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Ohio State football: What are Buckeyes doing to combat penalty problems?

Among Ohio State’s tasks for the second half of the season: Cut down on penalties. 

“That’s always a concern,” coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. 

The third-ranked Buckeyes are 118th in the country in penalties per game (8.5) and 119th in penalty yards per game (80.8).  

>>RELATED: Unbeaten, imperfect Ohio State looks toward second half of season 

"I’m not one of those guys that goes crazy on penalties, especially when you’re playing aggressive, but that’s far too many,” Meyer said. 

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“That’s something we’ve addressed constantly. The ones you can’t have are in the kicking game. That’s when we lose our mind because those are the most devastating penalties there are and we’ve had some of those.” 

The miscues played a role in Ohio State falling behind (before ultimately rallying to win) at Penn State two weeks ago, and the Buckeyes had eight penalties accepted against them for 82 yards last week while beating Indiana. 

“So the obvious answer is we work extremely hard and usually fundamentals, technique and effort overcomes penalties,” Meyer said. “That’s something we continue to strive to work on.” 

Other topics discussed on the call with reporters: 

  • Asked about sophomore linebacker Pete Werner, Meyer said, “He’s an elite player. An elite person. Very gifted, very talented guy. Big, fast, extremely smart and he really cares so he’s got an incredible future.”
  • For the umpteenth time, Meyer said he is not surprised at the talent quarterback Dwayne Haskins has displayed this season, but Meyer is impressed with his ability to “direct traffic” before the play and help with setting protections. 
  • As he did a week ago, Meyer replied to a question about Ohio State’s superior depth by saying he wished the Buckeyes had more. However, he acknowledged it could have played a role in comeback wins against TCU and Penn State. “Great question and certainly I don’t feel the depth like other people say we have. We’re dealing with some injuries, etc., but there’s two things: one is the depth and quality of players that can roll in there and the other is how hard our guys train and work to prepare for second half, tight ball games and obviously they’ve performed well.” 
  • Minnesota brings a top 20 defense (statistically) to Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Beyond that, Meyer said the Golden Gophers are excel at preventing big plays and “we’re kind of a big play offense, so that’s the biggest challenge I see right now.” 
  • Young offensive linemen Josh Myers (of Miamisburg), Wyatt Davis, Nicholas Petit-Friere and Josh Alabi are coming on. When senior Brady Taylor returns from injury, he will also provide more depth for the front. 
  • More two-back sets are not the solution to Ohio State’s short-yardage woes, though they have been discussed. “We’ve talked about everything,” Meyer said. “That’s not the issue. The issue is everyone is packed in there on us so somehow we have to get out of that. We can try to throw the ball more, try to get on edge like we did against Penn State when J.K. scored as opposed to slamming it up in there all the time. Those are all things we’re talking about.” 
  • He acknowledged he would like to get more out of the pass rush. “Chase (Young) has been really good. (Jonathon Cooper’s) been really good. Dre’Mont (Jones) we need a little bit more. I think (Wayne grad Robert) Landers getting healthy will give us a little bit of a jolt in there. Not what we expected. Obviously when you lose a guy like Nick Bosa that’s going to be a tremendous hit. But the other guys have worked really hard. It’s not what we expect but it’s getting close.” 
  • Obviously getting a better pass rush can head off some of the team’s problems in the secondary before they can be exploited. “That’s an obvious answer. 50 percent of pass defense is pass rush and the other half is coverage. I think we’ve got to get better at both.” 
  • Brian Hartline has done a good job as interim receivers coach. He has a unique group “as far as leadership and accountability and love for each other.” 
  • Meyer probably hasn’t been watching, but he is not surprised Denzel Ward has been awesome so far for the Browns. He mentioned he also saw Sam Hubbard had a big game for the Bengals last week. “Denzel is one of our all-time favorites here.” 
  • Defensive lineman Malik Barrow is working his way back from injury but not ready yet. 
  • He is really happy with left tackle Thayer Munford. “He’s doing very well academically and is obviously a hell of a player, so I can’t say enough good things about him.”

During his portion of the call, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck noted the biggest challenges Ohio State presents “are everywhere.” 

The check out everything both coaches had to say on our podcast: 

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