Two-Minute Drill: Updates from Monday's Ohio State Press Luncheon
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer and assistant coaches Luke Fickell and Zach Smith met with the media on Monday to talk about their Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. Also speaking to the media were center Corey Linsley, linebacker Curtis Grant and wide receiver Evan Spencer.
Urban Meyer Updates
* There were no standard “champions” this week, as there were only players of the game, which Ohio State has yet to announce.
* Meyer said that he was happy that the Buckeyes showed up and played “the right way” against Florida A&M. They came out fast and gave great effort. That was all Meyer said about FAMU, however, as he moved immediately to the Wisconsin game.
* Meyer called the Big Ten schedule their “focus” and their “goal. He called Wisconsin the “king of the Big Ten right now.”
* He said that if Braxton Miller has a good week of practice he will start Saturday night. Meyer said that Miller not playing last week wasn't solely Miller's decision, it was also the coaches' and training staff's call.
* Meyer said that based on what he saw on Sunday, he's much more confident that Miller will be able to play Saturday. He put Miller at about 90% on the health-o-meter.
* Asked how they flip the switch from a game like FAMU to a game against a Big Ten power, Meyer said, “That's kind of the way we do our business around here.” They always prepare for the game as if it's a big one.
* Meyer said, “I am very comfortable with both quarterbacks”, but he realizes that Miller will have some rust. He said that Guiton has shown that he can go out and win. He said that Tom Herman is a heck of a quarterback coach.
* Meyer said he doesn't believe in “gamers”, he believes in “practicers”.
* Meyer said that Wisconsin is a lot different on defense. They are more multiple, they will play both 3-4 and 4-3, and they're a little more creative than last year's defense.
* He said, “I think this will be a classic game.” He said you just know that it will come down to one or two series.
* Meyer said that this game will tell him where the front seven is. He is hoping to have Adolphus Washington back. Michael Bennett is good to go. He said, “This will be the biggest challe4nge to this point and maybe the rest of the year.”
* He said that Wisconsin's run game is “real”. You can get embarrassed really quickly.
* Meyer said that Braxton Miller has handled this situation like a pro and is constantly getting extra work in when he can.
* Asked if he missed former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, Meyer chuckled and said, “No, I'm good with Gary (Andersen).” Then he added, “You guys have a great day,” has he left smiling.
Zach Smith Updates
* Smith said that the development of the skill players has been the biggest change since the last time these two teams played. He said that every defense has weaknesses, and last year they weren't comfortable doing what was needed to attack those weaknesses. This year, however, they are confident in attacking Wisconsin's deficiencies.
* He said that injured freshman receiver James Clark is likely out for the season. He will likely receive a medical redshirt.
* On redshirting upperclassmen like Corey Smith and Michael Thomas, Smith said the players want to get on the field, but they also see it as a positive because they will still be working and improving, and they'll be better suited to step up next season.
* He said that Wisconsin will play more press man coverage than they did last year. He said it is more challenging, but nothing dramatic.
* Smith said that they have done a great job of widening their arsenal, as evidenced by four different receivers having caught two touchdowns in a game this year.
* On whether the team will be able to go from playing FAMU to Wisconsin and not miss a beat, Smith said that the program is built around performing in win/loss moments. “That's all we do.” He said they focus on performing when the pressure is on.
* On Evan Spencer, Smith said that “Every aspect of his game has improved.” He said he became more consistent in everything he does. They have no worries about him doing what is asked, in fact they often put him in situations because they know he'll do exactly what they're asking him to do. “He's a guy that understands football very, very well. It's really awesome to watch.”
* Asked if there was a pride factor in this game between Wisconsin's running game and Ohio State's running game, Smith smirked a bit. He said that Ed Warinner would probably say there's pride on the line regarding their spread power running versus Wisconsin's straight-ahead power attack. But Smith added, “We are a power run football team.” He said OSU is still going to run right at you and hit you in the mouth.
* He said that there is definitely comfort with Braxton Miller. He has always prepared to play, and it's “not like he's been on vacation.”
* Asked if he misses Bret Bielema, Smith chuckled a bit and paused before answering. “You always miss great coaches.”
* On football and the diminishment of the running game, he said that toughness and the power running game will be the only lasting thing in football. It is universal.
Luke Fickell Updates
* Fickell said that there is no disguise to what Wisconsin is going to do, but that doesn't make it any easier to stop them. He added that Wisconsin's offense is actually unique compared to what they've faced this season.
