Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell made no excuses for the Buckeyes’ defensive struggles this season.
Meyer addressed the 49 points his team gave up to Indiana in Saturday’s 52-49 win, senior Zach Boren’s new role as a linebacker and the status of injured senior running back Jordan Hall.
“I could give you a million different excuses, for example, injuries, lack of experience at certain positions … we’re not into that, and I won’t accept that here with our staff and players,” Meyer said. “We don’t deal with that, we deal with improving.”
Fickell explained his attitude toward making excuses, and how the team can improve on defense.
“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses,” Fickell said. “We know it’s about big plays, and if we can limit big plays, we’ll be in a lot better situation.”
Meyer said he does not think his team can be successful in the long run if it does not improve defensively.
“When you get to where the air is rare, the real elite teams, at some point you got to play some real good defense,” Meyer said.
New position for Zach Boren
After three-and-a-half seasons as a fullback at Ohio State, Boren was converted to linebacker for Saturday’s game versus Indiana, and in his first game on defense, he led the Buckeyes with eight tackles. Meyer defined Boren’s move to linebacker as “temporarily permanent” on Monday.
One of the factors Meyer cited for moving Boren to defense was the injuries OSU has suffered among its linebackers. Redshirt senior starting outside linebacker Etienne Sabino remains out with a broken right fibula, while three other linebackers – sophomore starting outside linebacker Ryan Shazier along with freshman linebackers Josh Perry and Camren Williams – missed practice time last week due to injuries.
Meyer also said that the progress of the team’s tight ends, sophomore Jeff Heuerman and redshirt freshman Nick Vannett, made moving Boren to the other side of the ball possible.
“That move could not have been made if we didn’t have Heuerman and Vannett,” Meyer said. “Heuerman has been coming on … same with Nick Vannett is really coming on. The good thing is those guys are around here for a few years.”
Meyer said the team has had “conversation” about moving other players to linebacker, including redshirt senior defensive end Nathan Williams.
Meyer said Hall, who has missed the last two games due to a knee injury, is “not healing well,” and classified him as doubtful for Saturday’s game versus Purdue.
Meyer added that Nathan Williams, who missed the Indiana game with a concussion, is back practicing with the team this week.
Mystery of Curtis Grant continues
After starting the first three games of the season, sophomore linebacker Curtis Grant has been out of the lineup. Meyer addressed Grant’s progress, but did not give a definitive answer as to why his playing time has decreased.
“I think you’ll see more and more of Curtis Grant,” Meyer said. “Sometimes guys go through that learning curve of whether it be the style of defense, whether it be overall system of play, but I still think Curtis Grant’s going to have a fine career.”
Fickell said Grant is “still trying to pick it up.”
“He’s been here a year-and-a-half, and he’s still trying to figure it out,” Fickell said.
Champions of the week
Meyer named three players as co-offensive players of the week: redshirt junior left tackle Jack Mewhort, junior running back Carlos Hyde and sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. Hyde ran for 156 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, as well as 27 yards and a touchdown on two receptions, in Saturday’s win over Indiana. Miller completed 13-of-24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, with only one interception, and also ran for 149 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Meyer also gave champion recognition to five other players on the Buckeyes’ offense: Heuerman, redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Stoneburner, junior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown, senior right tackle Reid Fragel and redshirt junior center Corey Linsley.
Meyer said no defensive players graded out as champions. Redshirt senior cornerback Travis Howard, who blocked a punt which redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby recovered for a touchdown, was named special teams player of the week.
Fickell addresses pizza scandal
Fickell made news off the field last week when news broke that a 25-year-old pizza deliverer for Iacono’s Pizza in Shawnee Hills, Ohio, was apparently fired for making comments about OSU’s defensive play to Fickell’s wife when making a delivery to their home.
Fickell recycled an earlier quote in responding to a question about whether he and his wife played a role in the firing.
“We would never whine, we would never complain,” Fickell said.