Ohio State had its first full-squad practice of its 2012 preseason camp and head coach Urban Meyer spoke to reporters afterwards.
Projected starting middle linebacker Curtis Grant, a sophomore, was not present for practice. Rumors quickly began to swirl, but Meyer put those to rest.
“His grandfather is not doing very well," Meyer said. "He went back to Virginia to see him and our prayers are with him. From my understanding, he’s doing better, so hopefully we’ll have him back at practice tomorrow.”
A pair of seniors that are projected to be starters -- tailback Jordan Hall (foot) and defensive end Nathan Williams (knee) -- are out with injuries and are expected to miss at least a game or two. However, Meyer feels good about their progress.
“Both of them are right on schedule, if not ahead of schedule," Meyer said. "And both of their attitudes are fantastic. Your heart bleeds for a guy like Nathan Williams and I’m starting to really get to know that guy. Taking football away from him is like … he lives for football. It’s been hard. It’s not been an easy road.
“We’re being very cautious with him because we can’t have a setback. I asked the same question today as I did Friday: ‘Why didn’t he do this individual drill? Why didn’t he do that?’ Well, (strength and conditioning coach) Mickey (Marotti), (head trainer) Doug (Calland) and the doctors are doing a good job of keeping him (restrained) because he’d do it all. They’ve told me if there is a setback, that’s 10 days backwards and we can’t have backwards.”
Meyer is not sure of the respective timetables for Hall and Williams.
“I don’t want to say because I’m not a doctor," he said. "It’s right around the beginning of the season, but I just can’t give you a specific date.”
True freshman tailback Bri'onte Dunn was practicing Monday and Meyer was asked if Dunn will face any disciplinary action following his citation for disorderly conduct last weekend.
“I’m still waiting for … he’s going to plead not guilty," Meyer said. "We did a series of tests. I don’t know if I’m allowed to give everything to you, but everything came back and he had been honest with me. However, if there is a charge that sticks, there will be a penalty just like all kids in our program that get a charge.”
Senior tight end Jake Stoneburner and junior left tackle Jack Mewhort were running with the first-team offense on Friday. They had their scholarships revoked during the summer, but they are back in good standing.
“Yes, as of now, when we start school (for fall semester) they will be on scholarship,” Meyer said.
A reporter asked if Meyer gets the sense that Stoneburner and Mewhort "learned from it." (They were arrested for urinating in public and then running from a police officer.)
“They’re not good students; they’re great students," Meyer said. "They’re on my leadership committee. I think the code word there is ‘stupid.’ That’s the word you associate with that. So, are they less-stupid now? I don’t know. I hope so. We’re going to do the best we can to help them be less stupid. But they’re good guys. If it was a ‘bad guy’ situation, they wouldn’t be playing for me.”
Meyer has done a lot of sandbagging when asked about his current personnel at Ohio State. He talks up some players, such as sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, but overall he hasn't been impressed with most of the offensive talent on his roster.
However, so far, so good after two days of camp.
“I saw what I was hoping to see on offense," Meyer said. "There was a lot of carryover (from the spring). I can tell they did a lot of hard work over the summer. It was good to see.”
Meyer believes that he can have a high-powered offense right away in 2012.
“Sure," he said. "Once in a while, I just hope that someone steps up and takes control of one of those positions. The guy that stepped up today was Devin Smith. My gosh do we need a guy like that to do something.
“So, the answer is yes. We’re going to have to adapt a little bit, but we’re going to do what we have to do.”
Meyer has been especially harsh to his wide receivers when speaking to the media, but he's slowly warming up to them.
“Evan Spencer ran a 4.4-something during the summer," Meyer said. "But Evan Spencer has to run a 4.4 out there (on the field). There were some fast times that our strength coach gave me. Real fast times. But they don’t play that fast. So, our jobs as a coach is to get them to play fast.
“So, I’m hoping there’s enough here to get 'wowed’ a little bit. I thought that Devin did some things today that (were special). So, for the first time since I've been here – including all practices in the spring, so that’s 16, 17 practices – I had one. He ran a 9-route, a streak-route, and I mean it was ridiculous. And that’s what we need.”
Switching to defense for a moment, it's interesting that John Simon is still lining up as OSU's starting LEO (and not playing strong-side defensive end).
“It’s Nate. Nate Williams will determine that,” Meyer said of Simon perhaps moving to SSDE. (Sophomore Michael Bennett is currently the No. 1 SSDE.)
Meyer fully knows that one of the freshmen could rise up and help out at LEO as well. He was asked specifically about Noah Spence.
“Yeah, he’s a guy that … we’re in shorts, so we don’t really know what we can do," Meyer said. "But he’s shown some glimpses of a guy that can play. But the guy we want in there is Nate and then the young guys can learn from him and Simon. That would be a really-good defense if we could get those two guys (Williams and Simon) out there at the same time.”
Meyer is a big fan of junior safety CJ Barnett who is the definition of a no-nonsense young man.
“It’s so easy to be average, it really is," Meyer said. "I mean, think about it, in everything we do, it’s really easy to be average. We’ve got 17 guys taking a biology final tomorrow and it’s so easy to just be an average guy. We’re trying to push guys to greatness to maximize who they are. If you are a 2.0 student and that’s what you are, we’re going to push you to be a 2.0 student. If you’re a 2.0 student but you should really be a 3.0 student, we’re really going to grind you.
“And it’s the same thing on the football field. I was watching the guys today, looking in their helmets, and CJ Barnett is a guy that just does not accept being average. And then I looked at a couple guys next to him and they do accept it. So, part of our jobs as motivators and coaches is to not allow that.”
Speaking of defensive players that have caught Meyer's eye, he loves a true freshman linebacker that OSU was able to land late in the 2012 recruiting season.
“We have sayings around here like ‘Go from Point A to Point B as fast as you can,'" Meyer said. "There’s a kid here named Jamal Marcus who doesn’t know which way up is right now. But he knows about going from Point A to Point B and he’ll run over anything in his way to get to Point B. So, there’s a good chance we’ll find a way to get him on the field.”
But of course Meyer is most passionate when talking about the offense. One of the big things he wants to see this month is Miller grow into a vocal leader.
“Still too early to tell, but I’m pleased so far," Meyer said. "I'm pleased with both of them. The other guy behind him (junior Kenny Guiton) did a good job today too.
"Braxton had a really good day and he feels good about it. He made the comment to me that he knows what he’s doing. Now, he doesn’t know yet; there’s still a lot more to go. I looked right at him and said, ‘Yeah right, pal.’”
Premium Message Board Thread
Click here for our detailed Practice Report on the Front Row message board. We will also have video and photos later as well.