Tag Archives: Purdue Boilermakers

Overheard at Ohio State Football: Purdue Week

With another week of preparations in the books, I have cleaned out the reporter’s notepad. Check out what Ohio State coaches and players had to say this week before being paid a visit by Purdue. 

URBANISMS

Ohio State’s head coach is happy his team is 7-0 despite the struggles on defense. The good news: He feels like he has the team’s attention, and the desire to get better is there.

(For awards and personnel notes, see BuckeyeSports.com stories.)

The No. 1 concern on defense is eliminating big plays, of which there were 14 last week. He had a meeting with the entire defensive staff and they talked about three key things: don’t miss tackles, keep leverage on the ball and maintain 4-6 seconds of maximum effort (Note: I can’t think of much else that goes into defense…).

Yelling and screaming about it won’t do the job. That is not his style, although there are times that call for it.

He likened getting this worked out to becoming a better downfield passing team. They just had to practice it until the execution got better.

Regarding the freshman linebackers not being ready for game action, Meyer said Camren Williams and Joshua Perry were hurt last week. David Perkins and Jamal Marcus have excelled on special teams, but they are having a hard time picking up the defense (He said a week or so ago on his radio show that Luke Roberts wasn’t playing fast enough). Inexperience is a legitimate excuse for struggling, but they’ve got to get over it at some point.

In moving Zach Boren to linebacker, experience matters. Playing football is about leadership and taking charge. He can see the instincts in him. Freshmen are just in there trying to survive, so typically it’s older guys who show the way. He’s getting great leadership from guys like John Simon and Nathan Williams, but they really need it from the center of the defense.

They’re putting out an APB for tough guys this week. That’s what they need to make the defense whole.

Carlos Hyde got off to a slow start, but he’s finishing strong now. He is another guy Meyer can have grown-man conversations with now. He will not be going to the bench when Jordan Hall comes back, although Hall is healing slowly from a knee injury that has kept him out the past two weeks.

He acknowledged moving Boren from one side of the ball is unusual and noted it would not have been possible without the improvement of tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett. Both are coming on, and they are young so they’ll be around for a while. He recalled one previous time he had a guy switch sides. That was Mike Pouncey at Florida, who played some defensive tackle for them when they were battling injuries there.

He acknowledged playing at a high tempo means more plays and that can leave the defense out to dry but was not ready to offer that as an explanation for why scoring seems to be up around college football.

His “pro scout,” John Cooper, told him Purdue has several pro guys, including a defensive tackle (guessing he meant Kawann Short). The Boilermakers have a very active, shifting defense. That is a contrast from the last couple of weeks, when the teams have shown them what they’re going to get.

Asked about how involved he can get in the defense, he said he wasn’t sure. He won’t call plays, but he will work on helping to develop leadership and toughness. He can coach the effort part while the defensive assistants work out the scheme.

They’ve talked about potentially putting other guys at new positions, but they don’t have a lot of options.

Noah Spence has been coming on as a defensive end. He was very good last week in the absence of Williams, so they need to figure out how to get him on the field (Perhaps this could mean Williams moves to linebacker, where he played one game last season before getting hurt. The Sam position in the base defense isn’t that different from his normal Leo spot at end. Of course they are likely to be in nickel and dime, where Williams already played a linebacker-like role, anyway this week).

Meyer called Boren’s move to linebacker “temporarily permanent.”

Devin Smith has improved a lot but can’t stop now. He needs to continue on that trajectory. Meyer told receivers coach Zach Smith he must be doing a good job because his guys are coming along. Now they have some confidence, so they can be coached harder. Guys who are struggling need their egos maintained so they don’t crack, but guys doing well can be pushed. He learned that from Lou Holtz. He called Smith’s last touchdown the play of the day as he made a couple guys miss after hauling in a pass then taking it to the end zone.

Meyer likes to see Rod Smith going hard in all he does, something that overshadows mistakes such as his fumble at Indiana.

