledo, he said the Rockets did a good job with twists and other things to keep the OSU’s offensive line off balance. But the Buckeyes need to do a better job.
Finding out the players were still suspended so late in the week last week made it tougher to deal with, but that’s just another bit of adversity they can learn and grow from. They can’t let it affect them.
Joe Bauserman needs to take more shots downfield in the future, but he did a good job doing what they asked of him. He and the offense continue to grow.
Because Miami played its opener against Maryland with a handful of players suspended by the NCAA, the OSU coaches will have to do some guess work in preparation. Playing them last year helps make that a little easier, but the Hurricanes have a new coaching staff and some different personnel.
Jaamal Berry can continue to earn more opportunities at tailback by excelling in non-tailback duties, such as returning and covering kickoffs.
Someone asked a poorly crafted question about criticism of Miller being on the sideline without a headset during the first two games, but Fickell said communication with him has been good. They tell him the play calls so he can visualize the play but don’t want him to wear the headset because he doesn’t need to hear a lot of the mumbo jumbo that goes on between the coaches. Visualization is big with this generation, so it’s better he sees it than hears chatter about it. They think he can learn things better that way.
Miller is learning and the team is learning.
Going on the road for the first time this season brings a different routine than they are used to for the first two games, but they must ignore the distractions and changes. There are no big changes planned from the way the team traveled the past 10 years under Jim Tressel
Special teams are always emphasized, and they will be again this week after a blocked punt led to a Toledo touchdown. They need to work on better fundamentals.
Fickell called Miami quarterback Jacory Harris athletic (he’s not) and said he can spin the ball nicely (that is true) and presents a challenge for his team. He brings a lot of positives to the table.
The head coach is not concerned about sophomore kicker Drew Basil, who is officially 0 for 2 on field goals this season and missed another try that was wiped out by a penalty. Basil had a good preseason and has practiced well. His confidence seems to be fine.
Fickell, 38, was asked about his perception of the Miami program while he was growing up in Columbus and attending Ohio State. He said he probably enjoyed the stories but paid more attention to schools that had both football and wrestling programs. He also mentioned being a GA when the Buckeyes lost to the Hurricanes in the 1999 season opener.
Tyler Moeller had zero tackles last week in part because Toledo’s scheme prevented then from doing as many different things with him as they normally would. The staff will try to come up with a way to plan around that in the future. He’s not worried about Moeller, although he’s sure he gets frustrated when he doesn’t have an impact on the game. He still did little things well last week though.
Miami differs from the MAC teams they saw the first two weeks in that the Hurricanes are bigger up front, faster at wide receiver and deeper overall. He sees the offensive line as a strength of the ‘Canes.
He is looking for the Buckeyes to force more turnovers moving forward and said they have had a few they missed in the first two games.
Going to Miami will be an emotional experience for the Buckeyes from Florida, and that is something they talked about on the recruiting trail, the opportunity to do so.
Running back Carlos Hyde said he saw on film if he would have been more patient he could have had a bigger day against Toledo.
Even with Jordan Hall being reinstated, he feels like there is an ongoing competition for the starting tailback role.
He’s still working on learning to read holes and be patient, and Boom Herron is helping him with that. He figures experience in the system helps develop those things.
He is excited for the game in Miami because his grandmother will be able to attend, but he considers himself more of an Ohio guy because he spent more of his young life here.
He thinks there will be a big impact in Ohio State’s recruiting with the Buckeyes playing down there. If they win, a bunch of young guys will be impressed with a northern team showing out.
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said Nathan Williams practiced with the team today and looked good, but he didn’t want to guess if he would play or not (He had surgery a day later and is out for a few weeks.)
He figures facing the Hurricane’s power-based offense will be a good matchup. They have a good offensive line and play physical. He is pumped up.
He played pretty well against Toledo. His endurance was good. He’s working on hydrating now in preparation for playing in the Florida heat.
The defense came out a little shaky against the Rockets because although they knew what Toledo wanted to do offensively, they were surprised with how well they did it. Toledo had a good game plan.
He looks for a slower pace from Miami than the Rockets’ sometimes-no-huddle approach.
Linebacker Etienna Sabino said it means the world to former high school teammate and fellow Miami native Travis Howard that he will finally get to suit up this season.
Jordan Hall is athletic and can do a lot for the offense and special teams. Teams have to account for him.
He likes facing pro-style offenses like Miami. The Hurricanes have a smash-mouth attack.
He is working on getting tickets from teammates and is expecting a lot of family to be in attendance.
The heat of the Akron game should help them be prepared for the Miami heat.
