Meyer keeping watch on possible problems
COLUMBUS (AP) — Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes are busy these days.
Of course, they’re working their way through 15 spring practices.
But in the wake of last season’s national championship, they’re also in demand and making side trips to the White House, clinics and TV and radio shows. Everyone is telling them how good they were — and are.
A coach or player wants to smell the roses and appreciate the accomplishments without spending too much time looking in the mirror and taking on a sense of entitlement.
“That’s going to be the essence of 2015,” Meyer said of motivating a team that’s already collected a ring. “Because complacency on a title team can be really, really bad. (To get) a team that somehow has a little chip on its shoulder, like this team did, is going to be the essence to our season.”
Even though most of the star players are back and the Buckeyes will likely start the season as No. 1, Meyer and his staff must also get them to retain the edge they had at the end of last season.
All-America defensive end Joey Bosa doesn’t believe that’s a problem.
“I just want this team to be remembered as something great,” he said last week. “We definitely will for last year. But new team, new year, and we’re trying to repeat.”
Here are several potential trouble spots to keep an eye on this spring:
On Wednesday night, Meyer and some players threw out the first pitch at a Cincinnati Reds home game where they were mobbed by fans and media. Funny coincidence, because the Buckeyes have a good/bad situation brewing with their own starting pitcher, uh, quarterback.
Cardale Jones, who led the team to three postseason victories last year, is healthy and running the offense this spring. J.T. Barrett, who was brilliant taking over during the regular season, is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the Michigan game. Braxton Miller, the starter the three previous years and a two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year, is coming back from shoulder surgery.
For now, at least, there’s no concern here. But when all three are healthy, it appears one will be the starter and the other two will be less than thrilled.
“There’s so much going on right now, that’s way down the path,” said the new QBs coach, Tim Beck.
MISSING UP FRONT
The Buckeyes have a shortage of offensive linemen. Some are injured (center Jacoby Boren), some graduated (right tackle Darryl Baldwin) and a few others have been nagged by minor bumps and bruises. Starters Pat Elflein and Taylor Decker have not played every snap to limit the wear and tear on them.
As a result, it’s hard to get a firm grasp of how the offense has been playing.
“You want to have a bad practice, have a bad offensive line,” said Meyer said, who estimates Ohio State is working with nine or 10 fewer line candidates than will be on hand in August.
Defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Steve Miller have graduated, with Tyquan Lewis and Tommy Schutt the likely fill-ins.
Meyer says he’s disappointed with the D-line so far.
“We have to close our ears off,” line coach Larry Johnson said. “We just keep going. Coach is right on. We have to get better.”
WHO’LL MAKE PLAYS
Two of the most dependable big-play receivers from last year — Devin Smith and Evan Spencer — have graduated. So there’s an open casting call for game-changers.
Last year’s top receiver, Michael Thomas, is out after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. So that clouds the issue.
Jalin Marshall, Johnnie Dixon and Dontre Wilson could be the marquee guys. But no one knows for certain.
“When the bright lights are on, it’s your time to make the play,” receivers coach Zach Smith said. “Do you make the play? (We’re) really giving them the opportunity.”
It would be easy for the Buckeyes to get an inflated opinion of themselves. Thousands cheered them when they arrived back on campus and at a public celebration. Everywhere they go, they’re acclaimed for finishing No. 1.
But the coaches and players say they remain inspired and motivated.
“I don’t sense guys saying, ‘I don’t want to go today, I have to go get a trophy,”’ cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. “I sense guys wanting to be really, really good at what they’re doing.”
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