10 Things We Learned from Urban’s First Game
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS — It’s hard to believe, but Urban Meyer first game at Ohio State is finally in the books.
It started slow, and was far from perfect, but the Buckeyes took Miami (Ohio) to the woodshed Saturday in a 56-10 victory at Ohio Stadium. It’s early and we still don’t know how good the Redhawks will be this season, but we know quarterback Zac Dyster and Nick Harwell are legitimate pro prospects, just as Meyer said they were.
Here’s a look a the 10 Things We Learned from Meyer’s first victory with the Buckeyes.
1. No such thing as a perfect offense. With all the changes happening at Ohio State this offseason, many Buckeye fans were expecting to turn on the game Saturday and see something they had never seen before. They were hoping to see an instantaneous explosion on offense with touchdowns every time the Buckeyes touched the football.
Photo by Dan Harker
Only that’s not exactly how it happened, at least not right away. It took these players an entire quarter to really get a feel for the new offense and it took Meyer, along with Tom Herman, awhile to figure out exactly what Miami was doing to defend them.
Unlike his last couple jobs, everyone was well aware of what Meyer’s offense can do, and there was plenty of tape out there for Miami coach Don Treadwell, formerly the offensive coordinator at Michigan State, to study in preparation for this game.
He only had 10 months to get ready. It showed in the opening quarter, as Miami defense actually managed to befuddle the OSU offense to the tune of just 43 yards. Many fans were baffled. Some started to crack jokes about wishing for the return of Jim Bollman (Ohio State’s previous offensive coordinator).
All of that went away with the back-to-back touchdown passes from Miller, but it’s a good reminder that things are not always going to look perfect.
2. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for Braxton. The one thing that jumpstarted Meyer’s offense, besides his adjustments, was quarterback Braxton Miller. He wasn’t perfect, and neither were the guys around him, but there’s no longer a question about how he will fit into this offense.
Photo by Dan Harker
In short, it’s perfect for him in almost every way. It’s not just that Miller passed for over 200 yards and ran for a school-record 161 yards while tallying three scores. That’s part of it, but it was just the way the offense seemed to be built around Miller’s fantastic athleticism.
The read option plays were killing Miami in the second and third quarters and when they mixed in some play-action pass, it was over for Treadwell’s group. Next week will be a much bigger test, but Miller should post monster numbers in this new system almost every week.
3. Braxton still has a lot to learn. The one thing Meyer probably wants to avoid is running Miller 17 times a game. First of all, he’s not Tim Tebow, which is to say he’s not indestructible. He has a history of injuries and they need to be careful with his lower body getting all tangled and twisted in a sea of defenders.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Secondly, it appears as though Miller may not be quite as well-conditioned, or well-hydrated, as some of the other guys on the team. Miller worked hard this offseason on learning the offense and getting his timing down. What we don’t know is how many days he spent running the stairs at Ohio Stadium.
While his passing is obviously improved, he still has a long way to go. He’s probably already better than Terrelle Pryor was during his entire career at Ohio State when it comes to mechanics and release, but he needs to keep his footwork under control if he’s going to start putting the ball on target. His receivers had to make a few really nice plays to make him look as good as he did Saturday.
4. Those WRs weren’t so bad after all. Speaking of those receivers, those can’t be the guys Meyer has been ripping all offseason, can they? Did we not see the ridiculous, one-handed touchdown grab from Devin Smith? How about the fantastic grab by Evan Spence with a defender on his back just before halftime?
Photo by Dan Harker
Those were both big plays. Stoneburner made a nice grab along the sideline and Corey Brown led the team with seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown – equal to nearly half his production from last year, in an entire season.
Photo by Dan Harker
It’s not time to anoint this group as the second coming of the mid 1990’s at receiver, but there is a lot of potential talent out there. That doesn’t even include Michael Thomas, Verlon Reed and Chris Fields, all of whom got some action Saturday.
5. We only got to see a portion of the offense. Based on what we know about Meyer, and what we saw glimpses of in the spring, we know this was not nearly the offense we are going to see when he finally decides to unleash it. Maybe this is all he feels comfortable running with these guys right now, but running back Carlos Hyde admitted there is a lot more of the offense we have yet to see.
Today was a lot of inside runs with some zone-read and play-action pass mixed in. Meyer’s offense is predicated on using the entire field, and we did not see much of the stretch running game Saturday. We also didn’t see much involvement from Stoneburner or the tight ends. Those guys will be used in a number of different ways this year, and then of course, things should really open up with Jordan Hall returns from injury.
6. Carlos Hyde is going to be the “bell cow.” With Hall out, the Buckeyes turned to Carlos Hyde Saturday, and the junior did not disappoint. He is going to remember that missed opportunity at the end of the first half, when he should have scored from a yard out, but it was a pretty successful day for Hyde against Miami.
He could have had three touchdowns if he had gone through the goal line with authority instead of diving headfirst, but he ran with all kinds of authority the rest of the day. His second touchdown from eight yards out was just straight ‘beast mode’ and he showed he can run hard for an entire game.
The Buckeyes are going to be counting on Mr. Hyde to do some tough running over the next few weeks. It looks like he’s up to the task.
7. This defense is vulnerable if they don’t get more pressure up front. It was hard to really get a gauge on Ohio State’s defensive Saturday, but they didn’t seem to dominate the game the way people expected. Luke Fickell said it was because they asked those guys to do a number of different things, but they are going to need to show a lot more next week against UCF.
When they weren’t getting pressure in the first quarter, it left the OSU defense vulnerable on the back end. Both starting corners played nice games in the opener, but there were some issues on the back end with safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant.
Barnett dropped a decent chance at a pick, and they gave up a few big plays on blown assignments. It’s hard to fault him, but Corey Brown also got blown by on the 44-yard touchdown to Nick Harwell.
Like any defense, the Buckeyes really need their front to get pressure if they are going to be successful this season.
8. Travis Howard really has come a long way. Yes, Howard had two interceptions Saturday, which could be used to signify his growth as a corner. Or maybe it’s just a result of the OSU coaches having their corners play further off the line of scrimmage. The good news is Howard held on to the ball both times, which is something this defense has had issues with the last couple years.
The play that did it for me, however, was down on the goal line. Dysert tried to throw a quick slant in front of Howard on the left side and he was right on his man’s hip pocket. He kept his balance and leverage and didn’t give the receiver a clear path to the ball, or the goal line. Last year that guy would have walked into the end zone with the football.
9. Nathan Williams is really back. It’s hard to believe, but now we know it’s real. I’ll admit I was skeptical that Williams could really be close to playing in a game without practicing much this fall, but he was out there on the second series Saturday and he played a pretty good amount.
He had some moments too. It’s clear he is their best hope for a true Leo/Viper who can drop into coverage as a linebacker. He’s not going to give you much in coverage, but he flies to the football and hits hard.
Williams brought a lot of energy to the field, and it was amazing they let him play as many snaps as they did. Even Fickell admitted it was more than they planned, but he handled it well and looked like at least a remnant of his old self. If he can get back to where he doesn’t really think about the knee, and he can just go, this line could be scary good.
10. Spence and Washington are ready to go. Another reason it could be scary good is the emergence of freshmen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. These two were the most talked about players in OSU’s 2012 class, and now we know why. Both were in the rotation Saturday and both recorded sacks in their very first game.
Washington was the first guy in there and played a few more snaps than Spence, but both were effective. Spence looked unblockable at times on the outside, and No. 71 had to hold him more than once to keep him from getting to Dysert.
Fickell said afterward they aren’t going to treat these two as freshmen, and rightly so. They play like grown men.
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