Buckeyes have work to do on hurry-up offense
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Urban Meyer made his name in coaching circles because of his hurry-up, no-huddle, fast-paced offense.
So far through his first few spring practices at Ohio State, he's unhappy because the players aren't keeping up with his system.
He said it's been a recurring problem at every place he's worked.
"Oh yeah. At Bowling Green, Florida and Utah, absolutely," he said.
Meyer is quick to say the Buckeyes are getting better during spring practices, but acknowledges they have been slow to pick up nuances of the offense in particular. He's also displeased that the line play has been lacking on both sides of the ball, with the exception of a few players.
It's a tough transition for players to learn to play fast all the time.
"I don't care really if you make a mistake, just do it full speed," he said. "That's my biggest issue right now. Yeah, terminology's different, of course. You're going to make mistakes, guys might go the wrong way. But make it go so fast that it's OK. We'll fix that."
With two weeks remaining before the annual intrasquad scrimmage at Ohio Stadium, there's a lot left to do.
"You see flashes of it when everything's going right and it's incredible," offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. "You just have to trust in coach Meyer. Everybody's just really buying in. We're going to have to learn, definitely, but every day is a progression and we're looking forward to getting better."
The defense has been miles ahead of the offense so far. That's usually the case in the spring, but even more this season with an entirely new offense, terminology, sets and plays, not to mention a new blend of coaches and players.
One of those new coaches, co-coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner, looks forward to the day that his players have the timing down right and can just concentrate on the play.
"Sometimes when players are thinking about plays their technique isn't as sound and their mind is concentrating on footwork, hand placement, eye placement, body position, things like that," he said. "As they get more comfortable with the plays and don't have to think what their assignments are, then they're up at the ball thinking about what their technique is on this play and not what their assignment is. When you make that transition, that's when they'll get really good."
Ohio State is running almost the same defense it has run in the past, thanks in large part to the retention of Luke Fickell, who is back as defensive coordinator after spending the 2011 season as interim head coach.
The defensive line is also helped because it has two mainstays to build around in John Simon and Johnathan Hankins.
Meyer has already said that he'll override any team vote that doesn't have Simon listed as a team captain.
Simon, who led the team in sacks last year with seven, likes the pace of this spring's practices.
"I would say practices are a little more enthusiastic, a lot more fast tempo," he said. "It's good for us, that's what we need. It's making guys think on their feet and think fast. That's how games are played, so it's getting us prepared."
Mike Vrabel, a former Ohio State and NFL player now in his second year on staff, is coaching the defensive line this year after handling linebackers last season.
What does he expect most from the players?
"We're going to play physical, we're going to play square and we're going to play with violent hands," he said. "We do those three things, we'll be graded positively. If we're able to go from point A to point B as fast as we can, and compete for the length of a play, we're going to have a good D-line."
Meyer is succinct about how the lines have played so far during workouts.
"We have a first-string offensive line that is adequate. Obviously they have to be better than adequate. But they're getting better. The backups are not. We've got a problem," he said. "On the defensive line, I'm seeing we're developing a little bit of depth and some good players. John Simon is just playing lights out right now."
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