Buckeyes Getting Healthy For Big Ten Opener

Buckeyes Getting Healthy For Big Ten Opener

Urban Meyer opened his first week of preparation for Big Ten play with positive updates on several Ohio State starters who have been out recently with injury. He also shared a flattering comparison for the Michigan State defense the Buckeyes will face Saturday in East Lansing.

Saturday will mark Urban Meyer's first game as a Big Ten head coach when Ohio State takes on Michigan State, but Meyer said there is something familiar about the defense he is seeing on film as he prepares for the No. 20 Spartans.

"I can only compare to what's the strongest conference I have a lot of experience in," he said in reference to the SEC, where he coached Florida from 2005-10. "And I can tell you this defense we're getting ready to play would be in the top couple of that conference. That tells you the quality of player, No. 1. And then they do a good job on defense."

The numbers bear that out as Michigan State will enter the game ranked atop the Big Ten in rushing defense, total defense, pass efficiency defense and scoring defense. The Spartans are in the national top 11 in all of those categories as well.

At the start of another week of practice, the 14th-ranked Buckeyes appear to be just about as healthy as they have been since the start of the season.

Meyer declared cornerback Bradley Roby (shoulder) and safety C.J. Barnett (ankle) probable for Saturday after missing last week's 29-15 win against UAB.

Defensive end Michael Bennett could make his season debut, too. He has been battling a groin injury since preseason practice but would help fortify a defensive line that can expect to see a power attack from head coach Mark Dantonio's Spartans.

On the other side of the ball, Meyer declared tailback Carlos Hyde as "very probably" after missing two weeks with a knee injury.

His return would give the coaching staff a chance to expand the role of Jordan Hall, a senior they envision as a weapon in the slot as well as the backfield.

"I just drew up something on the board with them together," Meyer said.

Much like the previous week after a seven-point win over California, Meyer spent much of his Monday press luncheon going back over mistakes his team made in the previous contest. Penalties and missed tackles have plagued the Buckeyes, as execution failures on both sides of the ball and special teams.

Though far from pleased, Meyer said he felt better after watching the win over the Blazers on film than he had after seeing it live. Perhaps as a result, he decided to do something to boost his team's confidence when it came their turn to do the same.

"I just put together a reel of four drives and it was about as well done as we played all year," he said. "I'm talking about players that are heading into graduate level football."

He cited quarterback Braxton Miller using his eyes to manipulate the defense and right tackle Reid Fragel making a block on the second level after executing a combo block on the line of scrimmage as examples.

"Those are all graduate level things," he said. "At some point we'll have a graduate level offense. We don't have that right now.

"I did that more for me, I think. I have to eat lunch and I wasn't about to eat lunch after what I saw. I said, 'Put together two, three, four good drives for me.' One thing about this team, when it's time to go win a game, to date they've gone and won a game. But we are what we are right now, and that's just a workman-like team that has to get better."

Those who might have been featured the most in that film include the players who were awarded "champion" status by the coaching staff.

On offense, that group consisted of Hall, Miller, Fragel and receivers Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Jake Stoneburner.

Defensively, the player of the game was safety Christian Bryant while tackle Johnathan Hankins and cornerback Doran Grant were recognized as well.

Long snapper Bryce Haynes was selected the special teams player of the week.

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