Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook after another week on the Ohio State football beat. This week the surprising health of Braxton Miller and the Penn State program given recent hits both took dominated conversation.
Ohio State’s head coach noted the football team is 8-0 despite doing a pretty poor job of meeting his four points in the plan to win.
They weren’t great on defense against Purdue, but they were better. The offense continues to sputter at times, and the kicking game has had a lot of breakdowns that have hurt. They also lost the turnover battle.
He noted that looking at the list of champions from week to week is an obvious sign of the inconsistency of the team. This week it was all defensive players after none made it the week before when the offense carried the team at Indiana.
Meyer recalled coaching against current Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin in the Outback Bowl. He is much improved from then (when he threw five interceptions), and the guys around him are better. The defense is good as always there.
He called PSU tackle Jordan Hill and linebacker Mike Mauti great players. He recruited Mauti very hard when he was at Florida, but Mauti was a legacy recruit for the Nittany Lions.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is a real competitor. They have to coach him to get out of bounds a little more when he has the opportunity, but he is trying to make plays when things aren’t going well. They want to limit his hits, but they have to use him to move the ball often.
This is still a group of Buckeyes (mostly) that lost seven games last season and was reeling when he took over, so they are sure to appreciate the wins they get now.
The roster continues to be very thin with only about 60 guys really available, and some of them are not doing much to be contributors.
Asked to assess his coaching staff’s performance so far this season, he said they are doing pretty well at dealing with everything that comes with the transition and leading a team. He wouldn’t give them an A+. They have to get the team healthy, develop it and go recruit some more guys. He wants to enhance what is in place.
Some guys, such as the defensive linemen, are playing too many snaps, but they haven’t developed as much depth as he wants to prevent that from happening.
Asked if his season passed before his eyes when he saw Miller go down, Meyer replied, “Sure.” Then the first question was if Miller was OK. Then attention turned to adjusting for what Kenny Guiton can do.
The plans change with Guiton in the game, but he has been fairly successful.
They will use noise at practice to prepare for the environment at Beaver Stadium, which his assistants told him is the loudest place in the Big Ten. Being a no-huddle offense helps them deal with that, but they’ll have to get rid of some motions and shifts because they won’t be able to hear.
Someone asked if night games are crazier because fans have more time to “fuel up” and he grinned and said he wanted to give a politically correct answer.
He was previously known to have met with Bill Belichick to talk strategy, but he had no contact with Bill O’Brien at that time. He was there to talk defense. Josh McDaniels was the offensive coordinator at that time, anyway.
Meyer has great admiration for Penn State and always has. It’s a strong school academically, and don’t forget the Lions were undefeated for a good while last season. That means they have very good football players.
Penn State got off to a poor start this season, but they are still Penn State right now because the sanctions haven’t started to really kick in yet. This is a well-coached team of good players. John Cooper told Meyer it will be a very good draft day for Penn State, meaning there are plenty of NFL-caliber players in Happy Valley.
He could have a long discussion about how to motivate 18-year-olds, but that is part of his job. Self-motivated players at that age are very rare. He likes to think this staff is great at pulling guys out of a spiral if it comes to that. Guiton is a poster child for that. He really turned things around since December. Meyer made sure he watched himself on the final drive during the team’s meal Sunday.
Someone asked if we could see more of Guiton in the game even with Miller healthy, and he said he wasn’t sure. He joked that Kenny could throw it harder next time and later dismissed the idea of using Kenny as a runner because that’s not a strength of his.
Devan Bogard is out for the year, but Meyer loves him. If he could recruit 100 of him, life would be good.
He is putting a lot of pressure on guys who aren’t playing in games, pushing them harder in practice.
They can’t coach Miller to be much different as far as running because they aren’t an efficient enough team for him to just be a dropback passer.
The biggest thing now is they need some guys to step up, not just show up at the games to sing the fight song afterward.
Good news: backup offensive linemen Chase Farris and Taylor Decker have had a good couple of weeks of practice and are closer to being able to help.
Chris Fields has been “active” at wide receiver for two weeks, including last week when he caught the game-tying touchdown and had another long catch that set up a touchdown run.
That gives them another receiver to count on, but they are still slim at linebacker.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said he carries with him a lucky rock his daughter gave him, but he knows the success of the final drive led by Guiton when the team was facing dire straits was a product or hard work and practice.
He agreed with Meyer that the playcalling won’t change as a result of Miller going out of the game last week. They have to do what they can do to win.
Regarding game planning, he said they are 0-8 in terms of planning for what they see from a defense. There is some stuff that they do that is designed to be independent of the type of defense they see, too. Oh, and that stuff usually involves Miller.
Penn State is playing really well on defense. Hill is very good. This will be the best defense Ohio State has seen this season. He’s read the environment is tough as well.
