Bye Week Comes at Perfect Time for Buckeyes
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After 10 demanding weeks of passion, intensity and football, the Buckeyes will have a much-needed week to themselves.
In a perfect world, Urban Meyer would have asked for a break three or four weeks ago, when his defense was down to bare bones and his team was starting to hit a wall, both mentally and physically.
“This is the first year these kids have to deal with this semester. They're hitting a wall, a lot of them, on how long they've been in school, I guess,” Meyer said after Ohio State’s 52-22 win over Illinois on Saturday.
“We can un‑hit the wall for a week academically, get that in order. Get your weights up and bodies right. You get that about usually week six, seven. This is the first time Coach Mick (Marotti) and I are going through our history and we've never had a 10‑week straight through.”
Looking back a few weeks, the Buckeyes were shredded defensively. Meyer said they were playing on fumes, and his special teams were decimated by injuries. A bye-week would have been a huge blessing heading into the final two months of the season, but the Buckeyes were able to gut out wins against Indiana, Purdue and Penn State.
They started to get healthy again heading into November, and it showed in a 30-point drubbing of former OSU assistant Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini on Saturday. Despite all the injuries – not to mention inconsistencies on defense and special teams – the Buckeyes remained perfect through the first two months of the season.
“If we didn't play well we would have been in tomorrow working, and going all week like a normal work week,” Meyer said.
“But those guys earned it. I'm proud of them. And two big ones left.
This team has won every game its played under Meyer and the new coaching staff, and now a week 10 bye seems like a blessing in disguise heading into two of the biggest games of the season against Wisconsin and Michigan.
“With those two teams coming up, it’s great to have a bye week now,” said linebacker Ryan Shazier, the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week the last two weeks.
“I feel it’s perfect because we’ll have guys back. We just went 10 straight weeks without a bye, so everyone is beat up and sore, but the bye week lets us all get back in shape and get back to 100 percent.”
Meyer gave guys like Shazier the day off on Sunday. They had a lifting opportunity on Monday, while Meyer was in Cleveland with running backs coach Stan Drayton to visit Elyria’s Tracy Sprinkle, along with Cleveland Heights receiver Shelton Gibson and the guys at Glenville High School.
According to Mark Pantoni, Ohio State’s Director of Player Personnel, the OSU coaches will visit 16 different states this week as they hit the recruiting trail hard during the bye week.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will be down in Georgia to visit 5-star safety Vonn Bell, along with 2014 linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers will be back in his North Carolina stomping grounds to visit OSU commit Tyquan Lewis, while offensive coordinator Tom Herman will spend part of the week in Texas, presumably with 5-star linebacker Mike Mitchell and OSU quarterback commit J.T. Barrett.
Offensive line coach Ed Warriner will be in Pennsylvania to see former Penn State commit Dorian Johnson, while cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs will stop in Detroit to see David Dawson, a 4-star offensive lineman who recently de-committed from Michigan.
Coombs will also be in New Jersey, Cincinnati, Toledo and Indianapolis this week. Receivers coach Zach Smith is in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel will be all over the country, with stops in Florida and Chicago.
While it’s a big week for the future of the program, the focus is still on this 2012 football team and the opportunity for an undefeated regular season.
“We will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of this week,” Meyer said.
“And I told them, explained to them, the bye weeks, there's no rights around here; that's earned time. Get their body weights back up. So we're going to get them healthy and hopefully get (Etienne) Sabino back.”
The fifth-year senior out of Miami (Fla.) hasn’t played since the first half of the Nebraska game back on Oct. 6. That’s when he broke a bone in his leg, but it sounds like Ohio State should their senior captain him back for the trip to Madison following the bye week.
“I get the sense that he’s ready and he’s really hungry to come back,” Shazier said.
“I can tell he’s really hungry to come back and he’s doing everything he can to get back in practice and get back with the team. He’s one of leaders and we’re ready to get him back.”
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