Ohio State coach Urban Meyer began his Tuesday press conference on a negative note for the second straight week, but he stressed that’s not a reason to panic.
“We’re not very good right now, which is fine,” Meyer said. “It’s spring, we don’t have to be good.”
Despite the seemingly slow start to spring practice, it’s not all doom and gloom at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
While Meyer said the Buckeyes have “offensive line issues” because of injuries, he added that OSU has a few playmakers making a name for themselves in practice. One of those players, sophomore running back Curtis Samuel, has been good enough that the Buckeyes will do anything they can to get him on the field, Meyer said.
“We’re taking a look at Curtis Samuel as a receiver/H-back/running back, so he’s mixing time,” Meyer said. “He’s doing both. He’s a guy that we’ve ID’d as a top-five playmaker right now in our program.”
Samuel played in all 15 games last season, but was second fiddle to rising junior Ezekiel Elliott for most of the year. Samuel ended up third on the team with 383 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
Despite earning a start in place of Elliott against Illinois in OSU’s eighth game of the season, Samuel’s playing time tailed off during the Buckeyes’ run to the College Football Playoff National Championship.
But that could have been a result of Elliott’s play — he finished the year with 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground — rather than a decline in form for Samuel.
After Samuel earned just one carry in the title game, Meyer said Tuesday that Buckeye fans will see the Brooklyn, N.Y., native on the field early and often next year.
“The days of Curtis Samuel playing 10 plays are over,” Meyer said. “It’s our job to get him on the field for 40 or 50 plays. With (Elliott) coming back healthy and all that, to see him stand on the sideline and watch Zeke play is not right.”
As Samuel moves up the list of top OSU playmakers, his coach said the Buckeyes are trying to figure out who else has earned the right to touch the ball next year.
Meyer said wide receiver Michael Thomas is high on that list, but added that the redshirt-junior will undergo a sports hernia surgery. He said the surgery is “not that serious,” and mentioned that former Buckeye Ryan Shazier and current redshirt-junior safety Tyvis Powell both had the same procedure.
Along with Thomas, Meyer said redshirt-sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall is one of the top playmakers in addition to Elliott, and he said Samuel is “not far behind.”
Beyond that group, the fourth-year OSU coach said he and his staff are trying to figure out how other players like redshirt-senior tight end Nick Vannett and redshirt-sophomore tight end Marcus Baugh could fit in.
Among the players forcing their way onto the list this spring is sophomore H-back Noah Brown, Meyer said.
“Noah Brown had a very, very good day, too, so he’s moved from 15th on the list to whatever,” he said.
For now, the list of the Buckeyes’ top playmakers is likely to change, but Meyer said he hopes to have it all penciled in after the Spring Game.
“(At) the end of spring I’ll have that, what order they’re gonna touch the ball,” he said.
The Buckeyes’ annual Spring Game is schedule for April 18 at Ohio Stadium, before OSU opens its regular season against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va.