Ohio State’s offensive players are a bit fragile from the struggles of last season, so the staff has to be part psychologist, too. He could see them gaining more confidence with the success they had last Saturday without Miller.
After beating Purdue, he told the offense congratulations on the win but they played badly. That includes him not coaching well enough. He said some guys were called out individually, too, but didn’t name those guys. The whole world knows the offense was bad against Purdue, so it’s up to the coaching staff to figure out why and fix it.
In going back over the conversation with Meyer about what to call on the two-point conversion play, Herman said he has to pick his battles against the head coach. Herman wanted to run the tight end throwback, but Meyer was on the sideline hearing from the offensive linemen about wanting to ram the ball in. Herman was steadfast in his belief the pass was a better option, and he won the debate. He said that’s why he likes being in the booth. The sterile environment helps him stick with the plan as opposed to getting washed away in the emotion of the moment. It’s important to remember why they made those plans and to keep faith in them.
Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers agreed the defense has been running on fumes, and some guys need to step up. They have the guys, now they’ll find out if any of them can play. Sometimes guys are different on the playing field as opposed to the practice field (in a good way).
Safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett probably had their best week of practice last week. He had challenged them after their play against Indiana the week before.
The staff felt like it had a good handle on what Purdue would do offensively. They had practiced against the first play of the game, but someone froze and didn’t make the play, leading to an 83-yard touchdown.
Withers hopes having success on defense last week will breed some confidence. The rest of the game, he thinks we saw them play more confidently thanks to preparation.
Barnett is experienced. He has played in some big games, and he understands the scheme. They can make adjustments on the sideline with him because he gets it. Mentally he needed some time to get back into it when he faced Indiana in his first game back from an ankle injury.
McGloin will be the most efficient passer they have seen. He knows where to go with the ball. He will hit his third read, which isn’t something they have seen much this year. He can move around to avoid the rush. Withers agreed being coached by a guy like O’Brien would be a boost.
He was able to stay above the emotion of the game last week because all the while they were mounting the comeback, the coaches were preparing for overtime. They felt the momentum swing with the conversion of the two-pointer. That gave them a feeling they would win at that point. He was excited for the kids. They stayed calm and played through adversity.
The coaches have gotten some guys to step up who hadn’t performed previously. That’s part of the program, where there is constant pressure to be the best in everything. That helps some guys. You can see it daily.
Quarterback Braxton Miller said he knew he was OK last Saturday night when he had passed all of the medical tests at the hospital.
Asked if his neck was sore, he said, “Just a little bit,” but declared himself “just about full-go.”
He wasn’t sure what had happened to him when he went down. He felt dizzy, and they took him to the hospital because of the uncertainty.
He isn’t worried about getting hurt again and figures he will be the same guy now as before he went down.
That was the first time he has landed on his head, shoulder and neck all at once like that, so he was nervous about it at first.
He called the hit the type that makes you flinch when you see it, but he’s not feeling it anymore.
He asked the nurse for updates while he was at the hospital, but she said she didn’t have any because she was busy tending to him.
Wide receiver Jake Stoneburner said the Nittany Lions have a typical Penn State defense with really good linebacker and a physical, tough defensive line.
Asked about how to deal with a terrible offseason like Penn State did, Stoneburner said the key is just forgetting it. That is easier to do once the season starts. He is impressed with them. They’ll be a great program again. Bill O’Brien is doing a great job, and the players have risen to the occasion.
Miller seems just fine, the same old Braxton. He was sore on Sunday and Monday but got most of that out through running and practice.
He remembers Beaver Stadium as a huge place with a crazy crowd, although it wasn’t in full force the last time they were there in ’09. He’s heard it can be louder.
Stoneburner has been scared by a hit before when he ended up cross-eyed, but it goes away.
Someone asked about the offense seeing a lot of defenses it wasn’t expecting, he said it’s crazy how they have an answer for everything anyway. They can put a whole new game plan in very quickly during a game, and it is always based off of stuff they repped at some point earlier in the season even if they didn’t work on it that week.
Wide receiver Chris Fields said the band started playing the “Buckeye Swag” song. They players like to just act silly and have fun when it comes on.
He got a confidence boost from his performance last week’s success. Receivers coach Zach Smith said to keep working hard, and Smith definitely feels like he is doing more to earn the trust of the staff.
He got a lot of texts and tweets Saturday after the game-tying TD catch.
Penn State is really physical, and the Buckeyes will have to bring their A game.
They pumped a lot of loud noise into practice, and the speakers are so loud nothing could be any more intense. He hasn’t been to Penn State before. They try to feed off the energy of the visiting crowd when they go on the road.
He loves road games and beating teams in their place.Follow @marcushartman