Cleaning out my reporter’s notebook after another week of game preparations in Columbus…
The Ohio State head coach said the Buckeyes got back on track in the second half against Indiana by being physical offensively and finally making a big play on defense.
Turnovers are big these days because of the rise of offenses like Indiana that excel at biting off little chunks of yardage at a time.
He thinks his team has been decent at protecting the ball so far this year but the defense does not have enough takeaways.
Someone asked a dumb meaningless question about the team’s identity and he gave a fitting answer that meant nothing. It ended with the idea they are still growing as a team but Ohio State has had an identity for more than 100 years before this team was assembled.
Asked about the team’s struggles on the road, he said they need to make sure these players understand the challenge of every week no matter where the game is played.
He remembers from the 2009 upset by Purdue that Ohio State committed five turnovers, dropped a punt and gave up a touchdown on a screen pass. Also, Purdue played well. The team will be reminded they are 2-2 in the last 10 years (2-5 in last 11). That will be pounded into their heads. The lesson of the near-loss in 2002 will come up as well.
They know the passing game needs to improve for them to accomplish all their goals for this season. They ran so well against Indiana it made sense to keep running. The defense also needs to play better on third down.
He said sometimes young players are prone to slow starts in games because they have a harder time adjusting if something happens they did not see in preparation during the week. They have to come over and have the coaches show them on the board or explain it to them before they get what is happening. That is not true of Christian Bryant, though, because he is just a natural football player.
He said a couple of kickoffs out of bounds the past two weeks by Drew Basil are the result of a lack of concentration.
No biggie with Braxton Miller taking a big hit at the end of the Indiana game. It’s going to happen. He liked that Miller did not flinch about it, he made a good throw. He is used to taking shots from high school and has a good way of rolling with the punches. You cringe when you see him get nailed, but it’s part of the deal if the quarterback is going to run.
He stresses turnovers because it’s a topic that the whole team has to deal with – offense, defense and special team, then he referenced how it makes a difference with the way offense has evolved lately. He also mentioned the 2006 team was young and used turnovers to mask some things (plus that offense never put the defense in a bad position until the last two games of the year).
The receivers are still coming along, but it takes a while for them to get going in Ohio State’s system because they are very demanding. There is a lot to learn. That also helps them when it comes to draft time, though. It’s different than some places where they throw you on the field and say to find an open area.
Seeing Boom Herron excited for Carlos Hyde running in the last touchdown of the game against Indiana is what being on a team is all about. They are part of something bigger than themselves.
He sees Purdue as a pretty balanced offense if you count screens and bubble plays as runs, which he does. That’s different than last year when they were more run-oriented.
There is no one specific thing causing the defense to struggle in the fourth quarter at times, but the unit needs to keep working on putting bad things behind it quickly. That’s been an issue all year. They have very high standards and go into shock when one thing doesn’t go their way.
Senior running back Boom Herron said Zach Boren (who was sitting next to him at the time) is a great blocker who opens a lot of holes for him. Boren in turn said it is fun to block for Herron.
Herron said Hyde seems happy after having a big game against Indiana. It is good to have two good backs available for a team. He has been working hard in practice.
Herron’s ankle felt good at practice and he figures he will be fine this weekend. He first hurt himself against Wisconsin. He said Jordan Hall looked good at practice, too.
He is a different person on the field, crazy and talkative and fired up, than in front of reporters.
He has seen Miller come out of his shell a little bit since the start of the year. Most players speak more the older they get.
Junior fullback Zach Boren said a lot of people also change when they get out on the field. They get fired up and go nuts.
Miller is a mellow guy. They used to have a hard time hearing him make the play call in the huddle, but now he sounds more confident. He doubts Miller will ever be a hoot-and-hollar guy, but that’s OK.
He remembers feeling awful leaving Purdue in ’09 after the Buckeyes were upset there. The Boilermakers took it to them and got a lot of pressure on the quarterback.
Their biggest focus this week is on starting fast. They have to be there ready to go. Purdue is a good home team.
The team liked seeing Miller bounce back from the big hit he took late last week.
Purdue does not have another individual standout like Ryan Kerrigan, but their defense is strong overall. They are aggressive and like to attack. They also have a big defensive line.
He loves that Herron runs north and south.
