Urban Meyer hit the practice field as head coach of the Ohio State football team for the first time Wednesday and liked what he saw. Well, most of it anyway.
The former head coach at Bowling Green, Utah and most-recently Florida appreciated the enthusiasm the Buckeyes brought to the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, but that came as little surprise.
“Every player is excited about day one. How about day 13 and 14?” Meyer said. “I was very pleased with day one.”
He sensed an excitement from the players about the beginning of installation of his spread offense, a process he hopes to have completed within the first five or six practices if the players can handle it.
“I think they liked the tempo,” he said. “I think they got exhausted because the amount of plays we got was incredible.”
For that, he credited offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who is bringing his version of the spread from Iowa State, where he ran a no-huddle attack that differed somewhat from Meyer’s power-based offense.
“I wanted him to do that,” Meyer said. “He’s lived in that world for a while. We weren’t that way at Florida. We weren’t rapid fire. We tried at times. I know the enthusiasm is there.”
After a season spent in the broadcast booth following his sudden retirement from Florida, Meyer confirmed he felt great to be back out on the field and in his home state.
“It felt great to blow the whistle and see guys run and be able to coach,” he said. “I love coaching the punt team and being around the quarterbacks and seeing out defense run the pursuit drill.”
Not all was perfect, though, as two items continue to concern him: a lack explosive offensive skill players and depth on the offensive line.
Though sophomores Devin Smith and T.Y. Williams both stood out to observers on day one, Meyer said he needs to see more.
“It’s got to be a wow factor,” he said. “We should have one, maybe should have two. This is the highest level of football. Maybe we do. We’ve just got to keep pushing their development and keep recruiting.”
As for the offensive line, perhaps nothing highlighted the lack of depth more than the sight of Reid Fragel as the No. 1 right tackle. He was a 280-pound tight end in December but now finds himself pushing 300 pounds and vying for a starting spot.
“He’s gained 20-some pounds and his body fat has actually gone down,” Meyer said. “He’s one of the leanest offensive linemen I’ve seen.”
The coach also praised an improvement he has seen in the classroom since a meeting involving Fragel, his family, position coach Ed Warinner and strength coach Mickey Marotti at the start of winter quarter. He hopes the academic progress will carry over to the football field.
“Now can he play tackle?” Meyer said. “For the first day he did fine. We’ll tell you more in a couple weeks. He’s done everything we’ve asked since the day we had our little meeting.”
Filling out the rest of the starting offensive line one day one was left tackle Jack Mewhort, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Corey Linsley and right guard Marcus Hall.
Behind them, Meyer was encouraged by true freshman tackle Tayler Decker, who enrolled at the start of spring quarter.
“He’s been here a total of three days but we threw him in there with the twos and he did a nice job,” Meyer said.
Classmate Jacoby Boren also caught Meyer’s eye. Though Linsley took the first reps at center and sophomore Brian Bobek is also in the mix, the head coach likes what he sees from the 6-2, 283-pound Boren.
“He’s a tough nut,” Meyer said. “He’s little, but he’s a doer. Linsley is our No. 1. I couldn’t tell you who our No. 2 is.”
On the other side of the ball, one of the few surprises was seeing Curtis Grant man the middle linebacker spot while presumed starter Storm Klein wore a limited contact jersey.
Meyer said Grant, a five-star recruit from Richmond, Va., overanalyzed things last year as a freshman and fell behind. That led to some discouraging days they hope are behind him now.
“He wasn’t enjoying football, not very confident and not playing fast,” Meyer said. “He had an excellent offseason and he’s a guy who has to play well for us. It’s his first day. He’ll be fine. We have no choice. He has be able to play for us. If he’s not, we have a problem.”
The Buckeyes return to the practice field for the second of 15 sessions on Friday. The next media availability will be Saturday, and BuckeyeSports.com will be there to bring you all the action.
For more notes from day one, check out the Ask the Insiders premium forum.