Meyer Answers Questions about Defense and Special Teams
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer’s defense turned in one of its best overall performances of the season on Saturday, holding Penn State to 34 yards rushing while sacking quarterback Matt McGloin four teams.
The special teams? Well that was a bit of a different story. The Buckeyes allowed another blocked punt on this past week that went for the opening touchdown of the game.
Meyer took some time on Monday to answer questions about the play of his defense and what he plans to do in order to fix his special teams, which he said were exposed a little bit against the Nittany Lions.
Q. Obviously, your plan to win starts with playing great defense. With what you've seen the last two weeks from your defense where are you on that path defensively?
MEYER: I'd be careful saying the word great. It was the first time Michigan State, I have great respect for Silver Bullet defense even when I was far away because I've always watched Ohio State. And I really feel like, fundamentally, I feel much better about where we're at defensively. And I think our coaches have done a really good job taking ten minutes, sometimes 15 minutes a day just working on fundamentals. This time of year that's almost unheard of, but you can see the improvements on the field
Q. You mentioned a more aggressive defense. Was that an edict from you that you need more pressure?
MEYER: It's not an edict. It's something I've been pushing. I've been pushing a little bit, and we'll continue to push. I think it's having confidence. C.J. Barnett coming back at full speed, and I understand the injury issues. Once again, our two corners can play man.
There are three other eligible players that have to be manned up as well, and that is where the issue comes, not with confidence. First everybody thinks let's go play man. We have good corners, great. There are three other guys somewhere. You can't just hope it works out.
Q. I know Zach Boren moving to linebacker was your idea. I knew you expected him to play well on some level. But how well he's playing, does that surprise you at all?
MEYER: I wish he'd grade a champion because I think he's a champion type player. I'd hate to be the half‑empty guy. But I thought he even played better that's how much respect I've got for him as a football guy. I know it's new. Probably unheard of in the history of major college football on a Tuesday to go over a new start, but that's how much respect I have for him as a player. I'm certainly not patting him on the back. He needs to grade a champion, and he wants to grade a champion as well. But I'm not surprised, no.
Q. Do you think Sabino could be back this week or does he need a bye week still?
MEYER: I'll give you more. I don't want to give you something wrong. I just saw him in there. There is no player trying harder. I would say it's questionable for this week, and we'll let you know as he gets going.
Q. Working on special teams, I know it's been up‑and‑down. How much of it is just increasing injuries?
MEYER: We've had our seventh different lineup on punt right now. Every week Zach Domicone couldn't go this week, and so and so couldn't go, and Sabino went down. You need to have some awareness. Right now we're having guys that – I wish I could be less blunt – but are just unaware because they're first timers. So we've just got to do a better job coaching it, and that comes on coaching.
Q. Wanted to ask about the punt block, and having it happen again and giving up a touchdown, is that something that continues to concern you going forward into the last three games of the season?
MEYER: It sure does. We're going to simplify. Blood is in the water, and a bunch of sharks are trying to go after punts. So we'll do – you know it was a missed assignment. We had two guys block the same guy and that obviously can't happen. We've got to really do a better job of coaching it and getting it ready to go. It does concern me though to answer your question.
Q. You guys have a much different style of punt this week. Did you see something that would prevent something like that from happening?
MEYER: Just a change‑up. I think if you sit there like a sitting duck nowadays, we don't have the greatest hang time. We're struggling a little bit with hang time. So you want to free release people. And any time you free release, you're opening up the flood gates for some protection issues. So that's where we've got to spend a lot of time on that right now.
Like last night and today, a lot of time just getting this thing cleaned up on who is going to be on it, making sure they're healthy enough to do it, and making sure our roles are intact.
Right now just flat punting the ball is not very good, and he's actually very pretty good at doing our quarter role like we did and making sure we're in sound protection. So we're in a little dilemma right now.
Q. Did you see anything with Devin Smith? You had him out there at gunner.
MEYER: Fastest player on the team. Ideally we've had years where I think one year we had 13 total return yards. Because our belief is you have 6.5 seconds. If you're hitting the ball 4.5 seconds hang time, and 2 seconds get off, that's 6.5 seconds to cover 40 yards. You put really fast people out there and force catches. We're not doing that right now. But at the end of the day you would say what is the best punt? Fair catch. 13 total or some ridiculous small return yards in getting the ball off, we're not there because we don't have the hang time or the distance. I'm just worried about the returners.
So we're jury rigging a system, and I won't saying it's working very well.
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