Boren never heard that he was considered as an option as the third tailback at the beginning of the year when Herron and Hall were suspended and Jaamal Berry was hurt. He’ll do whatever the coaches ask, but he doesn’t think fans would be happy with what they saw if he was back there.
The team is having a lot of fun now that they are are winning. It has been fun watching the growth.
Sophomore guard Jack Mewhort said he has refined his technique pulling on the “power” play (“Dave”), working to stay tighter to the line when he goes, and he has gotten better.
Antonio Underwood, who worked as the starting right tackle with J.B. Shugarts nursing a knee injury, is a good athlete. He is intense and physical and he keeps his feet moving when he is blocking. He does a good job keeping his composure. Mewhort and Marcus Hall also saw some time at right tackle. They have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions up front.
He joked he calls center Mike Brewster, “The Professor” because he knows everything about the line calls and the offense.
He was not at the Purdue game in ’09 because he was redshirting, but he can tell it sticks with the coaches and the older guys who were there.
Spirits are high with the team on a winning streak now. The Big Ten championship game is becoming a more tangible goal as they get closer to it. Guys are excited about playing for that.
Miller is always calm and never shows any ups and downs. He always has a smile and stays composed. He is confident but not cocky.
Mewhort doesn’t have any favorite plays, but he likes when they call trick plays. He also gets excited when they are on the goal line or in short yardage situations and they can mash people.
Moving to right guard from left guard was weird at first but now feels fine.
Assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Paul Haynes said they always look back at a game and find things they could do better. They made some defensive calls that could have been better, but the players played hard. Indiana’s offense was tough to prepare for.
Purdue is somewhat similar to Indiana in that it does some spread and will run the quarterback. They will throw it more and have some playmakers on the outside though.
Christian Bryant had some nervous days last year when the doctors could not figure out what medicine to use to treat the foot infection he was suffering from, but eventually they did. He was thankful to be able to return to the playing field. He is still a young kid learning to play a second position. Star was more natural to him. He is picking up safety, which requires more eye control. He’s allowed to be more aggressive at star, and things are happening more right in front of him. He is an instinctive football player kind of like Jermale Hines.
He spends more time paying attention to his guys during practice, but he sees Miller as a natural born leader. The guys seem to rally around him on offense and listen to him. He walks around practice like a guy with leadership qualities.
Tyler Moeller has settled into his role at Star this year.
They have not changed their approach in recruiting. They are always looking for guys who appreciate Ohio State for what it is as an institution and a program, who want to be Buckeyes. They are up front with guys about the uncertain future. It’s not harder this year than it has been in the past. Guys who might go elsewhere this year could have made the same decision in another year.
Wide receivers coach Stan Drayton has a chain with a link that represents each receiver in his room, and the guy who does the most to represent what it means to work hard and sacrifice for each other gets to wear the chain at the end of the week.
They knew going in the wide receivers would be growing all season. The team is playing to its strength this season, and that is running the ball, so the receivers need to know they have to be ready for their opportunities when they arrive. They are still learning, and so is the quarterback, which is a factor.
He finds it satisfying to turn on the tape and find two of his freshmen receivers running down the field to block for Hyde on a long run.
The receivers have handled not getting the ball a lot better than he might have expected they would. They still want to have balance to protect the running game.
Receivers have at times been able to get on top of the coverage, but there have been other times they have not been able to get open. So they are a threat, but they are still developing.
He hasn’t found it as difficult to recruit this year as you might think. Ohio State is still Ohio State. The program has absorbed problems in the past without seeing a dip in recruiting. They are combing their backyard this year for the right kids.
Asked about a play inside the 10-yard line when Miller was sacked by an unblocked blitzer, he said Miller saw it and reacted correctly but the hot receiver did not, so the quarterback had to eat it. The receiver did not adjust fast enough to a look that was different than they saw on film during the week.
DeVier Posey has grown up here around some other high draft picks, and he knows what he is doing. He’s going to be on fire when he hits the field next week for his first game of the season against Penn State. He has definitely been missed. His preparation has been tremendous with the way he studies film and gets ready. It is unbelievable how he has handled his situation. It has been extremely hard on him. Football is still an escape for him, where his comfort zone exists.
He smiled when asked about Chris Fields being called for holding a few times. He said it’s an aggressive mistake he has to learn from. They keep encouraging him. It’s a mindset to get the job done without grabbing.