Meyer Worried About Lack of Playmakers on Offense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has been practically drooling over Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller since he covered the Buckeyes’ season-opener against Akron back in September.
Having stepped away from his job at Florida, Meyer was working as an analyst for ESPN at the time, but he spent more of his time watching Miller on the sideline than he did watching the game.
Maybe he already had ideas about becoming the next head coach in Columbus, or maybe getting a look at Miller in person was enough to wet his appetite for a return to coaching.
He has been one of the quarterback’s biggest backers since taking his “dream job” back in November, but he also knows Miller has to improve a lot from his freshman year at Ohio State.
“I like Braxton Miller a lot from what I’ve seen. He still has a long ways to go, forever to go, but he knows that,” Meyer said this past week while appearing on “The Bull and the Fox” show on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland.
“He’s bright-eyed and an extremely humble young man. I can’t wait to coach him.”
Meyer will have to wait until spring to really get his hands on Miller, who totaled 20 touchdowns during his rookie season with the Buckeyes. If he can develop his passing ability to match his electrifying feet, Miller could be a serious Heisman Trophy contender in Ohio State’s new, more electrifying, offense at some point.
“What a great goal to shoot for,” Meyer said.
“I think our style of play will give him that opportunity.”
Meyer has already produced one Heisman Trophy winning quarterback while he was at Florida and a No. 1 overall pick while at Utah. He also signed another quarterback who ended up winning the Heisman at Auburn, but he quickly pointed out that none of them did it alone.
“One thing that Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and even Alex Smith had in common is the guys around them were really dynamic playmakers,” said Meyer, who coached all three of them.
“Quarterbacks get far too much credit. Tim Tebow was surrounded by playmakers all over the place. He had Percy Harvin to his right, Louis Murphy to his left and Aaron Hernandez in the slot to his right. His five offensive linemen are all starting in the NFL now. Tim is a really good football player, but he’d be the first to tell you that the guys around him were really good players.”
That is not something Meyer is ready to say about the guys surrounding his new quarterback at Ohio State.
“My biggest area (of concern) is the playmakers. Where are they or do we have them,” Meyer asked himself during his radio appearance.
“When your leading receiving only has 14 catches and one of them is a tight end, that’s alarming. That’s my biggest concern. Where are our playmakers at and do we have enough to do what we want to do?”
Meyer has nothing against the tight end. Aaron Hernandez caught 68 passes as a junior at Florida. New offensive coordinator Tom Herman once had a tight end haul in 111 catches at Rice.
The entire Ohio State offense barely eclipsed that mark in 2011. The Buckeyes tallied only 125 catches this past season, 100 fewer than the previous year and nearly 100 fewer than their 2011 opponents.
That was not exciting news for Meyer, who said it is his personal mission to get the ball in the hands of his 5-6 best playmakers each week. Now he just has to figure out who those playmakers are going to be.
The Buckeyes lose DeVier Posey and Boom Herron, a pair of seniors who missed a bulk of the 2011 season due to suspension. Tight end Jake Stoneburner had seven touchdown catches this past season, but four of them came in the first two weeks of the season.
He tied for the team-lead in receptions (14) with Corey Brown and Devin Smith, who will likely open the 2012 season as the starting wide receivers. Stoneburner is coming off minor knee surgery, but should be ready for spring practice.
Wideout Verlon Reed had nine catches in five games last season before tearing his ACL against Michigan State. He is a high school quarterback who should factor in to Meyer’s plan come fall, but the Buckeyes have to sort things out in their backfield.
They have a pair of big backs in Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, but Meyer will need to find a way to get more production our of Jordan Hall. The senior-to-be showed excellent quickness against Miami (Fla.) but seemed to wear down as the season progressed.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton will also have a pair of freshmen to work with in Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball, and the Buckeyes signed a trio of new receivers, including Michael Thomas, who is already enrolled at Ohio State along with Dunn.
Now the key for Meyer and his staff is figuring out which ones are ready to make plays in 2012.
“If we can get that set, he can start seeing some ridiculous numbers,” Meyer added about Miller.
“I hope so.”
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