Buckeyes Shake Off Rust as They Return from Break
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer spent spring break down in Florida with his daughter, so even he had a little rust to shake off on Tuesday.
It didn’t take Ohio State’s second-year head coach very long, however, to rev up the engine for his team’s third practice of the spring. He asked his players to do the same, flying around and play with intensity after a week away from football.
While they did exactly what their coached asked, for the most part, during the two-hour practice on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, it wasn’t exactly Meyer’s favorite workout since he took the job at Ohio State.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I don’t think it was a great day,” Meyer said with a stern look on his face.
“I don’t think it was awful, but it was not a great day. It just was not a ‘top-five’ practice, so we’ll have to have a great one Thursday.”
On a good note, Meyer did say he thought their practice the Thursday before the Buckeyes left for break may have been the best one since he’s been at Ohio State. That is high praise considering the first few practices of last spring looked like a "clown show", in Meyer’s words.
Tuesday was a lot better than that, but still not exactly what the head man is looking for as the Buckeyes aim to keep their 12-game winning streak alive in year two of the Meyer era.
“We’ll help them with the excuses,” he said after practice.
“First day back from spring break, first day in pads and we’re not in great shape because we’re not expected to be in great shape yet.”
It wasn’t a full contact practice on Tuesday, but there was plenty of hitting going on inside the practice facility. Ohio State’s defense controlled the tempo during the scrimmage with its new dime formation, but Meyer wasn’t throwing the blame on his junior quarterback.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He looked all right. Execution wasn’t great because the defense was blitzing and we weren’t protecting very well,” the OSU coach said.
“I saw a kid training to play a quarterback, which means staying positive and trying to fix issues as opposed to maybe getting down and throwing the ball on the ground.”
Meyer was pleased with the overall performance of both Miller and backup Kenny Guiton on Tuesday. He was also impressed by senior tailback Carlos Hyde, who turned in his third good practice in a row to start the spring.
The offense did benefit from the return of senior wideout Corey Brown, who left the first practice of the spring with a knee injury, but they had to play without senior back/receiver Jordan Hall on Tuesday.
“Jordan has got a slight tug on his hamstring,” Meyer said after practice.
“It's precautionary right now. He could probably practice at 80 percent.”
The 5-9 back out of Jeannette, Pa. was in an orange no-contact jersey on Tuesday, along with linebacker Ryan Shazier, who continues to recover from offseason surgery for a sports hernia. Hall insisted he could have practiced if the Buckeyes needed him, but the coaches decided it was better to sit him out as a precautionary measure.
“I saw him stretch out for a couple plays and the amount of running compared to a running back that a receiver does, he just wasn’t ready,” Meyer said of his first week of spring ball.
“I looked right at our strength coach when he did it and we both realized we made an error. We should have backed him off a little bit.”
If he can stay healthy, Hall’s versatility could be a tremendous asset for the Buckeyes this spring. He is working with both the running backs and receivers as an H-back, which Ohio State didn’t really have in Meyer’s first year with the program.
The OSU coaches are thrilled to have Hall back for his fifth season in Columbus. Running backs coach Stan Drayton, who coached with Meyer at the University of Florida, believes the offense was only at 60 percent capacity last year.
Hall’s return should help, but it’s not like he had many other options after missing most of his senior year with foot and knee injuries.
“Where was he going to go…the NFL? There really wasn’t a decision,” Meyer said Tuesday.
“He wasn’t healthy enough to play. I was told he couldn’t go. He wasn’t ready to move on to (the NFL). He’s got to have a good year. I think he will. I do think he could play in the NFL but he has to play well this year.”
The decision to move Hall to H-back will help to get him in space, where he can make people miss as well as anyone on the team not named Braxton Miller. It will also allow the Buckeyes to get another playmaker out there without taking Hyde off the field.
“There is still competition,” Meyer said, “but if he does what we saw at some points last year, I think he will be as good as any kid in the country this fall.”
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