Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook after another week following the Buckeyes. This time, we’re looking at a trip to Indiana following a defeat of Nebraska. We start, as always, with a recounting of the press luncheon of head coach Urban Meyer. For personnel notes, see BuckeyeSports.com.
Ohio State’s head coach said this is as good as he has felt about an offensive line in a long time. They are his dudes now. However, they still don’t have any depth, and that is a concern. He wants to see the next three – Taylor Decker, Chase Farris and Tony Underwood – step up and show they are ready to play.
He has made a big deal about getting fast starts for the offense, but it hasn’t always worked out. Sometimes it’s been brutal. Nebraska came out defending them well and he got on the headset and said it was Braxton time. They needed to run him to jump start the offense.
Joshua Perry did OK filling in for Etienne Sabino, the senior linebacker who broke a bone in his leg against Nebraska. Perry, a true freshman from the Columbus suburbs, needs to build his confidence. He has a lot of talent.
Meyer was asked about Miller being a Heisman candidate and said he doesn’t usually talk about that at this point in time, but Miller doesn’t qualify yet. He is great to watch, but let’s wait a few more games.
He does pay attention to the national polls, and it is something they talk about with the team. The guys are going to hear about it regardless, whether that is at home or at class or somewhere else.
They are feeling the lack of scholarship players. Doug Lesmerises of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer counted 76 current guys, and that is apparent in special teams in particular. They had starting lineman on the field goal unit on Saturday. Linebackers are young, etc.
Wide receiver Ricquan Southward left the team after losing his love for the game, and safety Jamie Wood is out for the year with a second shoulder surgery of the year on tap.
Freshman quarterback Cardale Jones was suspended for the Nebraska game after tweeting that he didn’t understand why they have to go to class because they are in college to play football. That took away from Meyer’s attention to preparing for the game Friday and made him angry. He called Jones’ comment ignorant, something he is over now and ready to move on from. Jones is a great kid who made a mistake, which makes him no different than a lot of other guys his age.
Meyer has a lot of respect for Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson, who is an offensive innovator from whom Meyer learned a lot while he was developing his own version of the spread offense.
They held a tough practice for the young guys who don’t play in the games on Sunday. The old guys were off. He realized that players who don’t play pretty much get five days off during the season because they don’t do much at practice after Wednesday and they don’t get that action on Saturday. He needs to limit hits on the starters, especially the linemen, but the backups need live reps to get better.
Braxton Miller won’t miss practice to rest, but he doesn’t get hit in practice anyway.
In hiring an offensive line coach, he wanted another Steve Addazio, who held that position for him at Florida and is now the head coach at Temple. He wanted to make sure it was a guy who is involved in game planning, not one isolated to working with the offensive linemen. He liked the past experience Ed Warinner had as an offensive coordinator at Kansas, among other places.
He knows better exactly how Johnny Simon is feeling now because he has gotten Simon to start telling him the truth when he asks if he’s hurt. They have grown-man conversations. Meyer needs to know because an injured player can hurt the team if he’s out there. He joked they have a checklist for all Simon’s bangs and boo-boos.
He is disappointed in the production so far from the freshmen linebackers. They need to come along faster, especially with Sabino sidelined now.
He sees a very good player in Indiana defensive tackle Adam Replogle, and Meyer notices every week it seems like they are facing talented guys from Ohio.
He loves seeing the success Florida is having now and called the idea he left the cupboard bare there, “one man’s opinion.”
Orhian Johnson is doing very well in place of the injured C.J. Barnett and has accepted changing roles well. He is more talented than he realizes, according to Meyer. He has also battled a hip pointer. Johnson is a smart guy and a big, tough athlete.
He is very concerned they could overlook Indiana because the Buckeyes are coming off of two very emotional wins. They are sore, too. He is not sure how the team will deal with it, but he’s glad the Hoosiers nearly beat Michigan State last week because that will make it easier for them to get the attention of the team. They have already been able to watch that film on their iPads or whatever they want to use.
Indiana is improving and will challenge you with their spread formations.
Ohio State’s tight ends are earning a bigger role in the offense and did great things against the Cornhuskers.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs talked at length (and with great enthusiasm) about the Buckeye kickoff team, a unit now known as the piranhas because they are small and vicious. They enjoy what they are doing, and he hasn’t gotten any resistance from anyone asked to fill that role.
They hit the Nebraska return man inside the 10 three times on Saturday, a truly tremendous feat. To get ready for the job, they have races in practice and then stop the film later to point out who is hustling the most on coverage.
Someone asked if Coombs thinks the kickoff will be eliminated from football eventually because of the concern about concussions, and he said yes, but he would not be a fan of that move. Teams now take different approaches. Some, like Indiana, try to kick it out of the end zone every time, but Ohio State kicks it high and wants to force a return then make a stop inside the 15.