Meyer went to Wayne High School to talk to Jay Minton so he could get a better idea of how to communicate with Braxton Miller. He said they obviously love Miller at Wayne, where Minton has a great program in place, and the talk helped him know better how to approach Miller.

Even though offenses are making a lot of headlines these days, the Buckeyes have got to get better on defense. The best teams at the top do that, including BCS 1 and 2 Alabama and Florida.

He loves offense, but you win with kicking and defense.

He is on the same page as the defensive staff. It takes time for people to jell. There are new guys, but they are great people. They just need more production from the defense.

Meyer wants the offense to be more balanced, but 300 yards rushing kind of overrules that. Can’t ignore the ability to do that. They didn’t operate at the tempo he wants, but that’s OK because they were moving the ball and the defense was struggling so it needed some time.

They got unbalanced at times with Tim Tebow at quarterback because of how good he was.

Asked about Curtis Grant, he said he is a good person with plenty of ability. He’s only a sophomore, and he doesn’t have much game experience. Some guys take longer than you expect to come along. He still has time to have a fine career.

Usually practicing leverage is saved for the offseason (spring and preseason), but they will have to go back over it this week.

He is proud to see former assistants Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong doing well at Mississippi State and Louisville, respectively.

 

Running backs coach Stan Drayton said Carlos Hyde has been getting stronger as the games go on. He gets a feel for the blocking, how the safeties are supporting the run and where the pursuit is coming from. He can wear people down with his size, too.

The offensive line is the common denominator with the improvement of the running backs’ production.

He also did not sound terribly concerned about Rod Smith’s fumble at Indiana. He has good confidence now, is in a better place mentally. The coach doesn’t want to hurt that. Smith needs to focus on details. That time he did not get the ball secured after the mesh because his eyes got big because he saw a hole. He got in a rush.

He could see the “pound it offense” (as Meyer described it) coming before the season because it has always been an offense that fits players’ skills.  They were running the players with smaller backs and a bigger quarterback at Florida, so this is new for Meyer to see. They have guys in there who can break tackles, and it’s fun to see.

The key to really making the offense go is having guys on the perimeter, which you’re seeing more of now with Philly Brown in the option, but everything is predicated on running physically inside and forcing teams to load the box. Then you can attack on the outside. That’s the essence of the spread running game. The kids grow into it and learn how it works.

He was asked if they will keep the power back aspect, and he said as long as they have a dynamic player on the perimeter, they’re good to go. The basis is inside zone and power plays with an attitude. His running backs can do both, but they are better inside. Getting Brown and Miller on the edge just makes everything else more dangerous.

They have not discussed redshirting Jordan Hall yet, although he would be eligible. They want him to maintain the mindset that he will come back and play this season.

Hyde is in a good place in life now, including staying on top of his classes and hitting the weight room. He has learned accountability. He might have felt he had a raw deal last year when he had some success and then went back to the bench. He had some selfish feelings. They want him to be confident in his abilities, but that can be a double-edged sword. He is good now. He’s as excited about blocking for Miller as he is running the ball, and that’s exciting to see. His new attitude is the real deal.

Devin Smith, who Drayton coached last year as a freshman, is growing up. Drayton said he must have failed and Zach Smith is doing a better job with him this time around, but it is great seeing guys learn and grow from the trials and tribulations they go through.

Wide receiver Jake Stoneburner said Meyer got into him at the stadium after a game recently and they had a heart-to-heart in practice. The message was he was playing tentative, not running his routes as crisply as he should. That appears to be in the past now.

Someone asked about the Big Ten’s representation in the preseason basketball coaches’ poll, and he said maybe that makes them the SEC of basketball. That would be cool.

Turning to football, he didn’t believe the talk about the Big Ten being inferior after Ohio State lost to Florida and LSU in the national championship games, but now it seems like the rest of the league needs to step up.

Asked to compare Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor, he said Miller = Mike Vick and Pryor = Vince Young. Miller throws the ball with great velocity and a tight spiral while being the best athlete he has seen running the football in college. Pryor was a big, strong athlete who was getting better at passing as his career progressed.

