In hindsight, he liked that the Buckeyes’ 35-28 win over California last week was of the come-from-behind variety.
(See BuckeyeSports.com for word on team awards and injuries.)
Jordan Hall looked really rusty, but they are glad to have him back. He told Meyer he saw about 70 yards he left on the field when he went back and watched the film.
Meyer called the penalties committed by the offense very alarming and something he must get fixed as the head coach. They were bad and often ignorant penalties.
Defensively, they have to stop allowing big plays. The offense had too many three-and-outs, and it has not produced as many explosive plays as Meyer wants to see from the running game (aside from Braxton Miller).
They want highlight-reel plays from someone besides Miller and Devin Smith. Hall could be a big-play guy, as could Carlos Hyde. Hall needed to pick up his feet a few times as he was going through the line Saturday and he could have made a few more big gains, but in general they just need to break more tackles and make people miss more often. That’s what is happening to his defense, by the way.
He wondered if perhaps the tackling had suffered because of how much of an emphasis the coaches put on forcing turnovers in the spring and preseason. There were times they went for a strip instead of securing the tackle first. They normally only tackle once a week in practice but could go to twice (More on defensive struggles).
Someone asked about the “pop pass” Miller threw to Jake Stoneburner on Saturday and Meyer explained it came from his days at Utah when he started using a tight end as another direct-snap running threat because Alex Smith wasn’t a great runner. Eventually they added a pass to the package, and Tim Tebow later made this famous.
Left tackle Jack Mewhort has been a model student in his time at Ohio State other than his public urination/fleeing police episode during the summer. That was a stupid mistake, but Meyer liked how he responded and liked how his father responded, which was “not pleasant.” Mewhort has probably been their best offensive lineman so far.
As he has said before, Meyer said the team is average right now. They play fairly well at times but make mistakes others. He is ready for some “non-adversity games” but doesn’t expect any of those the rest of the way with the Big Ten coming up. He likes his team and the way the guys approach getting ready for games, noting he saw a bunch of them loading up iPads with scouting reports Monday on their day off.
The offense needs to take some more shots down the field, but there is risk reward. He wants to maintain a passing percentage of 70 percent and stay on schedule, something that doesn’t happen if you go deep on first down and don’t hit it.
The best thing about the first three weeks on offense is Smith has emerged as a “go get it guy.”
Meyer gets more involved in the play calls late in close games, particularly on offense. The defense is doing fine schematically but needs to play better. One problem teams are giving the Buckeyes is how they attack the OSU defense in the boundary.
He can’t remember being around a defense that has given up so many big plays. The need to be more sound in the boundary.
All three teams they have prepared for so far have come out defensively in something other than they had showed before or last season. That is frustrating, but it probably won’t be true anymore after this week.
He watched some of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game on Saturday night and believes the Spartans have a top-5 or so defense and have for a few years.
The Buckeyes struggled in the third quarter Saturday because of penalties at the wrong time and lack of execution. Those led to a lot of very challenging down and distance situations (third and long).
He has talked to Miller about just playing and not overthinking amid all the talk about his running too much. He doesn’t want him to get in his own head. Going forward he expect teams to defend Ohio State in a way that he has the ball in his hands less. (That could lead to more designed runs for Miller if teams consistently give him a “give” look on the zone read/inverted veer.)
Meyer is impressed with Miller’s progress since last year. A lot of times freak athletes have just been getting by on their athleticism so long they don’t know how to work hard to prepare, but he has made great strides in that regard. He practices better than he did even in the spring. He made two grown-man throws to Smith on Saturday.
He saw in Miller’s eyes after he threw the fourth-quarter interception that he wanted the game in his hands with a chance to atone. Some would shrink from that opportunity.
The game-winning touchdown pass came on a play where Philly Brown was the intended receiver on a short pattern but the defense doubled him and Smith was left wide open deep after Miller broke from the pocket.
Asked about Christian Bryant and his tendency to make both big plays and big mistakes, Meyer said as guys develop as players, they start to see the big picture more and develop a sense of when to go for it and when to be safe. Bryant is a “rock-star type” of player who wants to make things happen, and Meyer has had conversations about that with him. He has been great in those talks about staying within himself and the defense.
He said if the time comes for Miller to be touted as a real Heisman candidate, that could be fun. He liked it in the past with players such as Tebow, but Miller isn’t playing well enough for that talk yet.
Someone asked about facing John Peterson, the former tight ends coach who is now on staff at UAB, and Meyer said he is a great guy who was here as a player when Meyer was a graduate assistant in the mid-80s. He did not retain Peterson because he wanted to have guys familiar with his style of offense so they could be on the same page when drawing things up.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said the staff had to adjust on the fly in the first half when Cal came out in a four-man front instead of the “Bear” defense they prepared for. Then they needed time in the third to get switched back to dealing with the Bear, although he said what they were doing in particular was not something he had seen.
Asked what has been good about the offense so far, he said the effort, especially on the offensive line. He is pleased with the growth of the wide receivers. They are not where they need to be but are improving.
When they’re good, they’re really good. Now they need to continue to be good more often. Consistency is key.
Someone asked about the pop pass Miller threw Saturday but I didn’t write down the answer because I thought it was a stupid question.
Asked about going deep, he said they need to analyze when to do it both based on risk/reward and down and distance. How the defense is playing matters, too.
He has seen a mind-boggling variety of defensive responses to Miller’s talents. In general people are trying to come up with different ways to keep 8 and 9 in the box while remaining sound.
