Notebook: Urban Meyer Stresses Practicing With a Purpose to His Team, No Johnnie Dixon and a Story About a Super Bowl

By Eric Seger on December 27, 2016 at 3:55 pm
Updates from Ohio State's first practice in Arizona on Tuesday.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As is the norm in the heart of the desert, Ohio State took the field at Notre Dame Prep for its first Fiesta Bowl practice in the state of Arizona on Tuesday afternoon under absolutely perfect weather conditions.

"Practice with a purpose today," Urban Meyer shouted to his team in the huddle after warmups. “This is our last full work day. We clean s*** up and then get things organized. Practice with a purpose today.”

Ohio State's head coach repeated that final phrase multiple times in the team huddle before Tyquan Lewis broke it down and players scattered to their respective position groups. Meyer and the Buckeyes have four days left before they take on Dabo Swinney and Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff. Kickoff between the Tigers and Buckeyes is set for 7 p.m. ET on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Here are some quick hits from Tuesday's practice.

  • Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon did not make the trip to Arizona with the team on Monday. A team spokesman said Dixon has an injury and Ohio State anticipates his arrival in Phoenix on Thursday. Dixon, however, is not expected to play against Clemson.
  • In the team huddle before heading out for drills, Meyer told his players a story about a recent conversation he had with Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin's Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII 27-23 in February 2009, with former Buckeye Santonio Holmes taking MVP honors following a huge night that ended with a game-winning touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger: “Why did he make that play? Because he prepared every day so when presented with the chance he made the most of the opportunity. Practice with a purpose.”
  • The story further drove home Meyer's point of needing his players to use every chance in practice to be at their best in order for the team to get to the point it needs to be ahead of Saturday's game. Meyer brought up plays made by Evan Spencer [crack-back block to spring Ezekiel Elliott] and Steve Miller [interception return for a touchdown] in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama two years ago for motivation.
  • He then switched gears to instances from the 2016 season: “What if Raekwon McMillan didn't hit the arm of the Team Up North quarterback? What if Noah Brown doesn't execute the back shoulder catch from J.T. Barrett in overtime at Wisconsin? We wouldn't be playing for a national championship, that's what. Practice with a purpose today.”
  • Meyer then singled out true freshman defensive tackle Malik Barrow: "Malik Barrow was not worth a s*** [Monday in practice]. I don't understand that. I don't understand that. Practice with a purpose today."
  • "Raise the white ropes and practice with a purpose."
  • New defensive assistant Bill Davis was at practice and watched off in the corner of the end zone. Ohio State announced his hire on Wednesday, though his role remains undefined.
  • A Denver Broncos scout attended practice.
  • Before practice began, strength coach Mick Marotti boomed over the loudspeakers about there only being four days left to get nine strong. “Four days! Nine strong! Four days! Nine strong!”
  • True freshman Antonio Williams wore an orange No. 9 jersey, playing the role of Clemson running back Wayne Gallman. Walk-ons joined freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins—who is still acting as Deshaun Watson—in orange practice uniforms as well on the scout team.
  • With Meyer standing no more than two feet away from him, Tyler Durbin went 1-of-2 on field goals longer than 40 yards.
  • Durbin then intentionally left a 57-yard try short so the defense could practice "Bama," a play aptly named for Auburn's kick-six in 2013 that led the Tigers to an improbable win against the Crimson Tide. Ohio State did the same thing last year.
  • Meyer shouted constantly about fundamentals during the special teams portion of practice, which is the last bit the team permitted the media to watch.

Ohio State is set to practice on Wednesday at the same location and time. Expect more from Eleven Warriors shortly.

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