Meyer: This is Grown Man Ball
OSU Coach Anxious to See if Smith, Roby Are Primetime Players
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Much of the focus in Columbus this week has been on Braxton Miller and Ohio State’s situation at running back, but it’s the guys on the outside who could determine the outcome of Saturday’s Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The Golden Bears travel to Columbus with one of the premier wide receivers in all of college football, but the Buckeyes feel like they have two pretty good ones as well in sophomore Devin Smith and junior Corey Brown.
Both of them should see plenty of man coverage on the outside, as Cal plays one of the more unique defensive systems in the country under head coach Jeff Tedford and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
"This is a feast or famine type defense. They lead the Pac-12 in tackles for loss, or at least they have the last couple years, but they also give up some plays,” Urban Meyer said this week.
“They’re very aggressive, they’re in the backfield all the time. You’re going to see us have to throw the ball and you’re going to see us do some unique things on offense we haven’t done the first two games because of style of defense.”
The Bears played some zone coverage behind their unique ’46 defense’ – which was developed by legendary Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan – in their season-opener. It didn’t work all that well in a 31-24 loss to the Wolf Pack, but the Bears feel they can get away with playing man coverage on the outside against Ohio State’s young wideouts.
Photo by Dan Harker
“It kind of makes me mad,” said Devin Smith, who is second on the team with eight catches for 88 yards and one spectacular touchdown this season.
“Coach (Tom) Herman has been talking to us about, saying they are going to play press coverage on us. He said they are questioning our manhood. We’ve worked very hard this week to defeat man press.”
Ohio State’s receivers were often the focal point of their head coach’s criticism in the offseason, but they have been a bright spot for the Buckeyes early in the 2012 season. Smith, Brown and Evan Spencer have separated themselves from the group – along with converted tight end Jake Stoneburner – over the first two weeks, but this will be an entirely different test for Smith and the other receivers.
“There’s a guy who’s going to be a guy making a living playing football covering him all day,” Meyer said of Cal’s senior cornerback Marc Anthony.
“There’s no soft coverage where you make a catch and wiggle for two yards. There’s going to be a grown man covering you up for 60 minutes, 55 or 60 plays, and he’s got to win a good share of them.”
Anthony is a three-year starter for the Bears at corner, where he was considered to be one of the top prospects at his position in the Pac-12 a year ago. He will be across from junior Steve Williams, as Stefan McClure still hasn’t fully recovered from ACL and MCL surgery last November.
“During camp, we really work hard at making plays when the situation presents itself,” said Smith.
“No matter if a corner is on us, a safety is on us, we have to make a play.”
Especially with a guy like Keenan Allen on the other sideline. The former 5-star prospect from Greensboro, N.C. has developed into one of the premier wide receivers in the country.
Photo by Dan Harker
It’s going to be an equal test for OSU corner Bradley Roby, who wants to make a name for himself as one of the top corners in America this season.
“We’ll find out how good (he is),” Meyer said Wednesday.
“If you sit back in cover-3 and come up and tackle someone from Miami of Ohio on a hitch, that doesn’t make you a primetime player. Covering this cat in some situations where we have to bring pressure, which will single up some guys sometimes. So he’s in the same category as Devin. This is grown man ball.”
A 6-3 junior, Allen has 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown this season, but he is come off an All-American caliber performance as a sophomore a year ago. After catching 46 passes as a freshman in 2010, Allen busted with 98 catches last season, totaling over 1,300 yards and six touchdowns.
That included a 90-yard score against Washington, in a game where he caught 10 passes for 197 yards. He followed that with 170 yards against Oregon and 160 against USC – both lopsided losses for the Golden Bears.
There aren’t many dominant receives in the Big Ten this season, so Allen could legitimately be the best player Roby and the Buckeyes face at his position all season.
“This ought to be no challenge as far as getting him motivated,” Meyer said of Roby.
“Because (he's) facing potentially the best receiver he'll face all year.”
In fact, he could be the best receiver any player faces this season. Most preseason publications have Allen as an All-American, and the majority of NFL Mock Drafts have him as the top receiver on the board.
Roby is hoping to be in that same category. He’ll get a change to prove on Saturday.
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