Stoneburner said Miller could have started every game at running back this season and they would still be undefeated. Pryor’s skill do not translate to that position, though. He was better at dropping back to throw then running when things broke down.

Miller makes guys miss and seems to have another sense about where potential tacklers are.

Revenge for the loss at Purdue last season is on their minds but not a driving force.

Linebacker Zach Boren said he is getting more comfortable all the time at his new position. Every day, he is learning more. He is fine if he starts or plays as part of a rotation.

Guys responded great to the APB from Meyer for toughness. They had two great days of practice. Guys are flying to the ball.

He was nervous last week before making his college linebacker debut, and that was the first time he felt that way in a long time. It took him a couple of series to settle in.

Cornerback Bradley Roby acknowledged the Big Ten is down in football but said it will be back. Everyone has a down year – except for the SEC. He’s not worried about it.

He also disputed the idea the Big Ten could become a basketball league with all the highly ranked teams to start the season (I think this was a tongue-in-cheek question).

In the aftermath of Boren moving to linebacker from fullback because of a lack of depth on the defensive side, someone asked if Roby could pick up wide receiver in three days like Boren did linebacker. Roby said he definitely could. He has played it before, so he knows how to run routes. He would just need to learn the calls. If they need him, he is ready. He feels like receivers coach Zach Smith knows that.

Roby is definitely impressed with Boren. He is a leader on defense for them now. He is a good dude to have on their side of the ball. Boren might not look the part, but he is definitely playing the part.

They do have a chip on their shoulder and want revenge for the losses they had last year. He feels like they should have won them in the first place and would have if they had made more plays.

Purdue has a lot of quick receivers. Stopping receivers O.J. Ross and Antavian Edison will be key (Ross is questionable with an injury).

My 2012 Big Ten Football Picks

You should check out the Buckeye Sports Bulletin football preview issue for my full view of the race, but here is how I see the top of each division shaking out. 

The Division That Should Be the West: 

Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska should stage an interesting battle for divisional supremacy.

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio will miss All-American defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, but the front seven is remarkably deep as several years of strong recruiting seem to be paying off on the line and at linebacker. Worthy was a fine player, but some of his success might have been a product of the overall quality of the unit. William Gholston has the makings of an even bigger star at defensive end while Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are special talents at linebacker.

There are major questions on the other side of the ball in East Lansing, but I think they can get by with a so-so scoring unit thanks to the ‘D’. Dantonio claims to have supreme confidence in sophomore Andrew Maxwell, but he is an unknown at this point. All of his targets at receiver and tight end will be new, too, but new wideouts DeAnthony Arnett and Tony Lippett along with tight end Dion Sims are considered potential playmakers.

Junior running back Le’Veon Bell is an impact running back, but the Spartans have questions on the offensive front.

I was only one of many caught off guard by Michigan’s success last season, and I am still a skeptic of the Wolverines in 2012. They played far better fundamentally on both sides of the ball last season, but they also benefited from a remarkable run of beneficial bounces.

Even as a senior, I think Denard Robinson remains a wild card. He has dynamic talent but probably can’t get away with throwing another 15 interceptions this time around, as he did in 2011. Offensive coordinator Al Borges did an admirable job bending his pro-style attack to Robinson’s skills, and it will be interesting to see how that evolves this season.

Defensively, Michigan should continue to mature in the back seven, but the Wolverines will be green at key spots up front.

Ultimately, I believe the loss of All-America center David Molk and All-Big Ten defensive tackle Mike Martin will be tough to overcome, leaving the Wolverines vulnerable in the trenches, where depth remains a question until Brady Hoke’s recruiting classes get some seasoning. That could change if five-star defensive tackle prospect Will Campbell finally lives up to his billing. The bet here is that he won’t. Fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum, to now seldom-used, is the choice to replace Molk.

Then there is Nebraska. I picked the Cornhuskers to win the Big Ten in their first season in the league, but head coach Bo Pelini’s team faltered down the stretch and finished a disappointing 9-4 with three conference losses.

