Urban Meyer had seen the growing pains of installing an offense at a new program when taking over at Utah, Bowling Green and Florida.
Perhaps that’s the reason Ohio State’s new head coach has remained calm about the Buckeyes’ struggles offensively through the early portions of spring practice.
The conclusion of Wednesday evening’s practice marked the culmination of the first week of spring practice and Meyer noted that the defensive side of the ball had been performing better than its counterparts.
“Defense has won the first two winner-loser days and you’d expect that,” Meyer said. “They better win this early. The good thing about the scrimmage if you were watching close, they battled back and got it really close at the end. They came back – they started just awful, but they came back and battled and got the score really close at the end.”
Meyer has noticed a lack of playmaking ability on the offensive side of the ball since the moment he arrived in Columbus and he mentioned that problem “hasn’t disappeared.”
“We’re not where we need to be. I am not upset, I am just wish we would grasp it a little faster,” Meyer said. “On offense, any time you’re installing or you’re doing something new, nine guys do it right and two guys do it wrong and looks like the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen. We just have to be a little more consistent.”
Jake Stoneburner, Nick Vannett, and Evan Spencer were names Meyer threw out there as top performers, but he’s expecting dramatic improvement through the second week. If the offense is going to move in the right direction, it’s going to start on the offensive line.
Meyer referred to Jack Mewhort as the most consistent player up front for the Buckeyes, but his overall assessment of the entire group was less than favorable.
“We don't have tackles,” Meyer said. “We have one tight end and a guard playing tackle. You lose two kids who played here a long time in Adams and J.B. and it is just process of elimination. We have a first-string offensive line that’s adequate. Obviously they have to do better than that, but we’re getting better.”
Understanding that mistakes are going to be made is something Meyer is comfortable with if it is done at the right pace. The head coach hasn’t always seen that out of his offensive players.
“I don’t care really if you make a mistake – just do it at full speed,” Meyer said. “If you make a mistake, make it going full speed. That’s my biggest issue right now. Terminology is different, of course. Guys may go the wrong way, but make it going so fast that its OK. We’ll fix that stuff. We just the lack of the guy making a difference-maker play.”
Odds & Ends
Meyer sophomore linebacker Curtis Grant, who took reps with the first team in practice, has been much improved.
“I wasn’t here through training, but I guess he really struggled,” Meyer said. “The one thing about Curtis Grant is that he’s spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get himself ready. It doesn’t come naturally for him and he plays slow when he thinks too much, so he’s much improved.”
In the Coach Meyer Spring Kickoff event Tuesday on the indoor field of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Meyer said Simon would be a captain on next year’s team because he has veto power if the team didn’t vote him in. When asked if someone else was making similar strides Wednesday, Meyer said Zach Boren.
“They’re not just popping off,” Meyer said of Boren and Simon. “I can’t stand the guy that just stands up there and talks. That’s not leadership. To me, leadership is by example and positive encouragement and every once in a while if you need to get into a guy’s jug, you get into a guy’s jug. I have watched Zach and I’ve watched John, and they have everything you want. Those are going to be two good football coaches one day.”
Meyer said the coaching staff has intractably selected the plays added to the team’s playbook based on core philosophies and capabilities of the team’s personnel. Meyer anticipated the instillation of the offense to be completed through six practices, but he may slow it down.
“Practice No. 5, the offense is trying,” he said. “The thing that everyone keeps forgetting, too, is that we have three new coaches on offense as well. We have to get through this fast. We may even slow down the installation a little bit and try to be able to execute something, but that’s coming.”
Meyer said he anticipates having teams drafted for the spring game. Having a packed stadium was part of the reasoning, as he explained he’d like to have a game day atmosphere. Meyer also thought it would be important to let the coordinators call the game as a practice run for the way things will be done in the fall.
Sophomore defensive lineman Michael Bennett spent time with the first team defensive line today and Meyer said he’s seen noticeable strides out of the Centerville, Ohio product.
“Luke was much higher on him than I was through the off-season workouts and all that,” Meyer said of Bennett. “I can see it now on the field. He’s a playmaker – he’s just a good players. He’s hard to block.”
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