Playmakers Emerging

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Last updated: 04/14/2012 0:58 AM

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Football
Playmakers Starting to Emerge in Meyer’s Offense?
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer began his first spring in Columbus with one lingering, almost nauseating, question in the back of his mind.

Who is going to get the football in 2012?

Urban Meyer surveys spring practice drills looking for playmakers.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Urban Meyer

There were plenty of other uncertainties surrounding an Ohio State team coming off a year of turmoil and a 6-7 season a year ago, including depth issues at linebacker and on the offensive line.

There was also that whole matter of a postseason ban—which caught Meyer by surprise in December—and how the Buckeyes would approach a season in which the best they could do was play for a share of the division title.

He and offensive coordinator Tom Herman also had to implement an entirely new offensive system. None of that kept Meyer up at night as he prepared for his first spring as the CEO and commander in chief of Buckeye Nation—something the 47-year old coach has been a part of since his days growing up in Ashtabula.

So what was it that had Meyer shaking his head, even after the Buckeyes had hit the practice field for their first day of spring ball earlier this month?

“No question, offensive skill,” Meyer said.

“I don't know who's going to catch a pass, and I'm sure you guys don't either. There's no track record.”

Meyer was hoping to see some players jump out at him on the first day of camp, to help set his mind at ease.

Wrong.

If anything, Meyer was even more dismayed after watching his team practice for the first time this spring, but maybe the Buckeyes are finally starting to turn the corner.

Maybe.

Jake Stoneburner
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jake Stoneburner

“Jake Stoneburner and Jordan Hall are the two playmakers on offense,” Meyer said,

“But that’s obviously not near enough.”

It may not be enough, but it’s a start, and it’s two more than Meyer thought he had at this time last week—when no one in a scarlet jersey had done anything to ‘wow’ the new head coach during practice.

As expected, the OSU defense won the first three winner-losers days. Part of that was the dominance of defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins up front, but part of it was also the lack of consistency from the playmakers around quarterback Braxton Miller. 

“The area where we are significantly behind is in the throwing game,” Meyer said Wednesday on the Big Ten Spring Football teleconference.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

“That’s not just the quarterback, that’s the protection, the guys around him. Our emphasis the next couple of practices is getting Braxton comfortable in our passing game.”

Miller looked much better during practice on Wednesday than he had at any point thus far in the spring. He was hitting guys on target and throwing the ball with authority, and he was actually aided by some of his playmakers making plays down the field.

“That was an A1A. That was our best practice of the spring, and one of the best spring practices that I’ve seen,” Meyer said.

“The intensity level was an A, competitiveness was an A and our assistant coaching was an A. Execution is obviously not an A, but it doesn't have to be right now. I feel very good walking off the Woody Hayes Center practice field.

“If you want to see a ball practice, that was a ball practice.”

The offense finally came away with a much-needed victory on winner-loser day—if for no other reason than Meyer’s sanity—and it wasn’t just Stoneburner and Hall making plays.

Meyer wanted to drill his group in 3rd-and-5 situations on Wednesday, and had to be pleased with the way his offense responded by actually resembling, well, an offense.

“Snaps are hitting the quarterback right between the numbers. It's not a clown show out there like at a couple points,” Meyer said.

“Guys are competing. That's why I'm going to leave here tonight impressed with the Ohio State Buckeyes.”

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

And maybe he even came away impressed with a few of his playmakers. Tailback Carlos Hyde had a nice day running the football and highlighted the scrimmage with a 75-yard touchdown catch on a broken play.

“Having a quarterback that makes something out of nothing is every coach's dream,” Meyer said.

Meyer also praised Hyde for his performance, but he wasn’t the only one making plays for the offense on Wednesday. Corey Brown, Devin Smith, Chris Fields and freshman Mike Thomas also made a few nice plays during the scrimmage.

“I thought the receivers made a few plays,” Meyer said. “You guys saw that too.”

Thomas was impressive enough filling in for the injured Evan Spencer, that he drew some special praise from the boss after practice. 

“He doing good. He’s doing really good,” Meyer said of the freshman wideout who enrolled early this spring.

“You talk about one of the most improved guys on our team, for a kid who should be still in high school.”

Meyer said the offense as a whole was about 70 or 80 percent on 3rd down conversions during their victory Wednesday, which is highly unusual for this time of year. Especially with the way this group had looked on the previous winner-loser days.

“It's huge,” Meyer acknowledged.

“It's not about execution. I'm not worried about that right now. But I want to see guys go and I want to see an offense resemble an offense and the defense come back with its back against the wall.

“It is a big moment for me and for our staff.”

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