Back from the bye week, "most well-rested team in the history of college football" is set to host the Iowa Hawkeyes for the 92nd Homecoming game in school history. Head coach Urban Meyer, safeties coach/co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, and running back coach Stan Drayton spoke to the media about the team's schedule during the off week, as well as preparations for this weekend's game.
Without a game, the Buckeyes were unable to claim a fifth-consecutive offensive player of the week award. Instead, Meyer spoke about who graded out as a champion against Northwestern, as well as who was the team player of the week in each category.
After his three touchdown performance against the Wildcats, Carlos Hyde was named the team's offensive player of the game. Defensive lineman Joey Bosa was named the team's defensive player of the week after recording two sacks and a defensive touchdown. After blocking a punt for a touchdown, cornerback Bradley Roby was honored with special teams player of the week. All three received the same Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
Meyer noted that Bosa and defensive lineman Michael Bennett were the only two defenders who graded out as champions against the Wildcats. On offense, those who graded out as champions included lineman Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell, receivers Evan Spencer, Devin Smith, and Corey "Philly" Brown, as well as tight end Jeff Heuerman.
Without a game this past weekend, the players were given a light week of practice, as well as the weekend off. Asked what he did with his Saturday, Meyer said that he watched some football on his iPad during his daughter's volleyball game. Specifically, Meyer said he watched the Penn State game, refusing to mention that team up north.
With time to sit back and watch some of the other top teams in the country, Meyer did not hesitate to say how his team stacks up.
"I think we're right there. We're a good team", Urban Meyer on how his team stacks up against the nation's best.
Although he admittedly compared his team to the likes of Oregon and Alabama, Meyer stressed the need to take each game as they come. With multiple top 25 upsets on Saturday, Meyer noted that the Buckeyes won't have a chance to compete for a championship if they don't take it one game at a time.
The priority of the Ohio State offense is to run the football, but it was pointed out that Meyer has never had a 1,000 yard running back. Under Meyer's tutelage, Carlos Hyde was the closest back to reaching the plateau, recording 970 yards last season. This season, Hyde is on pace to break the mark, as long as he stays healthy and the Buckeyes reach 14 games. Meyer admitted that he's tired of hearing the statistic, and joked that he'd leave the press conference after he was asked about it.
Injuries have played a huge role in Meyer's lack of a 1,000 yard rusher, as many of his star running backs have missed significant playing time and would come just short of the mark. Likewise, injuries have played a role on Meyer's current squad.
After missing all or parts of three games, Meyer said that quarterback Braxton Miller is 100% healthy. After injuring his knee in the first quarter against San Diego State and subsequently missing the next two games, Miller returned to the starting role in wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern. Despite the fact that Kenny Guiton played well in his absence, or that he was seen warming up on the sideline when Miller was struggling at Northwestern, Meyer reiterated that Braxton is the starter.
On the defensive side of the ball, the unit will receive a boost with the return of lineman Tommy Schutt. After injuring his foot in preseason practice, Schutt will see his first playing time of the season. Likewise, running back Jordan Hall should be back for the game, according to Meyer, but that all depends how his knee reacts to practice. Hall missed the Northwestern game for precautionary reasons after tweaking his knee during the week.
The Buckeyes have a plethora of running backs, but Meyer has always been a proponent of putting his best athletes on the field. Speedy freshman Dontre Wilson is all that and more, but Meyer still feels that Wilson is a novelty. Meyer wants to get him more involved, but until Wilson learns to block and can find his niche in the offense, he'll continue to be used sparingly.
"He's a novelty and not a full time player." - Meyer on freshman running back Dontre Wilson.
One criticism of the Buckeyes' defense is the soft coverage by the defensive backs, but safeties coach/co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said that it's almost impossible to play press coverage every snap. While Withers said he'd love to press or play man-to-man every down, the players would be worn down if they had to play 80+ plays like that. Same goes for blitzing, as Withers noted that you'd like to be able to get as many guys chasing the quarterback as possible, but only certain situations call for it.
"If I had my druthers, we'd walk up and press every snap. But, that's not realistic." Everett Withers on his defensive philosophy.
Withers lauded praise upon Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown for his play in place of injured safety Christian Bryant, but also noted that there has been a few plays here or there that they'd like to have back. Although there has been a drop off in play without their star safety, the fifth-year senior's experience has been a plus. Also stepping up in the defensive backfield is freshmen Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell, who Withers expects to see playing time at free safety and nickel, respectively.
Overall, Withers said he's happy with the play of the defense. While they've given up a few big plays through the air, Withers echoed the sentiment of co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, saying that that the defense's first priority is to stop the run. Most of the big plays given up by the defense have been inside when they're in a zone defense and/or because of missed tackles. During the bye week, the team practiced what Withers called "trigger and tackle" defense, which practices the ability to find the receiver and make the tackle out of a zone set, so that an intermediate pass does not turn into a big gain.
Like all running backs and coaches should, coach Stan Drayton couldn't say enough about the play of the offensive line. Giving all credit for his unit's success, Drayton said that the running backs would not be able to make the reads they do or reach the second or third level without the men in the trenches.
Drayton also offered a unique perspective to the media as he also lauded the play of Carlos Hyde. Drayton felt that Hyde's stint with the scout team during his three-game suspension made him more hungry, and that the contact he received on the scout team readied him for game action. If given the opportunity, Drayton said he'd send each of his running backs down to the scout team for a few weeks and then use them when he felt necessary.