Year two in offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s unique option scheme should be better than year one, but will Taylor Martinez ever grow into a consistent passer? I am not sure that he will, but it might not be necessary if he and All-Big Ten running back Rex Burkhead can scare teams enough on the ground. The offensive line, with its fondness for cut blocks, could become a plug-and-play unit, while a callow group of receivers could show some improvement this season.

Things could look a little different on defense with new coordinator John Papuchis in charge, and that might not be a bad thing after the famed Blackshirts gave up 44 more yards and six more points per game than in 2010. Pelini hopes more experience will help in the secondary while better depth improves the front seven. Expect the coaching staff to use the benefit of a year’s worth of familiarity with league opponents when it comes to game-planning.

Division That Should Be The East:

While many expect Wisconsin to run away with the division as Ohio State and Penn State (who will probably be terrible) ineligible, Purdue and Illinois both have some darkhorse potential.

The Boilermakers have never been able to quite get over the hump in Danny Hope’s three seasons at the helm, but things might break right for him in 2012. He has three quarterbacks with starting experience – Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry – and a handful of potential contributors at the skill positions. If the offensive line improves, Purdue could have a puncher’s chance to reach the top of the division. Nine starters return on defense, including defensive tackle Kawann Short and cornerback Ricardo Allen, two players among the best in the league at their positions.

Talent is less an issue than discipline and consistency for the Purdue during the Hope years.

Similar sentiments could apply to the Fighting Illini, but they are under new management this season in the form of head coach Tim Beckman. The former Ohio State assistant has solid building blocks on both sides of the ball: quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and linemen Graham Pocic and Hugh Thornton on offense with linebacker Jonathan Brown, linemen Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence and cornerback Terry Hawthorne on defense.

The onus is on Scheelhaase to pick up a new spread offense and lead on his side. He should get some help from running backs Josh Ferguson and Donovan Young as well as multitalented Miles Osei.

If the offense can improve from one of the worst in the country last season to even decent, it could offset graduation losses from what was a top 15 defense nationally in both yardage (seventh) and scoring (15th).

Then there is Wisconsin. The Badgers are two-time Big Ten champs and a fashionable pick to go for three, but that will be easier said than done. Stopping senior running back Monte Ball is a formidable challenge for any defense, and the Badgers figure to be strong as usual on the front line. However, expecting Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien to replicate the success of 2011 sensation Russell Wilson might be asking too much. O’Brien is a solid passer, but Wilson’s ability to freelance and create big plays after the initial plan broke down will certainly be missed. Will Jared Abbrederis step up as the No. 1 receiver with Nick Toon having graduated? Can Abbrederis, a former walk-on, replicate his 55 catches for 933 yards and eight touchdowns without Toon to draw attention on the other side?

My guess is the offense will not be as unstoppable as it has been the last two seasons, but it should still be quite good. The stop unit is another story. The propensity to put up huge point totals has masked a decline in defense the past two seasons, and another year of maturity might not do it for the six returning starters. Head coach Bret Bielema is banking on a big impact from defensive end David Gilbert and cornerback Devin Smith from injury, but neither of them were exactly All-Big Ten Players before they were sidelined. Last year teams like Ohio State and Oregon made the Badgers look slow on defense.

In conclusion… 

I think Michigan State will get just enough on offense to ride that defense to a 7-1 mark in the league with its only setback coming against the Cornhuskers. That could include close calls against Michigan and Ohio State, however, not to mention the annually kooky contest with Northwestern (set for the penultimate game of the regular season and the Spartans’ Senior Day this time around).

Illinois’ conference schedule is front-loaded with trips to Wisconsin and Michigan in early October, but the Fighting Illini could lose those games and still find time to come together down the stretch and get back into the race with Wisconsin. However, because of tiebreakers the Fighting Illini will probably have to be perfect the rest of the way if they lose to the Badgers and Wolverines, and I am not ready to say they will be able to pull that off. Thus, I’m going with Wisconsin.

