Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has never wanted his spread offense to be linked to those fast-paced attacks where the quarterback slings the ball all over the field, a system sometimes dubbed “basketball on grass.”
Meyer has said he would fire any assistants who characterized the offense that way. He was kidding (presumably), but that pass-oriented style goes against his core values as a coach.
He believes in spreading the field and putting playmakers in space, but he also wants a team that’s tough-minded enough to run between the tackles, and he’s finding that balance this year.
The Buckeyes are 12th in the nation in rushing with a 280.6-yard average. And Meyer gives most of the credit to his offensive line, which includes seniors Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall and sophomore Taylor Decker, a Vandalia-Butler graduate.
Meyer said that group is able to thrive whether it’s in grind-it-out mode or in a hurry-up, no-huddle attack.
“Right now, the strength of our program is that offensive line,” Meyer said. “Those kids, especially in up-tempo situations, are in great shape. That’s kind of their forte. I’d take these four seniors with me next year and the year after. They’re exactly what we’re looking for.”
So is running back Carlos Hyde, a 6-foot, 235-pound senior who rushed for 168 yards and three TDs on 26 carries against Northwestern last week.
“I’ve had a couple big backs before. We had DeShawn Wynn (5-11, 238) at Florida, and we had Marty Johnson (6-0, 240) at Utah. I do like a big back,” Meyer said.
“Boy, (Hyde) ran really hard and physical. I think if you have a Dontre Wilson and a Carlos Hyde back there, that’s exactly what you’re looking for — a speed guy along with a big bruiser.”
The speed guy, though, was MIA at Northwestern. Wilson was averaging 9.5 yards on 15 rushes this season and another 9.5 on 11 receptions. But the 5-10, 180-pound freshman had only one touch against the Wildcats — a 19-yard kick return.
Meyer said Wilson still has some developing to do.
“He’s got to become a football player. Right now, he’s a novelty,” he said. “We’re out there to run a swing pass and we (automatically) throw it to him. He’s got to learn to block. He can’t get the ball every time he’s in the game.
“That’s why he didn’t play much Saturday. We’re working real hard on the bye week to make him a football player, not just a hood ornament that shows up out there.”
Downshift: Meyer said the bye week is coming at a good time for the players to recover physically and for the coaches to take a break mentally.
They are coming off two tense wins and were blind-sided by the season-ending ankle injury of safety Christian Bryant and a knee issue that kept running back Jordan Hall out of the Northwestern game.
“With C.B., that’s still not settled yet (internally),” Meyer said. “That was a stinger. And then Jordan Hall not being able to play — those are two ‘juice’ players that were yanked out of your lineup in the locker room. That’s the worst part of this whole game, and it takes a toll.”
Meyer plans to take a day to see his daughter play volleyball at Georgia Tech. He also started to replenish by attending the Presidents Cup on Sunday.
“That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Here’s Jack Nicklaus in front of me, and Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson. I sat at tee one and watched all the groups come through.”
Rough stretch: Cornerback Bradley Roby, a fourth-year junior, came back for one more season despite the chance to turn pro last year, and his last two games haven’t enhanced his draft position.
He was burned repeatedly by Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis and beaten on a couple of big-gainers by Northwestern.
“I’ve talked with him a lot,” Meyer said. “He’s a guy who’s had a lot of distractions in his world. I’ve coached guys in his situation before, and it’s relentless with the people who have been in his ear. ‘Do this, do that.’
“You see it all the time in college football. The best thing he can do is become a great practice player. There’s a correlation where if you’re a great practice player, you play great. And he’s improved his practice habits.”
Worth noting: In the Sagarin ratings for all college football teams this week, one of the Buckeyes’ opponents is ranked lower than Dayton. Florida A&M is rated 223rd, UD 214th.