It was a homecoming of sorts for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer Saturday when he led his Buckeyes to Cincinnati for the 2013 edition of the spring game.
Meyer, a product of the University of Cincinnati, and his staff wanted to cap the spring practice season by giving his team the full Queen City experience – with a scrimmage in the middle of the fun, of course. The Scarlet squad earned a 31-14 victory against the Gray team in front of 37,643 at Paul Brown Stadium, and afterwards, Meyer talked about how pleased he was midway through the trip, which itself was a throwback of sorts.
“Coach Hayes actually started that tradition back years ago,” Meyer said, referencing legendary OSU head coach Woody Hayes. “When they would go visit a place to play, he’d take them around and show them. They’d educate the players. You’d love to, but we just don’t have time to do that most of the time. But I think it’s a great concept.
“It’s been a great trip.”
Following the game, Meyer and his team was scheduled to get a taste of Cincinnati with a stop at Montgomery Inn and a chance to eat some Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili as well. The day in Cincy began at Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum attached to Great American Ball Park. After the players completed a tour, they made the short trek to the home of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterback Braxton Miller concluded what Meyer called a good spring for the junior by leading Scarlet to victory once the spring game festivities began. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In a game that featured a combined 106 rushing yards, the passing game took precedence.
“It was a pass-heavy game,” Meyer said. “It’s an area that we were not very good at last year that we have to get better. I thought at times, Braxton Miller and a couple of the wideouts – Corey "Philly" Brown in particular – did very well.”
Brown caught five passes for 25 yards and a touchdown. Gray was led offensively by 2012 spring star Michael Thomas, who caught seven passes for 79 yards and a score. Gray QB Kenny Guiton had a solid day with 116 yards on 9-of-14 passing and a TD.
“I’m spending a lot of time talking about a part of our game that, if we can figure it out, I would be disappointed if we’re not the best offensive in the Big Ten.”
Meyer also voiced concern about the battle for the starting right tackle position. Sophomores Taylor Decker and Chase Farris appear to be the frontrunners for the job, but neither stood out – especially against fellow sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. The defensive duo combined for seven sacks – though they did occur when they merely touched Miller, who was wearing a black non-contact jersey.
“I feel good about four of the five starters, and unless we get that fixed, there goes the best offense in the Big Ten because you can’t play with four linemen,” Meyer said. “So one of those young players have got to step up, and they haven’t this spring. (They’re) showing signs, but once again, I didn’t say, ‘Show signs.’ I said, ‘To be the best offense in the Big Ten you have to have five guys up front,’ which we had last year.”
Despite that concern, Meyer was said things after the 2013 spring game look much different than they did a year ago.
“I wish it would have looked better than it did today … but as far as grasping the offense and understanding the concepts, it’s night and day,” Meyer said.
All in all, Meyer was happy with his team’s spring efforts. Because of Ohio State’s postseason ban last season, the Buckeyes entered the spring without the benefit of 15 bowl practices. Meyer said his team needs to catch up and is working on doing just that.
‘The Chase,’ as the banner says at the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, continues.
“I think we’re on track. I think we’re halfway caught up,” Meyer said. “So they have to catch up, and that’s where that whole ‘Chase’ principle is. We were 15 down, and you can whine about it, complain about it, blame people I guess. But we don’t do that.
“We just say, ‘Let’s just go forward and catch up somehow. … I think we’re halfway home. If we can pick up those eight practices between now and our first game, then I think we’ll be fine. We’re still behind, but we’re on track.”