Overheard at Ohio State football March 25

Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook after Urban Meyer and Tom Herman met with the media in Columbus yesterday. 

URBAN MEYER 

Ohio State’s head coach was asked how the new Chris Ash-Luke Fickell collaboration on the defensive coaching staff is going and he said well.

Losing Vonn Bell for the spring was a setback, but they have three safeties they feel good about who are practicing.

Urban Meyer meets with local media in Columbus.
Urban Meyer meets with local media in Columbus.

Asked about Dontre Wilson, he said the sophomore is the starting H wide receiver, taking over for Philly Brown.

Meyer thinks Braxton Miller is absorbing what they want him to as he is sidelined during practices, but he isn’t sure until he can test him out.

The top three receivers this spring are Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and Corey Smith (Evan Spencer, a starter last season, is injured). Asked about Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Greene, Meyer said he’s been “OK”. Tough to evaluate James Clark because he hasn’t been able to practice live as he recovers from an injury.

Regardless, Meyer said wide receiver better be a strength on this team.

He is happy with the depth at only three positions: defensive line, wide receiver and tailback. Everywhere else it is lacking. (This is more a statement on the backups than the starters.)

He named three players who performed at a championship level in the scrimmage Saturday: safety Tyvis Powell, tight end Nick Vannett and offensive guard Pat Elflein.

Running back Rod Smith had a good day of practice Tuesday. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has also been good. There isn’t a lot of separation at running back right now.

Asked about spring football in high schools, he said the fact it exists in the South makes it easier to evaluate prospects there than in Ohio because you can actually watch them playing the game as opposed to just working out or playing another sport. He estimated it gives kids an extra year of development overall if they play four years in high school compared to kids who don’t have spring football.

Meyer acknowledged the offense will have to get things done in a different manner than last season because they won’t be able to lean as hard on the offensive line. That means attacking the perimeter more with bubble screens and things of that nature.

 

TOM HERMAN

Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach said it is telling that Cardale Jones has continued to perform well enough to remain the guy getting the majority of No. 1 reps at quarterback. He hasn’t done anything to remove himself from that spot.

Every offense has its own personality every year. We had much the same conversation last year, but the base will always be the same: a power offense revolving around the tight, inside zone running play. He is proud that in the first two years they haven’t tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. They’ve done what fits the personnel. Now they are figuring out what everybody can do on this unit, how to mask the deficiencies and play up the strengths.

Devin Smith is moving around, playing multiple receiver spots, and that should help with his development. Dontre Wilson is doing well and has can do more. Corey Smith could be the best of the group if he puts it all together with his physical tools.

He wants to see Elliott be more consistent. Rod Smith made a big push Tuesday. The others have been OK.

Regarding the quarterbacks who are healthy and able to practice, he said he has stressed to them they need to concentrate on what they do well. Jones is a big, strong guy with speed who can throw the ball through a wall. J.T. Barrett needs to concentrate making the right decision quickly and throwing the ball accurately and on time.

The quarterbacks were nervous in the scrimmage Saturday and their play showed that. He let them know they didn’t get the job done. It was tough but necessary for them to grow.

Wilson was a running back last year. He couldn’t play receiver because he didn’t know how, and his limitations limited the offense. He is growing now, but he still has to iron out some mistakes. His usability continues to rise.

Herman is going to have Braxton Miller grade the quarterbacks’ performances in practice like a coach would. In Herman’s personal experience, teaching is the best way to learn. He sees Miller embracing being sidelines and turning a negative into a positive.

Miller was always football smart, but he didn’t speak the language. He would do great things even if he couldn’t explain exactly why. Now he has a better idea of why and they are working on getting him to verbalize it.

Herman acknowledged the offensive line is a big concern, but this group is much farther along than the guys they inherited in the winter/spring of 2012. The job Ed Warinner did then as coach was amazing and it gives Herman confidence in how things will turn out this time.

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