The Spartans prevail in Indianapolis this time and go on to the Rose Bowl while Nebraska benefits from sitting at home on championship weekend and having a huge fan base, thus getting an at-large bid to the BCS.

Ten Years Gone

Ohio State lines up to try to stop Purdue one last time

There are two games left to this Ohio State season, but the loss at Purdue last week brought with it a feeling of finality. That is not to say the Buckeyes are ready to close up shop with two games remaining, but the sense major changes are on the way never seemed stronger than it does now. A Led Zeppelin song is the inspiration this week. 

 

What we learned last week:A game of inches? Oh yeah, no doubt about it. Ohio State’s season came down to a couple of plays that proved that yet again.

First a there was a blocked extra point that could have given the Buckeyes the lead and the chance to hold on without overtime, a kick that would have been good if it came off Drew Basil’s foot with a trajectory a few inches higher or someone had pushed that blocking Boilermaker back a few to keep him from getting a hand on the ball.

Then came maybe an even crueler fate in overtime. The Ohio State defense lined up with only 18 precious inches to protect before Purdue could cripple their hopes of remaining the kings of the Big Ten for a seventh straight season. It was maybe the most impossible task yet in a season full of challenges, and the Buckeyes proved unable to answer it.

Quarterback Robert Marve lined up under center, took a snap and burrowed forward. Stopped initially, he slid to his left and extended the ball over the goal line for the game-winning touchdown.

Of course, there were many more plays that led to that one, including more than a few mistakes that have been repeated all too many times in this up-and-down season, but there has to be some symbolism in the way it all went down at the end.

Ohio State has four losses, three by one touchdown or less. The other was a dropped interception away from being just as competitive in the fourth quarter, although few would say the Buckeyes really came anywhere near deserving to beat Miami in that game back in September.

One could also make the case they didn’t really deserve to win any of the ones they lost. All of them were filled with errors and questionable decisions both on the field and on the sideline.

They form a mix of confusion that seems foreign to this place after 10 years of things mostly working out for the best (especially in the regular season) even when mistakes were made. But the miscues have been greater in number this year because of the abundance of youth in important spots and the power vacuum left at the top by the loss of the long-time head coach.

Where do they go from here? It will be interesting to see how this team bounces back. It’s not hard to imagine the elastic is just about worn out for this group given all it has been hit with. One couldn’t blame them for packing it in, although the last two opponents are eminently beatable and a couple of the biggest name teams on the schedule, so there should not be a problem getting fired up for either of them.

But this has been the least-predictable season of Ohio State football in quite some time, so I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see. That’s always the fun of sports, of course, especially when your team happens to be as good at making things somehow work out in the end like the Buckeyes have over the past decade (a stark contrast from the preceding decade, I might add).

Walking amid the reveling Purdue fans on the Ross-Ade Stadium grass Saturday, one could not help but feel a sense of closure. The last chapter of an era of Ohio State football was written and completed. There is an epilogue yet to be added, one that has plenty of intrigue thanks to the particular opponents and the return of a stud wide receiver who could help the offense a lot, but one that stands apart from the greater tale.

That story is done. It was some kind of ride, even at the end, but all things come to their conclusions at some point, and those conclusions sometimes have a way of feeling more natural than we expect they might, even when they come at the least-expected times.

What we can expect to learn this week: I’m tempted to say, “Not much of anything.”

I don’t mean that as disrespect to Penn State, but I feel like we’ve reached the point where things are what they are and they won’t be changing.

Barring a pretty big miracle, there is nothing left but pride to play for. I think both of these teams already have that.

We’ve already seen what this Ohio State team looks like at its best and its worst. It won’t need the former to beat Penn State, but it won’t win if it shows up in the latter form. (Hard-hitting analysis, I know)

I’m of course still intrigued by the end-of-season matchup with Michigan both for the typical reasons related to the rivalry and also from a schematic point of view – I think what the Wolverines do offensively and defensively could be problematic for the way this Ohio State team is configured – but neither of those points interest me as far as Penn State is concerned.

