OSU gets short break before starting stretch run

Coach Urban Meyer gave them Sunday off — but he waited until seeing how they played against Illinois on Saturday before granting them a respite.

“As I explained to them, the bye weeks, there’s no rights around here. That’s earned time,” Meyer said after the 52-22 win over the Illini. “If we didn’t play well, we would have been in (Sunday) working and going all week like a normal work week. But those guys earned it. I’m proud of them. Two big ones left.”

The 10-0 Buckeyes, who climbed one spot Sunday in the Associated Press Top-25 into a tie for fifth with Georgia, conclude the season by playing at Wisconsin and then at home against Michigan. They’re trying to become the sixth unbeaten and untied team in OSU history.

The players will do some weight-lifting today and then practice full tilt Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before downshifting over the weekend.

“We’ve got to get their body weights back up,” Meyer said. “This is the first year these kids have to deal with a semester (OSU had been on a quarter system). They’re hitting a wall, a lot of them, on how long they’ve been in school.

“We can ‘un-hit’ the wall for a week academically, get that in order, and get your weights up and bodies right.”

The Buckeyes may have welcomed the scaled-down week, but Meyer won’t have any problem getting them back into work mode. Wisconsin and Michigan have their attention.

“We finish the season with two big games, which I’m actually happy for,” sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said. “You don’t want to end the season with two easy wins. It kind of doesn’t have the lasting effect if you finish with two easy teams. Closing it with two hard teams is a challenge. I’m up for it, and I know our team is up for it.”

Bench brigade: The Buckeyes were able to pull their starters for almost the entire fourth quarter for the first time this season, giving some true freshmen valuable playing time.

“I was disappointed we didn’t get one or two of those early in the year, but we were so lousy it was hard to do that,” Meyer said.

“I’m glad to see it because there’s no way you can simulate that in practice. (Running back) Bri’onte Dunn, he’s a little loose with the ball, but I thought he ran very hard. (Right guard) Chase Ferris earned his right to get in there. (Right tackle) Taylor Decker earned his right to get in there.

“(Defensive lineman) Adolphus Washington is starting to knock that baby look off his face and has started playing. It’s good to see. It’s priceless to be able to do that.”

The Buckeyes have lost 15 bowl practices because of the postseason ban, which could hamper their development for next year.

“That’s going to be hard for us to recoup that. You can’t just say those are gone. Somehow you’ve got to recoup them,” Meyer said. “That’s why I’ve been going so hard on Sunday with the young players.”

Shazier shines: Ryan Shazier had two tackles for loss against Illinois and has 11.5 this season. He also had 14 tackles, putting him at 99 this year. He’s second in the Big Ten in both categories.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore is an undersized outside linebacker at about 225 pounds, but he can cover ground quickly and is one of the team’s hardest hitters.

“He’s got as much talent as probably any linebacker in this league,” OSU co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. “I think putting that talent together with knowledge of the game and growth and understanding of the system is definitely something he’s improved in. … The ceiling is really high for him.”

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