Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer wasn’t inclined to let ESPN have a behind-the-scenes look at his first preseason camp with the Buckeyes, who were featured in 30-minute shows over four consecutive days last week.
But he watched some of the “All Access” episodes the network did in previous years with Alabama and Oklahoma and figured the exposure could shore up the program’s tarnished image.
Coaches were wired for sound, and cameras followed the team during meals, meetings and practices, catching some private exchanges between the staff and players.
“I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want people in this meeting room,” Meyer said, referring to the place where he holds press conferences when the players aren’t around because it’s the only room large enough to handle the media horde covering the team.
“But I felt like with all the stings Ohio State took in the last 12 months — and I’ve taken — all the negativity, a lot of people have opinions about our program. That’s the only reason I did it.”
No one at OSU could have been unhappy with the finished product. Meyer displayed a comfortable rapport with quarterback Braxton Miller. Receiver Devin Smith emerged as a cut-up, doing impressions of the staff. And running back Carlos Hyde is a scary package of size and speed, once plowing through two staffers holding foam pads and flattening one of them while hardly trying, causing Meyer to giggle.
Viewers also saw that nothing but spirited practices will be tolerated.
But what couldn’t be detected is the progress OSU has made, especially on offense. Meyer labeled last week as a pivotal stretch, saying it would make or break the team in its quest for a positive start this year. Asked Monday which one it was, Meyer said: “It was a ‘make.’ If it was a ‘break’ I probably wouldn’t tell you.
“I like where we’re at right now. We’re not perfect, but guys are trying, and we’re doing decent. The area where we’re much improved is throwing and catching — much improved.”
Miller was 27-of-39 for 358 yards and two touchdowns in a scrimmage last week against the second-team defense.
“The receivers have stepped up,” Meyer said. “I’ve beaten them to death — and they probably deserved it. If you watched film (from 2011), they weren’t very good.”
Meyer said Corey “Philly” Brown has become the No. 1 wideout, while Smith, Jake Stoneburner and Michael Thomas are performing well.
“I think right now the offense will be fairly competent,” Meyer said. “I can’t say great because I don’t see that yet. But I see competency. I see the ball being snapped, I see an offensive line protecting and doing the right things, and the ‘skills’ are starting to improve, and it didn’t look like that the first two weeks (of spring practice).”
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