Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer said last week would be a “make or break week” for his team.
The week ended in a “make,” said the 48-year-old, first-year Buckeyes coach.
But what if it wasn’t that?
“If it was a ‘break’ I probably wouldn’t tell you,” he said before looking down with a thin smile.
Meyer had a comical response to that question, and also discussed the team’s improved passing offense, ESPN’s recent all-access TV series and the continuing battle at the right tackle position during a Monday press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Less than a day after running back Jordan Hall, fullback Zach Boren, linebacker Etienne Sabino and defensive lineman John Simon and Garrett Goebel were named as OSU’s captains for the 2012 season, Meyer said some of the five seniors selected by their teammates to lead the Buckeyes were obvious – notably Simon and Boren, who Meyer said received the most votes.
Not as obvious, Meyer said, is Goebel, who arrived in Columbus in 2008.
“I think I made the comment, I didn’t know Garrett. In the first four months I was here, he was just kind of a quiet guy that, you know, doesn’t look real good when we’re running around cones,” Meyer said.
Goebel, who is listed at the Buckeyes’ starter at nose tackle, is as tough as nails according to Meyer, though.
“I love the guy,” he said. “He’s who we want at Ohio State.”
Meyer added Goebel is a no-nonsense “tough guy” who plays hard.
Similarly, Sabino, who Meyer said had the third most votes, has come a long way.
“I didn’t realize he didn’t play that much,” Meyer added, “because he acts like a veteran player and he’s playing pretty good ball for us.”
Throwing and Catching: Improvement in the Passing Game, Offense
Specifically, Meyer said the Buckeyes have made strides in the passing game.
“We couldn’t have gone much the other way,” he said. “But they are much improved.”
Meyer admitted he’s “beaten” his receivers to death and “they probably deserved it.”
“If you watch film, they weren’t very good,” Meyer said.
The former Florida coach said that his receiving corps isn’t where it “needs to be,” but the improvement makes him enjoy being around them.
“They weren’t competing in the spring. They’re competing now,” he said. “I enjoy being around guys like that. It means something to them, which is kind of neat to see.”
Junior Corey “Philly” Brown, Meyer said, is the Buckeyes’ No. 1 receiver right now, though Meyer also praised sophomore receiver Devin Smith and redshirt senior tight end-turned-receiver Jake Stoneburner.
In fact, Meyer said sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller threw for 350 yards in the Buckeyes’ closed inter-squad scrimmage last Saturday.
Offensively, Meyer said he likes what he sees, but there’s much room for improvement.
“I think right now the offense will be fairly competent. I can’t say great because I don’t see that yet,” he said. “But I see competency, I see the ball being snapped correctly, I see an offensive line protecting and doing the right things. The skills are starting to prove and it didn’t look like that way the first two weeks in the spring.”
Meyer addressed ESPN’s All-Access series of four 30-minute episodes, a SportsCenter series and an hourlong ESPN special leading up to OSU’s opener in less than two weeks.
Several of episodes have already aired, and Meyer said he gave ESPN the green light for “All-Access” after initial caution regarding the program.
“I wasn’t going to do it, because I don’t want people in this meeting room,” he said referring to the Buckeyes’ team meeting room in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
But in response to what Meyer called the “stings” the football program has taken over the last 12 months, he said he felt the behind-the-scenes look at OSU was worthwhile.
“We all – I’ve taken stings,” Meyer said. “You know, there’s just negativity. A lot of people have opinions about our program. That’s the only reason I did that.”
Right Tackle Struggle
Meyer said he still can’t name a starter at right tackle on his offensive line between senior tight end-turned tackle Reid Fragel and freshman Taylor Decker.
“One at times looks like a freshman cause he is and one looks like a guy that just moved from tight end,” he said.
Meyer said it’s imperative that he sees consistency and toughness out of either Fragel or Decker.
“It’s fresh in my mind, they got slapped around a little bit today,” he said.