Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer feels a little jolt from two talented freshmen will help his offense improve in his second season.
While the 2012 season chugged along and Ohio State dodged a couple of pitfalls, Urban Meyer wondered about his offense. It was a unit that averaged 37 points a game and led the Big Ten.
Still, Meyer referred to his receivers as a “clown show.” It was obvious that Meyer, who loves scoring points and winning with flash, never seemed happy with the offense. Most postgame Saturdays, he looked like he just ate a cheap fish dinner as he pondered the hiccups in his offense.
When Ohio State opens the season today against Mid-American Conference foe Buffalo, the Buckeyes do so as a favorite to play for a national championship. They are ranked second in both polls, and Meyer has a track record of delivering better results in his second year as a head coach.
If quarterback Braxton Miller can throw it as well as he runs it, and the receivers aren’t clowns and the running backs — including two untested freshmen — prove to be as good as the hyperbole of preseason, how many points can five-touchdown favorite Ohio State score today?
“If we eliminate the mistakes,” receiver Corey Brown said, “a lot.”
Meyer admitted the entire playbook wasn’t available to co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman last season. Ohio State lacked the game-breaking speed Meyer grew accustomed to playing with at Florida. Miller gave the offense a C last year, “just average,” he said.
“Teams just tend to be much better in their second year,” Meyer said. “If you have the players.”
It is fair to think Meyer believes he does. His eyes light up when he talks about freshman running backs Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott. Miller has a better grasp on the offense and he has sharpened his oft-criticized passing mechanics.
The speed the freshmen have injected into the team reminds Meyer, somewhat, of his 2006 Florida team.
“The ’06 team injected a bunch of speed and playmakers,” Meyer said. “I see similar qualities. You watch our practices and you look again to see what number that is. I feel a little bit of a jolt that’s going to help us.
“Our theory is you don’t redshirt. If you don’t play, it’s because you’re not good enough. It’s not because we’re saving you for five years down the road.”
First thing is, Ohio State has to handle Buffalo decisively. If the Buckeyes struggle against a middle-of-the-road MAC team, they will have question marks.
Last year, they played looser because there were no expectations. A 12-0 season ended without a bowl game or conference championship. It ended the same as a 5-7 season would have.
This year, Ohio State will have to play with the pressure of success and the expectations that brings.
Page 2 of 2 - “Last year, we were hunting,” safety C.J. Barnett said. “Now, we’re the hunted. We have a target on our backs. It’s tougher when everybody is gunning at you because you’re Ohio State. Now you’re undefeated and you have national championship expectations from everybody. It’s gonna be tougher. We always have to be on guard.”
That could give the team the edge they lacked for the first half of last season. There were close calls against Cal and Michigan State. The Buckeyes had to score 52 points just to beat Indiana in the middle of the season. Heck, the Buckeyes were down 7-0 to Miami (Ohio) in the opener a year ago. If that happens today, Meyer may breathe fire on the sideline.
In order to get where the Buckeyes believe than can go — Pasadena in the national championship game — Meyer will have to do the improbable: Win his first 25 games as OSU’s head coach. The halfway point of 25 wins could be passed today against Buffalo.
“We’re going into the season with a bigger chip on our shoulder,” Barnett said. “Now we know what we can fight for and what we can compete for at the end.”