Ohio State's Bell Could Go From Toiling to Tolling in Orange Bowl
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Orange Bowl pairings were finalized and Ohio State and Clemson were matched up, the talk immediately turned to how the Buckeyes would defend Clemson's dynamic passing game.
Clemson, after all, is throwing for 329 yards per game, and quarterback Tajh Boyd is one of the nation's best passers. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have allowed 341 yards passing per game in their last four outings.
This is hardly an immovable object against the irresistible force. At the rate the Ohio State defense has defended the pass of late, the Clemson passing game could pass them by like mile markers on the highway.
It is with such concern in mind that Urban Meyer was asked this week if there would be tweaks on defense in preparation for the Tigers.
“Yeah, obviously we didn't play very well the last two games,” he said. “'Tweaks' might be an appropriate word. We're still working through that, and working at the changes.
Would there possibly be a personnel change, or would it simply be a change of scheme?
“There might be,” he answered, doing so rather coyly.
So which is it? Personnel or scheme?
“All of the above,” he said. “That's what we're doing right now, going through that.”
While Meyer wouldn't get into what those changes would be, assuming he's even sure what they'll be this far from the actual bowl game, he did mention freshman safety Vonn Bell, and the desire to get him on the field.
Photo by Dan Harker
“He'll play more in this game,” he said.
“We have to get him in, and he's doing a really good job. He's earned it on special teams. He's a guy who we're really excited about his future.”
This has been a familiar refrain from Meyer, who has talked about wanting to see more of Bell on defense since around the midway point of the season. It never really happened, but bowl practices allow younger players to get more involved because there's more time between games.
From the sounds of it so far, Bell is making the most of his current opportunity.
Asked what he could bring to the defense, starting safety C.J. Barnett didn't hesitate to respond.
“He's a very instinctive player,” he answered.
“Fast. Good football player. I think he can just bring a playmaking ability. I think he has an ability to make plays, and he has a nose for the ball. I think we could see him a lot in the bowl game. I think that he'll be able to go out there and match up with some of their guys and be able to make plays.”
So what has brought out this urgency to get Bell more involved? Was it due to personnel, or due to the simple fact that Bell can't be denied any longer?
“All of the above,” Meyer replied.
With the defensive struggles this season, it's hard to fix them in the five or six days between games. And during the bye weeks, the coaches apparently tried to fix the issues without changing the personnel. Now that there is finally more than six days to “tweak” some things, it appears that personnel will finally be addressed.
Every change is intended to be for the better, and it's apparent that these bowl practices are important not only for the Buckeyes' present, but also because of one Buckeye's future.
“I think bowl practice is more important than the actual game,” Barnett explained.
“I think this is a great time for the young guys to develop, to get better, and to show Coach that they can step up next year and take that spot. So yeah, these practices are very important.”
Urban Meyer is hopeful that finding a spot for Vonn Bell will also fill a void that has been affecting his team since Christian Bryant's injury. It may be just a tweak, but sometimes a tweak is all that is missing.
Bell is going to be relied on heavily in 2014, it just so happens that that reliance could start right away in January.
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