Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook after another week on the Ohio State beat…
Ohio State’s head coach started out by thanking fans for their part in the Buckeyes’ 56-10 win over Miami last week.
He then went over what is apparently going to be a weekly routine of reviewing how they did in regards to the Plan To Win and who graded out with a “champion” effort.
The defense was not great, but it was very good for three quarters. He appreciated finishing plus-3 in the turnover battle but was very disappointed in the red zone numbers. That was a black mark on the game.
The kicking game made all of its goals and produced a touchdown, and he was content with third down production and field position.
(See BuckeyeSports.com for champions/players of the week.)
He has a great respect for UCF and head coach George O’Leary, who has has known for a long time. They have big defensive tackles, a big athletic quarterback and ran power plays at Akron all night last week.
It will be a much different look from last week when Ohio State played pass-happy Miami, but the players should be able to familiarize themselves with it because they can load the film up on iPads and watch it wherever they want.
Braxton Miller’s passing was positive with room for improvement against the RedHawks. He suffered from a couple of drops early and jerked a couple of passes. When he keeps it smooth, he can really throw it, but he has to stay calm. They need him to get through some growing pains fast.
He wasn’t too concerned with the slow start because the team was playing hard. They just had to make some adjustments.
Meyer is glad to have the first game out of the way because there are a lot of little administrative things people worry about when they haven’t done them before.
He was pleased to see his team get thrown around a little bit on their home field in the opener and liked how they responded.
Asked about Miller becoming a Heisman candidate, he said, “Oh gosh…” then pointed out the grueling Tuesday practices have a way of humbling people when those types of things come up.
The failed goal-line package will likely be adjusted, but he still wants to see that his team is able to line up and blow teams off the ball when they need to. Someone missed a block on the failed run at the end of the first half.
It is too early to tell if this is a self-motivating team, but there are several guys who can get themselves up and going. That includes Johnny Simon (of course).
He felt good about the way the offensive staff meshed in its first time together in a real game.
Nathan Williams played about 30 snaps, more than they expected because of the looks they got from Miami that led them to use a package that had the Leo/Viper dropping into coverage a lot. They preferred to have him do that over freshman Noah Spence.
Miami schemed up their defense pretty well against the Buckeyes’ base offense, but OSU was able to make some plays once it adjusted to a different formation. He was happy to see the staff recognize that and adjust quickly.
He sees Miller and running back Carlos Hyde as guys who can make big plays. Now perhaps Devin Smith can join that group since he’s made one in a game.
Asked what was holding Smith back before, Meyer said he plays like a young player in a new offense sometimes. Running track took him away from the team some in the spring, too. Wide receiver is tough in Meyer’s offense. It requires a lot of knowledge and activity (including blocking).
He hopes the one-handed TD grab can be an “ignition play” for Smith’s career. It was a bigger play than the game-winning touchdown against Wisconsin last season when he just kind of wandered open and had the ball drop into his hands after Miller found him on a scramble.
He talks to the offensive staff between series – not during – to give his input on what they should call. He listens over the headset and interjects if he wants them to run something like a power play or a counter or to go deep. In the hurry-up offense, they script plays between series rather than between plays. Herman has a lot of freedom to do what he wants.
Someone asked if Braxton is comfortable pitching on the option, and Meyer said he is better going to his right, but he can go either way.
Walk-on Craig Cataline is a great story. He was in the Navy and has joined the team as a walk-on. Meyer said he loves him. He gives a championship effort all the time and is valuable. Tough as nails, committed and goes 100 mile per hour all the time. The players love him, and he is one guy who will go after John Simon.
Asked if the pass rush needs to improve, he said Miami was doing a good job of getting the ball out quickly. The RedHawks had an “A” game plan as far as he is concerned. They wanted to avoid Johnathan Hankins in the middle so they went away from him. Part of the reason there wasn’t more pressure on the passer was they chose to drop eight into coverage a lot. The defense got more aggressive as they went and were playing with a lead.
Central Florida will bring a physical challenge on defense. They have massive tackles. Ohio State will try to wear them out with the no-huddle, hurry-up offense.
UCF is talented and will run power plays right at the defense.
Miller has some ball security issues to take care of, but he is much better than last year in that department. He missed a few reads on the zone/inverted veer, but they will work on it.
Devin Smith might have been limited in his development because he was splitting time between football and track. That was a deal worked out while he was being recruited and Meyer didn’t want to take it away. It is difficult to balance the two. They will re-evaluate that in the spring.
He felt good about how the quarterbacks reacted to things against Miami.
