When he first arrived at Ohio State, head coach Urban Meyer openly gushed about quarterback Braxton Miller. And while he’s obviously still very high on his sophomore signal-caller, he chooses his words a bit more carefully now. In fact, Meyer is very tough on Miller, as Miller mentioned himself during ESPNU’s All Access series that aired last week.
The bottom line is that the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Miller is coming along well as a passer (his running skills were never in question). At the Buckeyes’ scrimmage on Saturday, the Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne product racked up passing yardage and led the offense on several drives. Now, we don’t know exactly how many attempts, touchdowns or interceptions he had, but all that matters is that Meyer was pleased with the performance.
“Right now, I think the offense will be fairly competent,” Meyer said. “I can’t say ‘great’ because I don’t see that yet. But I see competency. I see the ball being snapped correctly. I see an offensive line protecting and doing the right things. Our skilled guys are starting to improve. They didn’t look good the first two weeks of the spring.
“(In the scrimmage) the offense kind of had its way. But we did ones vs. twos a lot, so the ones didn’t go against the ones (very often). But we threw the ball really well. Braxton threw for 350 yards. He had a good day. I didn’t realize how good it was until after the scrimmage.”
Meyer had said that the final week of camp would be a “make or break” week for his team. So, with last week in the books, what was it?
“It was a make,” Meyer said. “If it was a break, I probably wouldn’t tell you. But I’m proud of these guys. I like where we’re at right now. We’re certainly not perfect, but our guys are trying and we’re doing decent.
“The area where we’ve improved the most is throwing and catching. Much improved. We couldn’t have gone much the other way. But I tell you, we are much improved.
“The receivers that have stepped up – I know I have beaten them to death, but they probably deserved it. If you watch film, they weren’t very good. But Devin Smith is doing a nice job. Philly Brown is our No. 1 receiver right now. Devin Smith is doing pretty good. Jake Stoneburner had a good day (at practice Monday). Michael Thomas had a little bit of an injury, but he’s back full speed. Those, those guys are doing pretty good.
“And at tight end, Nick Vannett is doing good. He’s a guy that wants to be out there. He’s one of the most-improved guys on the team.”
When asked if Vannett is now the No. 1 TE on the team, Meyer said: “Well, (Jeff) Heuerman had a little bit of a tug on his hamstring, but he’s back full speed now. So, it’s 50/50. Heuerman is a little bit better of a point-of-attack blocker, but he also has skill at catching the ball. So, right now I can’t name a starter because I don’t know who it is.”
Monday marked the beginning of game-planning for the Sept. 1 opener against visiting Miami (Ohio). Meyer cracked a smile while reviewing the day’s events and revealed the latest freshmen to have their black stripes removed.
“Good day today; really good day,” he said. “A couple stripes got taken off. Warren Ball, who’s a guy I didn’t know; I didn’t recruit Warren. But the more I get to know him, the more glad I am that he’s a Buckeye. Tough guy, hard runner.”
“And a guy that’s probably made as much progress as anybody – he was really a non-factor for five or six months – is Cardale Jones. He’s done a nice job.”
That surprising about Jones, because this is the first time Meyer has said a positive word about him since taking the job. It’s also interesting that Ball had his stripe removed before Bri’onte Dunn.
O-line Is More Than Fine
Meyer is pleased with his starting offensive line. Quality depth is a concern, but overall the coach is happy.
“The first-team offensive line is doing a good job,” Meyer said. “But at right tackle, we’ve got to get better. Taylor Decker and Reid Fragel that are fighting for that spot and we can’t name a starter right now.
“But the two guards (Andrew Norwell, Marcus Hall) and the center (Corey Linsley) are playing very well, and the left tackle (Jack Mewhort) is playing well. We’ve just got to get better at right tackle and those guys are trying, but at times one of those guys looks like a freshman – because he is – and the other guys looks like a guy that just moved from tight end.”
Meyer explained what he needs to see from Decker or Fragel to name them a starter.
“Consistency and toughness,” he said. “Just be tougher. It’s still fresh in my mind and they got slapped around a little bit (at practice on Monday).”
Dissing Local Journalists?
Many media members that cover Ohio State were very upset that the third and final opportunity to watch the Buckeyes practice before the opener was cancelled today. (The Buckeyes still practiced of course, it’s just the media couldn’t watch. Originally, we were scheduled to watch the practice.)
If Meyer was keeping everything private, it would be one thing. But he opened his doors to ESPNU (who did a great job with their “All-Access” series on OSU) and the Big Ten Network, while simultaneously giving local scribes the least access they’ve ever experienced while on the beat.
Meyer was asked point-black what he thinks is the value of the local media that covers Ohio State.
“The value of the local media? I don’t get the question,” he said.
“The national media getting a lot more access than local media,” a reporter said.
“Oh, I don’t look at it like that,” Meyer said. “You talking about the ‘All Access’ deal? Yeah, the only reason I did that – I wasn’t going to do it – because I don’t want people in this meeting room. But I felt like with all the stings Ohio State’s took over the last 12 months – and we all … I’ve taken stings. It’s just the negativity. I wanted people to see (what really goes on) because a lot of people have opinions about our program. That’s the only reason that I did that. It had nothing to do with ditching the local media.”
Meyer was then asked if the media will see anything meaningful from the Buckeyes – such as a scrimmage – prior to the opener
“I’ll talk to (sports information director) Jerry (Emig) about that,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. Is that a request? Your request has been duly noted.”
Clean Bill Of Health
In his now 11 years as a head coach, Meyer has never seen a team stay so injury-free during preseason camp. That’s a situation that can change rapidly, but thus far the Buckeyes have been very fortunate.
“I mean, it’s unbelievable,” Meyer said as he knocked on wood. “Especially with the way we’ve practiced. I don’t think we’ve lost a guy. On the side, you’ve got Frank Epitropolous with a hamstring, Jordan Hall with a foot, (Zach) Domicone got scoped and will be back in two more weeks, Heuerman had about a week injury, (Ryan) Shazier got dinged a little bit, but he’s back.”
With Hall out for at least the first two games, junior Carlos Hyde is the unquestioned starter at running back. Meyer hasn’t had many 230-pound backs during his career, but Hyde is a guy that also brings good speed to the field at 4.4 in the 40.
“Well, we had two big guys at Utah,” Meyer said. “One ran for 900. At Florida, we had the scat backs with the big quarterbacks. Here, we have the scat quarterback with the big backs. So, there’s ways to do it. (Hyde) fits good. He’s decent right now.”