Ohio State: Meyer not happy with what he’s seeing in spring practices

Meyer: ‘It wasn’t a great day in any phase’

The Ohio State Buckeyes heard one phrase over and over again as they practiced Monday: “Strain to finish.”

Those three words echoed around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center throughout practice during the first hour, which the media was allowed to observe from the sideline. The practice looked like every other Ohio State practice. The players did indeed appear to be straining to finish plays.

» PHOTOS: Ohio State practices on Monday

Coach Urban Meyer, of course, is a harsher judge, and he didn’t like what he saw, pointing to sloppy play by the younger players as one of the problems.

“It wasn’t a great day in any phase,” Meyer said. “I’ve got to figure out why.”

Meyer hoped Ohio State would be further along in its sixth practice of the spring. Here are five other highlights from Meyer’s post-practice press conference:

Quarterback competition: Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell continue to battle for the starting quarterback job. While Haskins is the favorite to start, Ohio State coaches have held off on naming him the starter. They want to let the players compete this spring. Meyer said there has been no separation at this point.

“Just when you think there has then somebody steps up,” Meyer said. “I would anticipate what I’m seeing. Just a guy starts to move, another guy catches him or passes him, so I can’t say who’s one or who’s two.”

Injury news: Linebacker Tuf Borland, who started nine of the last 11 games in 2017, suffered an Achilles injury and will miss some time, Meyer said, though it is not expected to be a season-ending injury. Borland ranked fourth on the team last season with 58 tackles.

» PRO DAY COVERAGE: Former Buckeyes enjoy pressuresPhotos of workout

Improved linebackers: Linebacker Justin Hilliard has impressed the coaches. Meyer said the light is coming on for him as he enters his redshirt junior year.

“He’s one of our best special-teams players,” Meyer said. “He was a year ago. He’s a very accountable guy and he’s having a good spring. I’m a Justin Hilliard fan. I hope he continues to grow as a defensive player.”

Baron Browning, who played special teams as a freshman last fall, falls into a similar category to Hilliard in that he could see an expanded role beyond special teams.

“He’s as talented a linebacker as has walked through these doors,” Meyer said. “He’s a big freak that can do it all. He’s a great young man. He did not play very well early in the season, just was out of his comfort zone, and by the end of the season, he was really contributing on special teams and should have played some defense but just didn’t earn that yet. He’s got it all now.”

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Freshman standout: Linebacker Dallas Gant, one of eight freshmen to enroll at Ohio State in January, earned praise from Meyer.

“He’s probably going to play,” Meyer said. “He’s showed enough and we’re going to get him ready to compete on special teams. He’s one of those very mature players. He’s not where he needs to be but he didn’t have to be. He just needs to give everything he’s got and he’s doing that.”

Center position: Ohio State needs to find a new starting center after losing center Billy Price. On how that position battle is going, Meyer said, "Brady Taylor's doing a very good job. The other guys have got to do better. Josh (Myers) is swinging hard and Matt (Burrell), and we even took a look at (Joshua) Alabi in there a little bit."

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