After a satisfying if mistake-filled win over California last week, it came as little surprise that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer did not need a lot of time to talk about who qualified for his champions club.
He gushed about Devin Smith, the sophomore wide receiver who was named offensive player of the week and became the only Buckeye to grade out as a champion for all of Ohio State's first three games of the season. He had five catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a 72-yarder that turned out to be the game winner in the fourth quarter.
"The best thing that's happened so far in the first few weeks is we've identified a go-get-it guy on the outside that we did not have a year ago. I was worried about it. I didn't see that develop until this first three games, and that's Devin Smith," Meyer said.
Tailback Jordan Hall, fullback Zach Boren and tight end Jeff Heuerman also were named champions on a list that did not include quarterback Braxton Miller. The sophomore signal caller's omission was a surprise because he had been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week earlier in the morning. Miller completed 16 of 30 passes for 249 yards while also running for 75 yards on 12 carries. He had a hand in all five of the Buckeyes' touchdowns, throwing for four and running for another. He also ran for a two-point conversion.
Hall led the team with 87 yards rushing on 17 carries as he returned from offseason foot surgery. Boren caught one pass for four yards and Heuerman had a 9-yard grab while both provided exemplary efforts in the blocking department.
On the defensive side of the ball, tackle Johnathan Hankins was named player of the week for the second week in a row. Hankins had 10 tackles, including a sack, against the Golden Bears.
"John Hankins graded out 88 percent and had a lot of production points – 22 production points," Meyer said. "He is playing at a very high level. Right now John is the guy that really has played well, and I thought played great in this game. I finally got a chance to really watch him in detail last night."
Joining him on the champions list for defense were linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had a game-high 13 tackles, and cornerback Bradley Roby, who notched nine stops, including two for loss and a sack. Roby also broke up a pair of passes and graded out 95 percent with 16 production points.
"Against several future NFL receivers, he played really well," Meyer said. "Ryan Shazier is a guy that had 30 production points, which is extremely high. Eleven tackles, two assists, two tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and was all over the field. A couple big hits, a couple save-the-day plays because of his athleticism.
The coach added that safety Christian Bryant, who had five tackles, two pass breakups and the game-clinching interception, just missed champion designation after being unable to stop Cal running back Brendan Bigelow on what would end up a 59-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"The guy that if you take away the missed tackle would have been graded a champion and maybe been player of the game was Christian Bryant, but he got a special mention because he gave up a big one by missing a tackle," Meyer said.
Smith was also special teams player of the week after returning one kickoff for 20 yards.
Freshman cornerback Tyvis Powell was named scout team player of the week.
There were no big surprises on the health front as the Buckeyes prepare to face UAB in another noon start at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
Meyer declared Carlos Hyde, a junior running back who started the first two games in place of Hall, likely to miss a second consecutive game with a sprained knee. The coach said he was unsure if defensive end Michael Bennett would play as he continues to deal with a groin injury.
Additionally, all indications are senior defensive end John Simon will be able to suit up for the visit from the Blazers. Simon played most of the game last week with a painful shoulder injury, notching a sack and several pressures on the Cal quarterback.
UAB will enter Ohio Stadium at 0-2 while the Buckeyes will be focused on shoring up a bevy of mistakes that have marred their 3-0 start.
"We have to find a way to get to win No. 4," Meyer said. "We're an average team right now. At times we're playing fairly well. I like our guys. I like our team. I like the fact that we faced adversity. I'm ready to have some non-adversity games. Doesn't seem like that's going to happen very often at this point in our development and our journey.
"I like the fact that there's a lot of time being spent here above and beyond their call of duty to get themselves better."
He sees UAB as a team that will bring a good collection of athletes into the Horseshoe under first-year head coach Garrick McGee coming off a 49-6 loss to No. 8 South Carolina.
"They had a tough game themselves, but we have to find a way to get to 4-0," Meyer said. "That has to happen."