CHICAGO – A speed bump.
That’s how Urban Meyer describes what Ohio State experienced to end the 2013 season.
One loss ended national championship hopes, the other caused more skepticism toward the Buckeyes. "Are they really as good as their record indicates?" pundits asked.
It took Ohio State years to build its reputation back up after losing to Florida and LSU. Meyer doesn’t believe it’s all broken down, but the importance of the 2014 season is not lost. The Buckeyes lost major pieces on both sides of the ball. It’s still playoff or bust in Columbus.
Quarterback Braxton Miller has improved each season and enters his senior year as a Heisman front-runner. On defense, the line boasts a wealth of depth, and the secondary displayed a newfound confidence during the spring. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has rejuvenated the entire unit.
But deficiencies are present. Can Ezekiel Elliott (and others) replace Carlos Hyde’s production? Will the offensive line, which lost four starters, continue opening up holes that a Brinks truck could drive through? Meyer has frowned upon linebacker play for two seasons – will they finally perform up to the perfectionist head coach’s standard in 2014?
Those answers will decide whether Ohio State finds itself in Pasadena or New Orleans... or Orlando. “I was a little disappointed with what happened in the spring,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days Monday.
He’ll have four weeks to get up to speed.
- Meyer was thrilled with the new NCAA rules that allowed coaches to spend some time coaching players.
- Miller is 100 percent healed from his off-season shoulder surgery. Meyer deemed him to be in the “best shape of his life” and is back to full speed.
- The center battle is not all Chad Lindsay. Meyer said he, Jacoby Boren and Billy Price will all compete this fall. But Meyer said he’s a fan of Lindsay’s maturity.
- “The East Division is very strong.” – Meyer, stating the obvious. He said he learned a long time ago you can’t control your conference schedule. Said it will
- “It’s one of our stronger groups.” – Meyer on the linebackers, which should spread happiness throughout Columbus. He said it’s the best cohesion and teamwork he’s seen as a unit. Believes everyone is on the same page. This season, Meyer said he believes Ohio State fans will see the linebackers they are used to.
- Ohio State used the Kight’s for leadership training last year. Nothing has changed in 2014. Meyer said they’ve spent an inordinate amount of time working on leadership because it’s so vital for a football team’s success.
- Meyer categorized concern No. 1 as the offensive line. “Protection of the quarterback is paramount.” A considerable amount of the team’s focus in the fall will be spent on replacing all the talent lost.
- Offensive will have a different flavor this season, but Meyer said it’ll still be 60-40 run vs. plays . The position he expects to make significant strides is wide receivers/tight ends. “We’re really staring to improve the supporting cast around Braxton.”
- “We’re just trying to get to training camp healthy.”
- Dontre Wilson has to be an impact guy, Meyer said – and he believes Wilson will be exactly that. He’s stronger, more familiar with the offense, etc.
- Meyer said Ohio State had to hit a home run in Mike Vrabel’s replacement. “We’ve replaced Mike with a top-shelf coach,” Meyer said. A huge part of the equation deals with recruiting.
- On Miller’s durability: “Do we try to slow Braxton down? Absolutely not. We try to protect him and surround him [with good players].” Meyer said Miller isn’t injury prone, he just tries so hard.