Meyer Lauds OSU TE’s as Best He’s Ever Had
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Move over Jake Stoneburner and Aaron Hernandez, it’s a new day.
Stoneburner is one of only two starters Ohio State must replace from an offense that averaged over 37 points per game last season, but head coach Urban Meyer believes he has just the guys to do that.
During a live appearance on ESPN's SportsCenter on Tuesday, Meyer praised Ohio State’s two returning tight ends, calling them “the best he’s had” at the position in more than 25 years as a college football coach.
“And I had Aaron Hernandez at Florida,” Meyer said Tuesday during his appearance with Rece Davis and Chris Spielman as part of College Football Live's Spring Bus Tour.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I have two legitimate guys that are very good blockers, very good receivers in Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman, so we're going to utilize all of our personnel.”
The only question with Heuerman and Vannett will be how much the Buckeyes are able to feature the tight end this season as they look to add more speed to the offense. Either senior Jordan Hall or one of the incoming freshmen will likely fill the hybrid slotback role Ohio State’s offense lacked in Meyer’s first year at the program, but he is also hoping to have improved play from the rest of the wide receivers in 2013.
“Our concerns were legitimate. If you think about last year, we were at times – I shouldn't say 'non-functional', that might be a little harsh – but there were a couple of position groups that were non-functional,” Meyer said Tuesday.
Corey "Philly" Brown
Photo by Jim Davidson
“This year after spring practice, I think we have identified a legitimate All-Big Ten candidate at receiver, and that's Philly Brown.”
Devin Smith, Ohio State’s other starting wide receiver from a year ago has “shown flashes” according to Meyer, but he needs to work on being a more consistent threat in the passing game.
The same goes for most of the other guys who will be competing for playing time at the wide receiver position this fall.
“Then you've got Mike Thomas and Even Spencer, and some other guys who need to continue to improve,” Meyer added.
“Chris Fields has also earned a spot on our team.”
None of those guys will accomplish much this season without the help of star quarterback Braxton Miller. He set a school-record for total yards last season as a sophomore, but Miller’s play was nowhere near the level of what Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman anticipate for him as a junior and senior at Ohio State.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He came in, had a brand new system and got player of the year in the Big Ten conference,” Meyer said, “when in fact he was a guy that ran really fast, was a very talented player, but we weren't very good at the receiver and quarterback position, as far as just the fundamentals of throwing the ball.
“Also his leadership skills were average.”
That’s something Meyer has mentioned a number of times when it comes to Miller, who has more of a laid back, play-it-cool type of personality. That’s not what Meyer is looking for out of the leader of his offense and the leader of his football team.
“He's taken quantum leaps as far as leadership abilities,” Meyer said Tuesday on ESPN.
“He's communicating well. He's encouraging. The ultimate judge of a leader – I always call it the ‘Michael Jordan (effect).’
“Michael Jordan, I don't know him, but to think of the personnel he had around him to win those championships, he raised the level of play of everyone around him, and that's where Braxton has really improved this spring.”
The Buckeyes have spent a lot of time developing leaders at each position group this spring so that those guys can lead the way for the younger guys during the summer, when the football coaches are not allowed to work with the players.
Most of the emphasis this summer will continue to be on fundamentals, which Meyer believes were severely lacking from a team that somehow managed to get through the 2012 season with unblemished record.
“There's no doubt that we can improve,” he said Tuesday.
“We certainly didn't have all of the answers fundamentally. Probably the most disappointing thing of last year, we've always taken great pride as a coaching staff of always being very fundamentally sound, and being one of the best teams in the country as far as fundamentals and technique, and we weren't.
“And that really bothered me in the offseason, and it bothered our staff. I made sure it bothered our staff.”
So Meyer took his staff on a mission to get there in 2013.
“There's a saying around here, ‘We're chasing something,’ ” Meyer said.
“We're chasing to be the best fundamental team in America, and I think we've made some great strides this spring.”
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