Growing up he was a fan of Miami, but he felt like he wanted to leave the state of Florida for college. Now he is all Buckeye. He thought it would be weird facing the Canes last year, but it wasn’t.
The special teams have to step up against a group of great return men from Miami. They know they have to be better than they were against the Canes last year, when they returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns.
Tight end Reid Fragel said the boos of Joe Bauserman were disappointing last week, but they fire him up, too. He likes Joe, and he is happy he has been able to avoid turnovers so far. He knows the crowd is always going to be anxious to see the new guy.
Braxton Miller looked good in practice, back to full-go.
He has talked to former Buckeye Jake Ballard a bit lately as Ballard has moved into the regular rotation with the New York Giants. It is nice to see a former Buckeye succeeding at the next level.
The staff has a jersey he can switch to if they need him to play offensive tackle in an emergency. He has learned some basic stuff with the offensive line. He got some reps with basic blitz pickups earlier in practice, but he has only been working at tight end lately.
He could see himself at offensive tackle down the road, but he prefers to stay at tight end for now.
Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said Miami’s offense is similar to what it was last year schematically. They remain a pro-style offense. They will try to run the ball behind a big, powerful offensive line and get the ball deep to their wide receivers. OSU is familiar with coordinator Jedd Fisch from his time at Minnesota two years ago.
Redshirt freshman JT Moore will start in Williams’ place with true freshman Steve Miller backing him up.
Freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier made a brief appearance on the defensive line last week against Toledo but only as a pass rusher at the end of the game. He hasn’t practiced there. (It seems as though he has a spot in the rarely seen 3-3-5 scheme they call their “dime” package. He’s a rush linebacker in that defense. That’s also how Thaddeus Gibson first broke in, FWIW.)
Johnny Simon can also play Leo (Williams’ spot), in which case they would go to a more traditional 4-3 defensive look. Normally the Leo is a linebacker-type who doesn’t have his hands in the dirt. They have that four-man line in their toolbox for teams like this anyway.
Watching the film from the Toledo game showed a young defense that will fight people. They battled hard even though they made some mistakes. There were some problems with tackling and pursuit angles, but those can be improved. They are fundamental things.
On the bright side, they are a fun group to work with as coaches.
He was happy to see Hankins play more than 60 snaps last week. They need a lot from him this season with so many youngsters behind him, and he never seemed to slow down as the film wore on. He’s a great young man and a good student and it’s been fun watching him blossom.
Asked about forcing more turnovers, he said they have missed some and he feels like they have done a good job disrupting things.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said Jordan Hall will play a major role immediately this week. He’s a great athlete and a great return man. He later said as far as he knows, Hall is the starting tailback, although Fickell was less clear about that at other times during the week.
The decision to hold Braxton Miller out last week was partly a result of his injury and missing practice time and also about the flow of the game. It was a joint decision, but Bollman and Fickell have the final say. There were other players they hoped to get into the game, too, such as backup center Brian Bobek and reserve offensive lineman Ivon Blackman. He mentioned Evan Blankenship, too, but he wasn’t clear if Blankenship would have been on offense or defense.
Miller is full-go this week and they plan for him to play. He brings athleticism to the lineup, plus they always like to get guys PT early to help them develop.
His best memory from the 2003 Fiesta Bowl was celebrating on the field with his family after the game.
He acknowledged they did not play as well as they could have against Toledo but was sure to credit the Rockets for their performance. The main problem for the offensive line was inconsistency. Many times four guys would do their job and one would miss and that would gum up the whole works. He wishes they could just all make the same mistake on the same play and get it out of the way.
Look for Chris Fields to move into the starting lineup, but he needs all of the young guys to step up along with Verlon Reed. That includes Evan Spencer, Devin Smith and T.Y. Williams. He likes how they young guys are progressing and pointed out they were instrumental in blocking downfield on Hyde’s long touchdown run against Toledo.
Hyde has done a good job and continues to improve in all facets of the game.
Corey Linsley will play this week and play a lot up front (I will speculate he is pushing Marcus Hall for time after the right guard appeared to struggle mightily against the Rockets.)
Miami is really good. They are big up front and have quick defensive ends. Their outside linebackers are excellent, but their backfield is young. They have great speed.
Asked if he is surprised by all the attention that goes into whether or not Miller is playing, he said he does get surprised sometimes at how quickly expectations can build, but he didn’t seem to have any real complaints about the situation.
Asked if they still feel like they need two quarterbacks, he said they always feel that way, including last year.
The more things expand and evolve, the more guys can play, but they have to let things develop. (This is not the first time he and Fickell have said something along those lines that made it sound like they are anxious to see Miller grow into a role, perhaps a major role… but we shall see how it goes.)Follow @marcushartman