Stoneburner, Buckeyes See Major Changes this Offseason
By Brandon Castel
Photo by Jim Davidson
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jake Stoneburner didn’t know exactly what Urban Meyer meant when he told his team to go out and have the best offseason in the history of college football.
What does that look like, exactly?
“Me and (quarterback) Braxton (Miller) have been out here working every day throwing,” Stoneburner said.
“Just working on little things and trying to get our craft down to perfection.”
Stoneburner and his teammates had only known one way of doing things, and they had plenty of success under former head coach Jim Tressel. They say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, but last year was a very broken season for the Buckeyes.
It caused everyone to rethink they way things were being done, especially when Urban Meyer and Mickey Marotti came in with a whole new idea about what it takes to be successful during the season.
In their mind, what happens over the next three months is just as important as what happens during the week and even on Saturday’s in the fall.
“It’s a lot different,” Stoneburner said.
“We usually weren’t doing that stuff. We were in the summer—guys were out here working—but we’ve been doing it since spring ball ended. Guys are out here doing extra work every day. Seven days a week, even during weekends. So, that’s a lot different. It’s expected with Coach Meyer. I think that’s what makes his teams a lot different than most.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Meyer won two BCS National Championships at Florida, and also guided Utah to a perfect season in 2004. He knows what it takes to be a champion, and junior left tackle Jack Mewhort called him an “unbelievable motivator” on Thursday.
“I’ve talked to all the guys after every (conditioning) group,” center Corey Linsley added.
“We’re getting in there lifting, coming out here and doing some position drills. We’re working in the sand, we’re working in the chutes and punching the bag. It’s going great. It really is.”
Last year’s offseason was really a lost year for the Buckeyes. It was almost exactly one year ago when Tressel’s forced resignation sent the program into a downward spiral. Emotions hit rock bottom and some players struggled to find the motivation to come to work every day.
That has not been an issue during Meyer’s first offseason at Ohio State.
Photo by Dan Harker
“The strength coaches have said that we’ve had a great offseason so far,” sophomore defensive lineman Michael Bennett said.
“I feel the same way. I think there’s been a lot of energy. Guys are coming in and getting extra work by ourselves. The leaders to the team are really starting to step up and make sure everyone is being accountable. There has been a lot of growth in strength and speed, so it’s been a great offseason.”
While Marotti and his strength staff are able to work with the players on conditioning and strength building during the summer, Meyer and his staff are allowed limited contact. They cannot put the players through any football-related drills, or work with them on technique or timing.
That is critical issue for Miller and the wide receivers, especially after Meyer referred to them as “nonfunctional” earlier this month. Stoneburner, who spent most of the spring working with the wide receivers, sees a group that is hungry to improve.
“We’re working on routes, timing, everything that we can incorporate on the field,” Stoneburner said.
“A lot of the routes, we’ve ran before, so the more reps we get, the better we’ll be in fall.”
One of the biggest adjustments they had to make this spring was on the mental side of the game. The Buckeyes had to learn a whole new system under Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
It didn’t happen over night, but Miller has taken the initiative this offseason to throw five or six times a week with Stoneburner and some of the other wide receivers. That typically includes sophomore Devin Smith and freshman Michael Thomas, both of whom have developed close relationship with Miller at Ohio State.
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton has also been out there, along with a number of other players who get their reps at different times throughout the day.
“There’s a lot of tight ends and receivers working with the quarterbacks,” Stoneburner said.
“And a lot of guys are doing that, doing position drills. Linebackers, safeties, everyone’s out here after workouts doing extra work just to make sure we’re to the best of our abilities.”
Stoneburner said they are even going as far as to watch film of Florida and Iowa State in order to see how the new offense will execute against different defensive looks.
“We’ll pick a certain thing to do that day and we’ll just work on it,” Stoneburner said.
“We’ll watch film together and be like, ‘All right, let’s run this route on Cover-2.’ We’ll rep that five or 10 times and go on to the next route against the same coverage just so we get a feel for the different variations. (Miller is) definitely getting a better feel of it.”
We won’t know for sure until they take the field against real opponents in the fall, but that might just be the first ingredients in Meyer’s recipe for the best offseason in the history of college football.
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