He tries to see the game as the quarterback is seeing it, but that is difficult. The challenge every week is to give him only what he can handle. Miller is seeing the field better, and he comes over with a better explanation of what he is seeing when they talk on the sideline and adjustments need to be made. Now Miller can tell him what the problems are, which allows them to figure out how to react.
Herman gets a great vibe from how Miller has responded to learning this offense.
There are no issues with Miller’s upper body mechanics as a passer. He has a strong arm and a smooth delivery. He is still working on keeping his feet calm and getting the timing down with his upper and lower body. He throws better on the run because it is easier to keep all that stuff in balance without thinking about it too much.
He’s good in practice at keeping his feet settled down. Now he has to work on taking that into games more consistently.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said the defense wants to be sound. That is their No. 1 stress.
They have to keep leverage on the ball. He laid awake at night after watching the film but could not pinpoint one thing. There is no lack of effort. They have to make sure as coaches they stress to the guys what they are supposed to do.
Sometimes they might stress going from Point A to Point B quickly so much that fundamentals suffer. They have to recognize where point B is.
Storm Klein played about eight snaps on defense and Curtis Grant was in for about 12 at middle linebacker.
They need to be aggressive, and they opened some things up last week with some blitzes. That gives the offense more to worry about rather than just setting up for the same thing every play.
He joked that he missed the best part of being a head coach because that comes in the offseason when they get to relax a little and go on sponsored trips and things like that. It was a great experience he will use when he gets another chance. You find out who has your back when you’re in charge like that.
Defensive lineman Nathan Williams pointed out that almost all of the live reps he is getting are in the games, so he has a lot of catching up to do with guys who have been practicing since the beginning of August. He feels he is getting better every day. He practices against the scout team and in drills but not when the first teams go against each other.
His recovery time has been amazing so far. He entered the year thinking he would only play half of the season.
He did not feel he played too many plays against Cal and said people don’t need to worry about that. He was frustrated because the Bears usually ran away from him last week and he didn’t get many chances to be in the thick of things. He was just chasing the ball all day. He is up every morning at 4:30 to get ready to work out and continue to rehab.
Mike Vrabel has a different philosophy than former defensive line coach Jim Heacock, who was a big believer in playing a lot of guys. Vrabel brings a mentality from the NFL in which the best guys play.
His penalty last week (offsetting personal fouls when he got tangled up with a Cal running back) was in the heat of the moment, but he needs to keep his cool.
Those freshmen defensive linemen are behind in most areas, but they are getting better.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall said line coach Ed Warinner is a high-energy guy who makes sure everyone is pumped up around him.
He feels like he is getting better every game but needs to eliminate mistakes such as missed assignments.
He is playing at about 15 pounds lighter than last year and feels much different.
There was a period of time he was worried if he would be able to continue his Ohio State career as he was sitting out a redshirt for academic reasons two years ago. He had to get back in the classroom and get focused. He would tell a high school recruit to think about more than just football. Getting an education is a serious deal.
He is not a new man, per se, but he has his priorities straight now. He appreciates everything much more after having to sit out that year.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier said UAB likes to take shots downfield and run to the boundary (short side of the field). The latter is something they have seen a lot and struggled with against Cal. As a result, they have moved around and changed some alignments with the defensive line and the linebackers. They are doing something to get the safety to help, too.
It is fun when they play an aggressive style. He wants to see the quarterback rattled.
The Buckeyes have a good mindset and won’t overlook UAB.
They can work on tackling without being truly full-go. They can hit and wrap without going to the ground. They did take guys to the ground a little more this week than usual during the season, though.
He should have wrapped up Bigelow on the 81-yard run, and he slipped and was out of position on the 59-yard run. The coaches said he had a good game, but he feels those things wiped it out.
Linebacker Etienne Sabino said he doesn’t mind the grueling “Bloody Tuesday” practices. That is football. It’s fun to hit. They’re sore from the game but get out there and get going anyway.
The team gets to split its Fridays with being focused and having fun now. They play games like home run derby, hot potato and shoot the football in a basket at the WHAC then go to the OSU Golf Course for their evening meal. It lightens the mood, then they go back to work (team meetings).
Saturday they get up around 7, go to walkthrough then have position meetings and it is time to go.
(Meyer said he picked this up from Sonny Lubick, head coach at Colorado State. He taught him the guys need to get some rest and can’t be too fired up. They call it “the best Friday in football”. He started it at Bowling Green. He wants practice to be terrible during the week then Friday and Saturday are “pay day”. He talks to each guy before they go to bed on Friday night.)
Running back Jordan Hall said he didn’t know he was going to carry it 17 times last week, but he had no problem with it. He felt like he left yards on the field when he tripped over linemen because he wasn’t picking up his feet.
I asked him if getting back a guy like Carlos could give him more chances to get out on the edge and operate in space, and he said it might surprise people but he likes to run between the tackles and being physical. He hopes getting some more reps will make it easier for him to see holes develop and what he needs to do with the ball when he gets it. He feels better with some more practice under his belt.
Wide receiver Devin Smith said the offense needs to be efficient. He didn’t have much reaction when asked if they feel any pressure being 38-point favorites.
UAB looks kind of like UCF on film. The Blazers have some talented guys.
The key to avoiding all the penalties that have held them back is staying focused. That is the message from Meyer. That is what they have been doing in practice. The staff has trained them to play with passion and play their hearts out.