With the first six games and first bye week of the 2013 season in the books, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is unsure how to grade his team, despite its undefeated record.
“Where are we? I don’t know,” Meyer said Monday. “We are 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people. And I can feel, sometimes, pressure mounting on players when you (have a win) streak … And it’s my job, as a coach, and our coaching staff is it’s all about today.”
Despite not being able to judge the exact status of his team, Meyer said he believes the Buckeyes stack up well with the other top-ranked schools across the country.
“We are right there. I think we are a good team, I do,” Meyer said. “I think we are not as explosive as some of these teams … That’s something I want to be. If I had to grade us, we are not explosive from first to fourth quarter.”
Meyer’s coaching career record stands at 34-2 for games in which his team has had more than one week to prepare for an opponent (including season openers, bowl games and games following bye weeks), which is something he credits to his coaching staff.
“I’ve been very blessed to have really good assistant coaches, and I think we manage it well,” Meyer said. “I think that’s where my strength coach is very involved, or where I always seek guidance on how our team is doing. I think we are just very careful with how we manage everything.”
Meyer said he gave the players the weekend off to rest in hopes of having them all come back at full strength in preparation for the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
One of the players needing the break is redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall, who missed OSU’s 40-30 win at Northwestern due to what Meyer called a “tweaked knee.” Hall is set to practice this week, though, Meyer said.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton said getting a bye was a “bonus” for Hall.
“He made some progress on that knee, and just not enough for his comfort level to get out there and play against Northwestern,” Drayton said. “He’s feeling much better right now, and we have plans for him to practice this week.”
Another player returning to the fold this week is sophomore defensive lineman Tommy Schutt, who Meyer said “is a go” for Saturday’s game against Iowa after missing six weeks with a broken foot. Junior defensive lineman Joel Hale said the entire D-line will be happy to have him back.
“It’ll be good to fit him into the rotation,” Hale said. “Get some breaks for some guys like (junior defensive lineman) Mike Bennett. Get him in, get him moving and we’ll see how it works.”
OSU ran for 248 yards in the win over the Wildcats, but faces a stiff test this week against the Iowa defense, which ranks eighth nationally allowing an average of 88.5 rushing yards per game. Drayton said the offense as a whole takes that as a challenge, but that stat does not change OSU’s game plan.
“To sit there and say that we are going to go into this football game and not run the ball because Iowa is pretty good at (defending it) is not real,” Drayton said. “We are going to run the football, and we are going to trust our offensive line to get engaged. We are going to trust our running backs to play through contact. We’ll win some and we’ll lose some. We just have to maintain patience in that phase of the offensive scheme.”
A player who figures largely into the running game is senior running back Carlos Hyde, who ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries against Northwestern. That production earned Hyde Big Ten co-offensive player of the week honors, which is a far cry from what Hyde was doing the first three weeks of the season — practicing with the scout team while he served a three-game suspension for his involvement in an incident at a Columbus bar in July.
“I wish I can raise every back that way. I wish I could send every back down to the scout team for a few weeks,” Drayton said. “I think mentally, it was an unbelievable advantage for him, because No. 1, being a starting tailback a year ago and having to play a backup role and a service role to this football team on the scout team made him hungry, made him extremely hungry. It made him not take for granted the opportunities that he has in front of him.”
Drayton said he does not believe the offense as a whole has “clicked on all cylinders just yet.” Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown agreed.
“We can get a lot better. You can never reach your peak, especially at this level,” Brown said. “We still make a lot of mistakes and we see it on film and leave a lot of points on the field. Even last game I feel like we could have scored better in the red zone.”
Even with leaving those points on the field, Brown said the unit is “headed in a good direction.”
“If we keep working every day in practice and keep getting better and taking this game-by-game, I think that by the end of the year, it will be a ridiculous offense,” Brown said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Iowa at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium.