Urban Meyer’s last meeting with the press before his first game as Ohio State head coach yielded further indication his team will have the services of a potential key contributor on defense.
Nathan Williams was able to take part in live practice for the second day in a row as the senior defensive end continues to try to come back from major knee surgery that cost him almost all of last season.
“He practiced with our defense today and did live work yesterday,” Meyer said. “Our defensive coaches will meet on that tomorrow morning. I’d like to get him on the field.”
Williams was expected to be a focal point of the 2011 Ohio State defense after recording 12 tackles for loss, including five sacks, in his first year as a starter in 2010. His absence caused a shuffling of the defensive line that reduced its overall speed, and the pass rush suffered noticeably as a result.
This season the Buckeyes are expecting to field a strong front four – perhaps with contributions off the bench from a few talented freshmen – but Williams’ return would give the staff a versatile weapon and more options for attacking opposing offenses.
Another potential starter – Jordan Hall – will be sidelined as expected, but Meyer sounded upbeat about the senior running back’s recovery from summer foot surgery. He has been able to start jogging and could return in a couple of weeks.
Overall, Meyer was happy with the day of work the Buckeyes put in Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“We’re not game ready, but we’re close. We’re excited,” Meyer said. “You could tell by everybody’s demeanor. It was a good day.”
The day was a particularly positive one for four freshmen who earned the right to have their black stripes removed from their helmets, a move symbolic of their earning status as a full member of the team: linebacker David Perkins, center Jacoby Boren, cornerback Najee Murray and walk-on offensive lineman Logan Beougher.
While he joked that the remaining players might look silly if they had to take the field Saturday against Miami (Ohio) with the strips of black electrical tape still affixed to the top of their helmets, he also answered affirmatively when asked about the team’s uniforms being tweaked this season.
“Nike met with us,” Meyer said. “They had our leadership council. I don’t care. I knew I would be the one blasted, so I just said let’s make sure this is all right with (Heisman Trophy winning tailback) Archie Griffin and the former players. I don’t want to start breaking traditions around here.”
Director of athletics Gene Smith was also consulted.
“I don’t care what we wear as long as we look really good,” Meyer said. “And don’t break a tradition. I don’t think it will be that much different. I hope it’s not.”
Whatever they are wearing, the Buckeyes will unveil Meyer’s version of the spread offense against a live opponent for the first time at Ohio Stadium.
Although weather forecasts are ominous at this point, Meyer said the game plan won’t change because of a potential for rain.
“We might call the game different, but it’s the same game plan,” he said.