It’s long been understood that championships are not won or lost behind the podium.
That being said, there is, however, plenty that fans can glean from what a coach or player might say at events like the Big Ten Media Days, which took place on Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.
Here are five things that fans can take away from the comments of the Ohio State representatives who took part in the 2014 Big Ten Media Days.
1. The OSU defensive line has historic potential
Following breakout seasons from senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett and sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa, the OSU defensive front could be one of the best coach Urban Meyer has ever laid his eyes on.
“2006 was our best defensive line,” Meyer said, referring back to his time at the University of Florida. “If they all perform and stay healthy, this one could be on that level.”
For reference, that 2006 defensive line that Meyer referred to boasted defensive end Jarvis Moss, the 17th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft to the Denver Broncos, and defensive end Derrick Harvey, the 8th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars, both of whom helped Florida to beat OSU in the 2007 National Championship Game.
If Meyer believes it, Bennett does too.
“The fact that coach Meyer said it means that it’s pretty real,” Bennett said following Meyer’s comparison. “But as much as we have the potential to be it, potential doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do it, so we have to keep working.”
2. Braxton Miller is the undoubted face of the Buckeyes and has a lot on his mind heading into his final season
As if there was any doubt who the most important player on the OSU roster was heading into Monday morning’s press conferences at Big Ten Media Day, Meyer removed all doubt.
Without prompting or without a single question tossed his way, Meyer’s first comment addressed his senior quarterback: Braxton Miller.
“Our quarterback, I know I’ll get asked that question, is ready to go,” Meyer said. “He’s full-speed, in the best shape of his life.”
While Miller may be the face of Big Ten football, having won both the Big Ten offensive player and quarterback of the year the past two seasons, the quarterback feels as if injuries derailed what he believes might have been a Heisman-caliber 2013 season.
“It could’ve been a different situation at the end of the season,” Miller said. “I fell off the Heisman radar, injury wise. That’s what happens, you miss a couple of games and your name gets quickly pushed aside.”
Health may not necessarily be in his control, but Miller is certainly using last season’s happenings, as well as added talent around him, to push his name back into the national limelight.
“I’ve been in the Heisman race the last two years, so I have to take advantage of what we’ve got in front of me this year,” Miller said. “If I’m in the Heisman situation again, hopefully, I get to walk across that podium and accept that award.”
Ultimately, however, Miller said that following his tumultuous, four-year career at OSU, rather than being remembered as a Heisman Trophy winner, his goal is more team based.
“Being in the situations I overcame as a freshman and sophomore, it’s not easy,” Miller said. “I just want to go out with a nice run this year and be known as a champion.”
3. Miller already knows the targets that could elevate him to those Heisman heights
With the Heisman talk lingering around No. 5, Miller seems to have developed quite the chemistry with a few potential receiving targets, starting with senior tight end Jeff Heuerman.
“Them guys is 6’6, 260, man, you know you can’t miss those targets,” Miller said. “They’re a mismatch for any linebacker, any corner, any safety, so I’m going to make sure they get that ball early this year.”
While the tight ends seem to be the primary targets for Miller, and therefore for opposing defenders as well, Miller’s favorite wideouts seem to be under-the-radar players who haven’t quite made an impact for the Buckeyes thus far.
Miller thinks that some of his receivers will emerge from the bottom of the depth chart and become playmakers for the Buckeyes this fall.
“Corey Smith, Mike Thomas, the guys on the outside, ” Miller said. “Those are the guys who are going to make some people like, ‘wow, where have these guys been at?” and it’s going to be fun.”
Miller isn’t alone in his belief in his receivers, however.
Coach Meyer, long a detractor of the receivers at OSU, finally seems to be confident in the pass-catchers to the outside.
“I’ll be disappointed now if the receivers aren’t able to carry their own weight,” Meyer said.
4. An unproven offensive line remains a huge concern for the Buckeyes
A season after losing four starting offensive linemen, one of whom was a captain, the Buckeyes are searching for answers on the line.
In his opening remarks to the media on Monday Meyer made it clear that the protection up-front is alarming.
“The offensive line is No. 1,” Meyer said of his concerns heading into the new season. “I was a little disappointed with what happened in the spring. We just didn’t see the growth we would like to see.”
If the offensive line is to grow from a weakness to a strength, who will lead the charge?
Meyer believes it is the veterans that will ultimately decide the direction of the group.
“Chase Farris, Antonio Underwood, Jacoby Boren, the new guy from Alabama Chad Lindsay, Darryl Baldwin… there’s a common theme there,” Meyer said, listing the offensive linemen who’ve yet to make a true impact for the Buckeyes. “They’re all nice players, nice people, who’ve been around for a while and haven’t played, so we have to get something out of them.”
5. Despite glaring uncertainty, hope springs eternal for the new OSU pass defense
Ranked 112th out of the 125 FBS teams in terms of pass defense, the OSU defensive backfield was a disappointment for the Buckeyes last season, calling for a revamping.
Meyer brought in former Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash to oversee the defensive remodeling, and thus far Meyer seemed to be pleased with the complete overhaul.
“Chris Ash has done an admirable job installing a brand new pass defense,” Meyer said in his Monday presser. “We completely have blown up and started from scratch an area that we were not very strong in.”
Bennett has seen the merits of the move as well, but feels that the play of the defensive backfield is impacted by the defensive front as well.
“I feel like we’re a lot more aggressive,” Bennett explained. “The DB’s are a lot more aggressive. The d-line needs to get to the quarterback more or else we’re going hang the DB’s out to dry.”
With the new defensive schemes of Ash under wraps and a potentially top-rated defensive line ready to contribute, the defensive backfield may be headed in the right direction, but is still a giant unknown heading into training camp.
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