Urban Meyer put any speculation about the statuses of redshirt junior defensive back Bradley Roby and senior running back Rod Smith to rest Saturday following Ohio State’s practice.
Meyer has suspended the two players for OSU’s season opener against Buffalo on Aug. 31 for separate incidents. He said Smith will miss the first game for “a violation of team rules” and that Roby’spunishment comes from being involved in an incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar on July 21. Initially charged with misdemeanor battery, Roby’s charges were downgraded to disorderly conduct on Friday.
“I don’t know anything yet,” Meyer said. “He’ll be suspended one game just because there is an issue.”
Meyer said he planned to suspend Roby for more than one game, but that changed after seeing a video from that night and noting thatRoby did not appear to assault anyone as the initial report indicated.
“He was there, and he shouldn’t be there,” Meyer said. “Will he play in the first game? No.”
Meyer said Smith had a good chance to be the starting running back after fellow senior running back Carlos Hyde was suspended for three games. That all changed once he broke a team rule, though.
“If it wasn’t for a mistake in February then he’d be maybe the starter,” Meyer said regarding Smith. “It’s his last call. It’s the 11th hour for Rod Smith. So he needs to perform.”
According to Meyer, there are only two ways in which players will learn their lesson when it comes to breaking the rules. Those include taking away playing time and taking away scholarship money.
“They’ve been told. So there’s two ways,” Meyer said. “You can take their money and take their playing time.”
Meyer also confirmed the end of freshman tight end Blake Thomas’ career due to a neck injury. Junior defensive lineman J.T. Moore is changing positions and has been practicing at tight end.
Following the team’s scrimmage Saturday morning, Meyer said his team is not yet ready to play a game, saying there were only “probably four or five units” ready out of the nine on the team. The linebackers are among his biggest concerns.
“The linebacking position is one of the units that I’m talking about. We’re not there yet,” Meyer said. “We’ve got some work to do.”
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said he thinks his unit can do a much better job than what it’s doing right now. He said the biggest problem is a lack of confidence from the younger players at the position.
“I feel like a lot of those guys are just over thinking and stressing about a lot of things and they’re just not going 100 percent right now,” Shazier said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “Once we can get them to react I feel like we will do a way better job.”
Shazier said the offense is playing considerably better than the defense at this point in camp, and also noted that the offensive skill players are better than they were last year.
Sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry said the unit’s leadership skills need to improve.
“We’ve got a ways to go from the leadership standpoint,” Perry said, referencing the linebackers. “We’ve got to be able to bring them (the younger players) along as well as get some of the older guys in the room to play their best, too.”
Meyer spoke highly of sophomore defensive end Noah Spence, mentioning how he has “extremely high character” and plays hard all the time.
Spence, who said he has put on about 25 pounds this offseason, said he is trying not to make as many mistakes as he did last year in preparation of becoming a full time starter.
“I’m trying to become more of a leader on our defensive line,” Spence said. “Knowing more about the defense, all the schemes and everything like that are going to let me be able to play faster.”
Junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said “it’s been good” to see Spence start leading on the field. Bennett said his confidence in the defensive line is very high.
“I think that the bond that we have as a D-line is really the biggest thing that’s going to push us forward this year,” Bennett said. “The talent we have on the D-line is really good and I’m not too worried about it at all.”
When asked for his thoughts on the Buckeyes being ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press’s preseason poll, Bennett said it does not change the team’s mindset.
“Preseason doesn’t matter at all,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t matter until the fourteenth game is played. Take it one game at a time. You can’t go 2-0 unless you’re 1-0.”