Bye Week Gave Buckeyes a Chance to Take a Long Look in the Mirror
By Patrick Murphy
The talk during a bye week almost always involves two weeks of preparation for a team.
“Northwestern had two weeks to prepare for Ohio State” was said countless times in the buildup to the Wildcats’ clash with the Buckeyes two weeks ago.
Ohio State is back in game-week mode after having last weekend off and they have now had two weeks to prepare for the Iowa Hawkeyes. That is not the only team the Buckeyes have been studyingh however. They have also been taking a closer look at themselves.
“A ton of our time in the morning is spent on our own self, self-scouting, not just trying to get ready for Iowa,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
During the football season most of the focus is on preparing each week for the upcoming opponent.
The players spend time in the film room examining their opposition, learning their tendencies in order to use those against them.
On the practice field, the scout team is simulating what this week’s opposing offense or defense will look like, so the players are prepared when they step on the field.
The coaches continue to coach and the players do get better through this cycle, but there is not much time for self-examination to really understand how each player can improve.
OSU has two bye weeks this year – two chances to a break from the routine and get back to basics – and the first one could not have come at a better time.
I think it's a perfect time to have a bye week,” Herman said.
"We're half way into the season, we're six games in, we have a week to kind of take a deep breath; what are we good at, what aren't we good at, where do we need to get better, what do we need to enhance and keep doing?”
Despite an unblemished record this season, there is still plenty of room to improvement for Ohio State. After arguably their two most difficult games of the season, OSU now has an idea where their weaknesses lie.
“Pass defense,” was Urban Meyer’s response when asked where the team needs to improve.
“We made a conscious decision to stop the run, and as a result sometime you leave people on islands and you don't have the same focus in the back end.”
“That's who we are, we've won a lot of games doing that, and now we have to improve the other end of it, and we're working as a staff really hard at it, and we have an excellent staff, so we'll get it done.”
The Buckeyes lost a key contributor to the pass defense with safety Christian Bryant done for the season. Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown stepped in against Northwestern, but this remains a question mark going forward.
“Pitt did pretty good,” Meyer said regarding the senior’s performance in Evanston.
“Tyvis is the most talented of all of them, and you've got Vonn Bell who is extremely talented too, so you have three guys. I don't think it's completely settled, but Pitt's certainly going to play.”
With Bryant’s injury against Wisconsin, the defensive staff had to go with the most experience player in a top-25 battle against Northwestern. With the week off, they had more time to look at their options and evaluate who should play what position going forward.
Bradley Roby and Doran Grant will also take a look at their recent performances and see where they can improve.
Two weeks in a row, the Buckeyes were torn apart through the air on national television and much of the blame fell on the All-American Roby.
"He's a guy that there's been a lot of distractions in his world,” Meyer said of Roby.
“The best thing he can do is become a great practice player. The correlation there is usually a perfect one. When you have a great practice player he usually plays great, and he's improved his practice habits.”
No time like the bye week to focus on those habits.
On the offensive side of the ball, the staff believes there is room for improvement as well.
“We've got to get the ball to our receivers on the run maybe a little bit more,” Herman said.
“I don't know that we have the guy who can catch a hitch and make a corner miss and take it 80, but we've got guys that in the short and intermediate pass game.”
The Buckeyes’ leading receiver agrees with this assessment.
“It's hard to make somebody miss when you're standing flat-footed and you have to turn around, you're not going to make the defense miss” Philly Brown said. “It would make life easier for everybody.”
When focusing on how the opponent is going to defend your passing attack, the coaches may not have time to work on this, especially since Ohio State has been able to move the ball through the air effectively.
This week they can take the little things and focus on them in order to take another step forward.
It is not just the coaches scouting their team, but the players as well. They have to be able to look at their game, see what they can improve, and fix the mistakes.
“Not as good as it should be,” Brown said in assessing his play.
“Everybody on this team can do a little more to help this team but with this bye week.”
With bye week one in the books, OSU turns its attention on Iowa, but the self scout the Buckeyes were able to utilize during the bye week will pay them dividends not just against Iowa, but for the rest of the games left of the schedule.