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Three areas Urban Meyer covered in his weekly Ohio State press conference

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Urban Meyer speaks at the 2016 Student Appreciation Day on April 2 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Judy Won | For The Lantern

Urban Meyer speaks at the 2016 Student Appreciation Day on April 2 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Judy Won | For The Lantern

The Ohio State football team might be creating buzz with the contributions of incoming freshmen in spring drills, but there are still multiple questions about the team that will don scarlet and gray come September.

Following the morning session of spring practice on Tuesday, OSU coach Urban Meyer answered questions from the media about how the team is progressing with spring drills.

Here are three takeaways from Meyer’s time at the podium.

Assist from alumni

Many notable players departed Columbus after last season to pursue the next level, such as wide receiver Michael Thomas, cornerback Eli Apple and offensive tackle Taylor Decker.

Although these players will no longer step on the field for the Buckeyes, they are contributing in ways other than making plays.

“They’re really helping our young guys,” Meyer said. “(Thomas) comes here to coach.”

A big question looming over the heads of Buckeye fans is how the offensive line will handle the large transitional phase of losing three starters from last season. But spirits are high, Meyer said, especially since one of the highest-rated offensive linemen in this year’s NFL draft is mentoring the next men up.

“(Decker) is here for a lot of reasons,” Meyer said. “One is to lift and train, but also to help (sophomore) Isaiah Prince and (junior) Jamarco Jones.”

Jones is expected to start at left tackle this season for the Buckeyes, while Prince looks primed to be the regular right tackle.

Student Appreciation Day more than just fun

On Saturday, OSU hosted its annual Student Appreciation Day, in which students are invited to attend a practice held by the team and witness what it is like to suit up with the Buckeyes.

Although the event is fun for the spectators and usually results in good laughs — like when players such as redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett participate in the circle drill with a female student — there is a more serious side to the event, Meyer said.

“Last week was about chaos,” the coach said. “You have 3,000 students in there, loud noise the entire time, screaming and yelling.”  

When the Buckeyes take the field at Ohio Stadium, there is invariably more than 100,000 fans in attendance, making it a hectic environment. But, outside of the sounds of whistles and shouting coaches, most of their spring practices are quiet.

The use of the annual event to create a more distracting environment is something the coaching staff feels will better prepare the team for games where crowd noise makes relaying plays and audibles extremely difficult.

“We, on purpose, try to create situations like that,” Meyer said.

Linebackers look promising

OSU has gained a reputation for producing strong talents at linebacker, a trend Meyer said he feels will continue again this year.

He spoke volumes about the ability of sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker. Meyer said the Buckeyes could very well use the Cleveland native like they used Darron Lee, who bolted for the NFL after starting for two seasons. The Buckeyes also lost Joshua Perry at linebacker.

“Jerome Baker has the skill set,” Meyer said.

Baker, a 6-foot-1 four-star recruit, was not a starter last season and saw limited action on the field, registering three tackles. But after a string of good spring showings, Meyer said the coaching staff feels he can make a large contribution for the Scarlet and Gray this year.

The Buckeyes are working toward preparing the team for the upcoming spring game, which is set for 1:30 p.m. on April 16 at Ohio Stadium.

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