Tight ends/fullbacks coach Tim Hinton
Zach Boren is really excited about getting to carry the ball and score a touchdown last week. It took him some time to get into the flow. He had a dropped pass early but came back from it. There is lots to improve upon.
He agreed with Meyer that the coaching staff meshed well for a first game.
The struggles on the goal line are about mentality as much as anything. Meyer has worked hard to sell people about the physical aspect of the offense, and they want to follow through.
The off-tackle power play has been run at Ohio State for 30-40 years (longer, probably), but it was not executed well on Saturday.
When things were not going well on Saturday, Meyer acted like a guy who has been there before. He didn’t panic or go around yelling and screaming. He really knows what he is doing in terms of the scheme.
The offense was close to getting it on some early plays, but usually it won’t work unless all 11 guys do their jobs and execute. The structure of what they were doing was always fine. Calls were solid. Defense was similar to what they expected to see. They had to get some jitters out.
The offense can be explosive, and when they grabbed momentum, they kept ahold of it. All kinds of different things can create momentum. You could write books about that, but whatever it is you can sense when it is happening. Smith’s touchdown grab was a catalyst, then Miller added the touchdown run in the third quarter to get it going again.
UCF is not overly complicated on defense. They know their defense well and are very sound and fundamental in what they do within it. They want to keep the ball inside and in front of them. Of course, there will probably be some wrinkles, too, an they have a new coordinator.
The OSU tight ends were good against Miami. That included Jake Stoneburner playing attached to the line of scrimmage more than expected. Jeff Heuerman had a good day blocking.
Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel
The opener was a good day for Nathan Williams to gain confidence in his knee. They needed him at the Leo position with Miami going with so many empty sets on offense. He was sore after the game, but that’s OK.
They were surprised not to have Mike Bennett as he was expecting to play but injured his groin in warmups. They have the bodies to make due, but they are young so the key is how they handle it mentally.
Freshman Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington showed well. Schutt is physical and can handle double teams. Washington shows flashes but gets lost sometimes.
Asked how his friend Luke Fickell handled being head coach on an interim basis last year, Vrabel said he did as well as he could given the situation. A lot goes into that job.
Williams got a double minus on a play in the first quarter where he missed a sack because he also dropped an assignment by letting the running back go uncovered in the flat.
They’ll have to play sound against the run on early downs against UCF to earn the right to rush the passer.
He has not had time to stop and reflect on his impending induction into the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday, but it is an exciting time. The list is impressive because it includes all Buckeye sports, and he is proud to make it. One of his kids will stand in for him when they recognize him during halftime of the game. Everything since his career ended feels like a blur since he played every year until last year, when he jumped right into coaching.
He appreciated how the defensive stayed in the game against Miami despite all the passing. He could tell because Hankins was still pushing the pocket and working hard even though he wasn’t being threatened.
What they saw on film of UCF did not resemble what they did last season, but they will load up guys with film of both so they can be familiar with it. Some of them like being able to take the video with them on iPads while others like to go to the room and watch it the old fashioned way.
Braxton Miller said the offense needs to come out faster and with more urgency this week.
He didn’t realize how many times he ran the ball last week, but he was fine with it. He will do whatever the coaches ask. He didn’t feel sore after the game. He felt good.
He was not thinking about the possibility of winning a Big Ten division title. They are more worried about the next game on the schedule.
UCF has good athletes and will cover the receivers well. The Buckeyes need to conquer what UCF may do.
He was asked before they switched the type of football they use, but this one gets slippery sometimes. He’s cool with it anyway.
The play in which he just flipped the ball into the air while being pressured and was called for intentional grounding was a mistake and something to learn from.
He can improve throwing the ball. He was going too fast through his reads sometimes last week. He needs to stay calm.
Miller shrugged off a question about being an early season Heisman candidate.
Evan Spencer said he as a wide receiver has a good connection with Miller the quarterback. If Braxton tips his shoulder, it means to go deep. He can also tell when Miller is going to pull the ball down and run.
He joked that Devin Smith told him he figured last year was Spencer’s year for the one-handed catch and this year is Smith’s. They don’t think about when they are going to use only one hand. It just happens naturally.
Tuesday’s practice was not fun. The weather was sticky and there was a lot of stuff to correct from the game.
He could tell the defense was getting tired in the game, but that doesn’t affect how the offense approaches it. They try to stay focused and keep doing things well and with a fast tempo.
Travis Howard said he sees good athletes on the UCF squad, including an All-America caliber return man (Rannell Hall).
The Buckeyes know they have to be excellent on special teams.
They expect a lot of runs as well as short passes from the Knights.