* He said that the plan is still to redshirt linebacker Mike Mitchell. He said they have about six guys they highlighted to hold back. He said that young guys “arrive” at different times.
* Fickell said that depth at linebacker is a concern every week. They have one guy with real experience in Ryan Shazier. He said missing guys who are fourth-year linebackers has hurt. They've lot players to transfer, injury, etc.
* He said this will be the first time all season they face a two-back, two-tight end set.
* Fickell said, “This game is won up front. That will be evident this week.”
* Regarding Kenny Guiton, he said that it takes some guys a while to find out how much they love football, but when they do find it, it can be special.
* He said the scout team is invaluable because the players take pride in it and they do everything they see from the team they are scouting, and that's when the Buckeyes will get the best look, and that's “how you prepare to win.”
* On Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Fickell said that he was more of a jet sweep guy last year, but he's a more complete back this year.
* On Wisconsin's offense, Fickell said, “There's not a ton of difference” in comparison to last year's offense.
Corey Linsley Updates
* Linsley said that this is going to be a tough game, and it's a typical Wisconsin team. They never take a play off.
* He said that Ohio State may be up tempo, but the physicality that they've always been known for has never left. He said that if you can't run power football, you'll lose football games.
* On Braxton Miller, Linsley said, “He did look phenomenal yesterday. I can tell that Braxton is back.” He added that Miller is moving well.
* Linsley said that Jack Mewhort told him that he's ready to play somebody this week. He said the B1G schedule just has a different feel to it. The season starts all over again basically.
* He said he's not worried about any pride issues regarding the UW running game and their own running game. He said he's only focused on the game, and nothing outside of it. He said these are the types of games where you find out who you really are.
* On dealing with an injury like Braxton Miller is, he said the biggest worry for his own injury was that everybody was getting better without you. He didn't want to come back and be the weak link. He said they are excited to have Miller back. “He's got that quickness, and that spark.” He said that you can talk about Johnny Manziel all you want, but nobody is like Braxton Miller.
* On the OSU running backs, Linsley said, “We have a bunch of backs that would start anywhere else in the country. It's exciting. It's awesome to have that many running backs. You can never have enough.”
* He said he talked to Rod Smith who told him about the talent level in the running back room, and said that Smith laughed and said with that much talent available, how is he going to go to Stan Drayton and demand more carries.
Curtis Grant Updates
* He said that he knows there is a big bulls-eye on the defense and the linebackers this weekend. He is expecting a typical Wisconsin offense. He said that this will be a defining moment, and they'll have to take their game to another level. He said he and Ryan Shazier have been talking about that a lot.
* Grant said that he misses these types of games because “I get to hit people.” He said your mindset changes this week because you want to do as much extra work as you can to make sure that you win this game. Whatever it takes throughout the week.
* Asked about the differences between RB running backs Melvin Gordon and James White, he compared them to the differences between Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall.
* On night games in Ohio Stadium, Grant said, “Words can't even explain what it's like to play in the Shoe at night.” He said the fans are crazy and they feed off of their energy.
* He said that this is pretty much the same Wisconsin offense as in the past. He said that if quarterback Joel Stave gets time, he'll make plays.
Evan Spencer Updates
* Spencer said that there is a different vibe right now and it started immediately after the FAMU game. He said there is more focus on Wisconsin right now than with prior opponents.
* When told that Wisconsin has yet to allow a touchdown pass this year, Spencer said that he doesn't think that record will stand too much longer.
* On the difference between last year's game and this year's game, he said that the Buckeyes have so much more offensive skill than they did a year ago.
* Spencer said that he doesn't think Miller will be rusty on Saturday. “He'll be good to go.” He said he looked good on Sunday.
* Asked if the Wisconsin rivalry compares to Michigan, Spencer said, “When it comes to rivalries, no.” He did say that it is absolutely one of the biggest games on the schedule, however.
* Regarding night games, he said, “It's spectacular in our stadium. It's hard to place words on it.” He said that everybody on the team likes playing at night.
* Spencer said that he has conversations with his dad (former OSU RB Tim Spencer) all the time about his play, though his dad usually waits until Evan's mother isn't around before he starts critiquing his play. He said he had conversations with him in the offseason about what he needed to do to get better, and he focused on improving his deficiencies.
* On the history between the Buckeyes and Bret Bielema “poking” Ohio State over the years, Spencer replied, “I think he poked a lot of people.”
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