March 27, 2013

Meyer sees good and bad in spring practice

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Through six spring practices in his second season at Ohio State, Urban Meyer is like most coaches: he sees some things that he likes, and others that he's not so fond of in his team.



First, the good.



Meyer is a fan of the Buckeyes' run game, and rightfully so. Ohio State returns its top-six leading rushers from 2012, where the Buckeyes possessed the nation's 10th-ranked rushing offense.



A lot of OSU's success on the ground last season stemmed from the emergence of its offensive line, which will return four senior starters in left tackle Jack Mewhort, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Corey Linsley, and right guard Marcus Hall.



"I like 80 percent of our offensive line- starters. I still don't know who the fifth guy is," Meyer said on Tuesday. "Those four guys are tough guys. They've picked up right where they left off last year."



The battle for the Buckeyes' vacant right tackle spot has come down to true sophomore Taylor Decker and redshirt sophomore Chase Farris. Decker has received the majority of the reps with the Ohio State first-team, but apparently has not done enough yet to secure his spot as a starter six practices in.



"The sky's the limit for him," OSU offensive line coach Ed Warinner said of Decker. "He has unlimited football ability."



Running behind the Buckeyes' veteran line will be another senior, in Carlos Hyde. The fourth-year running back doesn't have much to prove this spring after rushing for 970 yards in 10 games in 2012, although Meyer would like to see one of his backups- whether it be Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn, or Warren Ball- emerge in the coming weeks.



"I couldn't tell you who our backup is right now," Meyer said. "They're battling pretty good."



Of course the OSU rushing attack will also receive a boost from the play of its leading rusher, quarterback Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes signal-caller ran for 1,271 yards in 2012, although Meyer admitted that he'd still like to see more from the junior-to-be as a quarterback this spring.



"His quarterback development is behind a little bit. As a player, it's not. He's a good player," Meyer said. "He's doing good. Not great, but he's doing very good. I thought he did good last year, you just wish you wouldn't have had to play him that first year. He just wasn't ready to play."



The second-year OSU head coach would also like to see more from his defense, where the Buckeyes will be replacing seven starters from a unit that came on strong in the second half of 2012. Gone from last season are all four starting defensive linemen for Ohio State, but it isn't necessarily talent that Meyer is concerned with replacing, so much as it is the leadership of departed captains John Simon and Garrett Goebel.



"I'm still worried about defense. I keep looking for Goebel and Simon and those guys upfront," Meyer said. "They're getting better though. [db]Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence- some talent- you just wish there was one or two older guys in there to help them out."



More than anything, however, this spring seems to be about developing depth for Meyer. Whether it's the lack of depth that makes up Ohio State's second team offensive line, or the walk-ons and underachievers who help comprise the Buckeyes' second team defense, it's clear that Meyer currently has little to lean on behind his starters.



That's not all that surprising, given the reduction of three scholarships that Ohio State has had to endure for the past two seasons as a result of NCAA violations committed by members of the 2010 team and former head coach Jim Tressel. But it's also a big reason why the end of Tuesday's practice session was spent with backups playing on both sides in physical goal line situations.



"Our twos are so bad right now, we just have to get as many reps as we can," Meyer admitted. "In spring practice you develop scheme, but more importantly, you develop guys."








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