Cornerbacks are able to do more individual study of opponents than other people on defense because of their role. That lets them study specific routes and watch players for tendencies. That played a role in Bradley Roby’s interceptions of Taylor Martinez. He is very good at watching habits and understanding what is coming. He really wants to make plays, and Ohio State needs that very much.
Someone asked his perspective on Ohio State and Cincinnati both having great years, and he said he loves Cincinnati. That’s his town. He wants what is best for them, and he recruited 60 percent of the guys on that team. That includes his son.
Coaching at Ohio State is amazing. The atmosphere Saturday night against Nebraska was better than when Coombs was an assistant for the Bearcats in the Orange Bowl. The experience here is second to none. He told the kids, ‘Let’s not lose anymore. This is fun.” He also called it “exciting” and “phenomenal”.
Roby gets confidence from the knowledge he gets from film study. Coombs never wants to coach a cornerback who doesn’t have swagger. Everybody gets beat and gives up catches in man coverage, so they have to be able to forget it. Tell them they were lucky to get one and go back to work. Feel like it’s never a matter of the other guy being better but just getting lazy or using bad technique. Coombs said Michigan State had a pair of catches in 27 times Roby was in man to man coverage.
Roby is blessed with a lot of ability, and he is much better than he was a year ago. He is not a finished product. He has worked hard at his craft and can be a first-round draft pick if that continues.
Tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Tim Hinton agreed with the suggestion the atmosphere at Ohio Stadium for the night game against Nebraska was great for recruiting. “If that doesn’t get your blood boiling, there’s something wrong with you.”
He got chills from the quick cals with the students before the game, and responses he has heard from recruits so far has been tremendous.
Someone asked about lack of targets for Jake Stoneburner, and he said the offense has distributed the ball very well. They did not expect the tight ends to be open on vertical routes last week, but they were so they took advantage. The offense can do a lot, so they have to hit whatever is open.
He felt they made good adjustments against the Huskers, then everything came together.
Asked about how a good record can effect recruiting, he said it must be something because his Facebook has been buzzing. It helps because you get a lot of TV time when you’re good. That helps you catch the eye of everyone. It has some power, and kids watch.
Zach Boren has provided leadership for the team. They talked about it that day when he was in there on an off day to get some extra work. He has stayed pretty healthy and understands the system and the coaching process better than he did at the beginning.
Hinton is excited for the guys he left behind at Notre Dame to be off to a good start this season. That’s the great part of being in this business – the relationships you develop with young men. He couldn’t imagine just spending his time with adults all day. He loves the kids back in South Bend but generally only gets scores from their games and a few texts from guys.
He agrees there is a feeling of constriction with the roster small. You never feel like you have enough even when you have 85 scholarship players, and they have a maximum of 82 for now and two more years.
That’s tough because coaches always like to have a pair and a spare.
Running back Carlos Hyde said Rod Smith has come a long way, done a 180 since last spring. He is doing great now and is a contributor for the team on offense and special teams. Smith hadn’t bought into the system earlier, but now he’s changed his mind.
He’s not worried about having to stay 60 miles or so from Bloomington before the game, but he did sound surprised when told about it. “How long did you say it was?” came as his initial response to the question. They will have the same mindset anyway.
The AP national title is a goal for the team. They need to do that so people will remember them since they can’t be Big Ten champions.
Asked about his ability to gain yards after contact, he said he wants defenses to feel like they have to bring more guys when they try to tackle him.
Smith said he eventually decided to just grind in practice and try to get noticed on special teams. He wasn’t showing enough before.
The offensive line has worked like crazy to get to the level of play it has contributed recently.
He doesn’t think staying in Indy and bussing to Bloomington on Saturday will be too difficult. They still need their road focus. It will be exciting.
He is just happy to be going back to his home state. He will see some of his friends from high school, and he wants to put on a show.
Roby said this Ohio State team has more leadership than last year’s. They also have a goal and everyone has bought in. That makes the team better.
Last year taught them how embarrassing it is to be a losing team. Now they need to bring the respect back for the Buckeyes.
Fellow cornerback Travis Howard is having a good year, and Roby always tells him in warmups they are the best pair of corners in the Big Ten and they need to go out there and show it every week.
Asked about the importance of the “victory meal” the team eats together on Sunday nights, he said, “It’s not the loser meal, so it’s cool. It’s time to be thankful for another victory.”
Linebacker Storm Klein said he assumes the Buckeyes will be in nickel most of the time in Bloomington.
Joshua Perry has done well in practice. It is crunch time for all of the young linebackers, and there is a greater sense of urgency in the room now. He hasn’t thought about what kind of shape the team and his position would be in if he wasn’t here.
The young guys can’t just wait around for things to happen.