The Nittany Lions offer a favorable matchup on both sides of the ball for Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ strength is up the middle, which is the only place Penn State can consistently attack defenses. Wide receiver Derek Moye is a bona fide threat, but getting him the ball is a challenge regardless of who takes the snaps for the Nittany Lions.

On the other side of the ball, the Nittany Lions’ 4-3 over, cover-3 defense is an eight-man front, but it is still one that can be run on if you just have the patience to accept a few yards at a time. The Buckeyes have run on it consistently the past two years, and I see no reason they cannot do so again.

I suppose Penn State’s artificially high ranking –a product of their backloaded schedule – provides a carrot for the Ohio State players, but that doesn’t do a lot for me.

It will be interesting to see what kind of lift DeVier Posey can provide in his season debut and to see how Braxton Miller looks with yet another week of preparation under his belt. I’m sure he is glad he shouldn’t have to deal with any more small, open-ended stadiums like Memorial in Champaign, Ill., and the Big East-quality bandbox Purdue calls home, but the inconsistency of his arm compared to what he looked like in high school and the spring has me wondering if he will not be better off with someone else to work with next season.

And from an emotional standpoint, we already have seen it all from this Ohio State squad. They have come out flat about half of the time, but when they are dialed in they can be a pretty good team tough for anyone in the Big Ten to beat. What will their motivation be against Penn State? I have no idea. Will they be driven by redemption because of last week? Will they come out fired up for Senior Day? Will they be still deflated from the way they lost at Purdue? I really don’t know.

But I will be there and I will be watching, because it’s always better to have a questionable game than no game at all.

All-Buckeye Beaters Nominees: The Ryan Kerrigan Award for Dominating the Ohio State Game goes to Kawann Short. The one dangerous player on the Purdue defensive line was more than the Buckeyes could handle, sacking Miller three times and making six tackles overall. Linebacker Dwayne Beckford also had a big day with 10 tackles, including a sack, and safety Logan Link gets a nod for notching nine stops and breaking up a pass.

Offensively, we can’t ignore Robert Marve despite his dearth of playing time because he scored the winning touchdown, and tailback Ralph Bolden had a nice day with 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Tough to highlight any one of the Purdue wide receivers who were effective all afternoon, so perhaps I’ll give a full-squad nod when the season is over.

DVR Directions: Since we are quickly closing in on the 108th edition of The Game, you have only one task this week. Record the Nebraska-Michigan game (Noon, ESPN) to learn all you can about the new-look Wolverines. They’ve had a hard time settling on what they want to do with Denard Robinson in a new offense, but a few new toys have emerged as threats on that side of the ball, and the regime change has made the defense respectable as well (More on that next week, of course…).

I guess you could also record every SEC game involving a bowl-eligible team (other than LSU), too, to get ahead of scouting out a bowl opponent, but that might not be feasible.

Big Ten Picks: After my second perfect week of the season, I am hoping to finish 2011 strong. I considered picking Illinois to upset Wisconsin until realizing just what a mail-it-in performance the Fighting Illini turned in against Michigan last week. The Badgers will roll and set themselves up to clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game with a win against Penn State after Thanksgiving. Nebraska should keep its title-game hopes alive by downing Michigan, although Michigan State holds control of its destiny. The Spartans won’t mess that up when Indiana comes to East Lansing this weekend, but their end-of-season tilt with Northwestern has the potential for some fireworks if history of that series is any guide.

After having its fans rush the field following a win over an unranked team that entered the game with three losses, Purdue is due for a letdown and I expect Iowa to take advantage Saturday in West Lafayette. The Hawkeyes need to improve their bowl resume, and they can eliminate Purdue from postseason consideration.

Finally, there is Minnesota at Northwestern, a game no one cares about but that someone must win. Give me the Wildcats. Last week: 4-0. Season record: 22-8

Cus Words Power Poll 

  1. Nebraska
  2. Michigan State
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Michigan
  5. Ohio State
  6. Penn State
  7. Iowa
  8. Illinois
  9. Northwestern
  10. Purdue
  11. Indiana
  12. Minnesota