Ohio State coach Urban Meyer addressed the media on Monday for his weekly press conference to dissect the team’s victory 38-12 over Western Michigan on Saturday, as well as to look ahead to their next Saturday game against Indiana.
Here are three highlights from what he said.
As usual, Meyer announced his weekly “champions” based on their performances against WMU, and it was a positive for the offense. After not having a single offensive player grade out against Northern Illinois, the unit had seven players who met the standard.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas graded out for the first time in 2015 due to his six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt senior wide receiver Corey Smith received a champion grade, as well.
For the third time this year, junior running back Ezekiel Elliott graded out as he extended his streak of 100-plus yard performances to nine games.
Redshirt sophomore tight end Marcus Baugh was named a champion for the first time in his career for his efforts blocking on the perimeter.
The rest of the offensive champions came up front on the offensive line. Senior center Jacoby Boren, redshirt sophomore left guard Billy Price and senior left tackle Taylor Decker all met the standard, which is a big change from the past weeks as the unit had been under constant scrutiny for their weaker performances.
Defensively, champions were less abundant after all but one starter graded out last week.
Junior defensive end Joey Bosa was a champion for his five-tackle performance.
Senior defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was the defensive player of the game, after registering three tackles and for his surprising 20-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Cardale Jones and the underthrows
After Saturday’s win, Meyer was critical about the amount of underthrows on deep balls from redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones.
That criticism carried over into Monday as Meyer spent time focusing on the amount of them.
“We had about five, I want to say — at least six — underthrown deep balls, which is very uncharacteristic of our quarterbacks,” Meyer said. “That’s something that we’re going to work extremely hard on.”
Immediately after the game, the coach could not pinpoint what the cause of the underthrows was but on Monday, after watching tape of the game, he said it came down to a lack of technique.
“Fundamentally he wasn’t sound,” Meyer said of Jones. “The way he transferred back to front, dragging his back leg, and that’s (quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator) Tim Beck, and they’ll work at it.”
Meyer said it is a similar issue that then-redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled with early on last season, but after Barrett corrected that, the coach said “he started throwing beautiful deep balls.”
Jones did look fundamentally sound on some of the underneath and intermediate throws, Meyer said, but had he been able to connect on the long balls, “that was a 518-yard day.”
“Those are those days that if you hit those, that’s a big day,” Meyer said.
Not getting the help
Meyer praised Elliott’s performance, not only against Western Michigan, but this season in general.
“Zeke’s playing fantastic,” Meyer said. “He’s playing at a very high level. He’s tough. He’s playing hard without the ball.”
The coach said one reason that the running back might not be getting all the attention he deserves is because of lack of blocking, especially on the perimeter.
“I get that question every once in a while, ‘what’s wrong with Zeke,’ and I think, ‘What’s wrong with Zeke?’ Zeke’s playing fantastic,” Meyer said. “But a lot of his big hits last year were the perimeter blocking.”
Meyer specifically referenced the carry Elliott had where he hurdled a defender before being brought to the ground. He said he thought that it would have been “a legit SportsCenter play if we would have finished the block by the wideout.”
There was an improvement on the perimeter blocking against WMU, according to Meyer, but the coach still thinks they have a long way to go in that department.
“It was a little bit better,” he said. “This week was one of our better ones. Still not to the degree it was last year.”