Overheard at Ohio State football Aug. 18

Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from another day on the Ohio State football beat… 

The always interesting Tom Herman, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, told us quarterback Braxton Miller did not throw in the morning practice but ran the offense as they concentrated on the running game.

He agreed with a questioner who asked if the reps have been good for backup quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones and added that the mental reps have been good for Miller too even though they would prefer not to be doing things this way. Live reps have been great for the young guys.

Ohio Stadium from the Buckeye Grove south of the stadium

Barrett has moved ahead of Jones for the No. 2 quarterback job because the offense moves better when he is running it. He probably would have better stats, too, if you broke it all down, but that’s really the bottom line.

He’s not concerned yet about Miller being ready for the opener in two weeks against Navy but admitted there has been a setback in that Miller has had more soreness than anticipated. The trainers are still optimistic, though, Herman said. Miller is not injured but rather has fatigue from throwing a lot.

That said, Herman is not worried a lack of work will hurt Miller’s productivity when he returns or hold back the offense because what he does is independent of what others do. If a guy misses a block, it doesn’t matter who is the quarterback. Same if a guy drops a pass or runs the wrong route. He hasn’t seen an offense left out of whack in this case and noted how good Miller was against Wisconsin last season after missing three games. Miller will have some rust to knock off, though.

He wasn’t sure if the offense will look a lot different now that it has more guys recruited by Urban Meyer. They have stuck pretty close to what they want their philosophy to be as far as a power running team the first two years, though we might see more perimeter running. That is what has been missing.

Herman doesn’t think there will be any extra incentive to put on a show for the College Football Playoff Committee. It won’t affect his game planning. They also try to score as many points as possible.

If Miller is in the game, he will be able to do everything they need. There’s no degrees to that as far as Herman is concerned. They will dial back the called runs (QB power, draws, etc.) but they were already planning to do that. The read option will remain a big part of the offense because it is a vital component. They need to read someone to get a numbers advantage.

Early in the season, one thing Miller might miss is the seven-on-seven drills they usually run on Sundays after games just to get the guys up and moving to clean out the postgame soreness. Could be good to give him two days off between throwing that way.

 

Secondary coach Chris Ash agreed preparing for Navy is a unique challenge. They spend time working on the triple option, spread and pro-style for early season opponents, and they have accomplished a lot so far.

They need to identify a starting free safety and No. 2 cornerback this week. Cam Burrows and Vonn Bell are competing at FS while the three guys at CB are Armani Reeves, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley.

Bell and Burrows have both been outstanding so far. The safeties are the generals of the defense. They get people lined up and make adjustments. They must be ready to trigger when they read runs or screens, too. Ron Tanner and Erick Smith are competing to be the backups at free safety. Tyvis Powell has won the starting strong safety spot. Ash said Smith has a great football mind.

Burrows might be a better cover guy than Bell, and he has some advantage from getting all the practice reps in spring while Bell was recovering from knee surgery. Bell is very athletic and tough, more of a big hitter. But Burrows is 212 pounds and not afraid to stick his nose into the fray. Smith has put on a lot of good weight (12-15 pounds) since arriving in June. That’s not unusual because a lot of guys end up getting a lot more of their nutritional needs met once they are in the college program.

Ash and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell have developed a good working relationship. Everybody has input in the game plan during the week, so who makes the calls might not make a big difference. They haven’t decided who will be in the press box and who will be on the field. Both guys have experience doing both (My two cents: I bet it will be Fickell on the sideline and Ash up high. I think Fickell really likes it being able to talk to the guys, and that will give Ash the chance to see coverages and patterns develop from above.)

Ash acknowledged you have to live with giving up some big plays if you are going to play the aggressive style of defense they are installing.

The defense may take some time to get used to the Navy offense. They have been practicing dealing with cut blocks from day one, though it’s hard to simulate the real thing at full speed. He doesn’t like cut blocks but understand they are part of the game.

There are no throws this new Ohio State defense is willing to concede (while allowing for realities created by down and distance). He wants them to challenge everything.

Ash has been impressed with his first Ohio State training camp. Meyer really challenges guys to push themselves and get better. He has seen a tremendous work ethic and great attitude among the players.

 

Safety Vonn Bell said Braxton Miller looks hungry to him. He really wants to prove a point with his play. He knows losses at the end of the season fall back on him as the quarterback and his leadership is important.

Bell has seen more zip on Miller’s throws when he is passing. The offense has a lot of weapons now, including Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall in the slot.

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