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Urban Meyer Penn State week call-in show: Defense, special teams are a priority

Defense and special teams are clearly on Urban Meyer's mind as the team prepares for its Saturday night bout with Penn State.

Ain't scared of PSU
Ain't scared of PSU
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. -- Brad is another one of our rising new writers. Get used to see his byline around these parts and give him a hearty LGHL welcome.

Ohio State's explosive offense took a back seat to the Buckeye's special teams and defense on this week's Urban Meyer Call-In Show on 97.1 The Fan.

Coach Meyer opened by singing the praises of his defense, currently ranked No. 1 in field position for defense and allowing the offense to start, on average, on the 37-yard line.  Field position, while overlooked as a stat, has given Ohio State a great advantage in their last few games.

Meyer had compliments for special teams as well, noting that Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson are providing exceptional punt returns even while the rest of the team pressures the punter with blocking schemes.  Meyer was obviously pleased with the progress these units are making, and attributes this success to good coaching and good preparation.  There's "no better feeling in coaching" than seeing your teaching in practice on the field, said Meyer.  Meyer reiterated that his team's coaching and preparation have been the primary fuel for Ohio State's fast starts in the past two games.

Meyer highlighted several key aspects of Penn State that Ohio State must be prepared to face:  PSU has "very good personnel," said Meyer and "that first line of defense is very good."  Meyer called PSU No. 1 in the country in rush defense.  Meyer thinks PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg is a "future NFL quarterback," and expressed concern about PSU's three tight ends, who are "big, rangy guys" that make matchups with linebackers difficult.

Most notably, Meyer said Ohio State will have to face "a whole different demon" in traveling to Happy Valley at night.  This is a team focused on their next opponent; there is no hint that anyone is looking down the road to the much-anticipated matchup with Michigan State in three weeks.

Several OSU players earned Meyer's compliments on-air this week:  On Eli Apple, Meyer said the coaches "don't see the ceiling with him" yet, and that while he's "not all Big Ten yet," he's on his way with lots of potential.  Meyer called Nick Vannett the most improved player on the team.

As would be expected on this sort of call-in show, Urban was effusive toward Buckeye fans:  "You guys are out of your mind," Meyer said on multiple occaisons, but "that's part of being Ohio State.  We're leading the nation in fan support ... and there's not one person in Woody Hayes that doesn't understand that."

On recruiting. Meyer lamented the current state of offering high school sophomores.  Other schools are forcing OSU's hand by going after younger guys.  It's "out of control right now," Meyer said, but OSU has responded by getting more commitments in the 2016 class than normal (something Meyer "can't stand").  The downside of this early recruiting and offering is that Meyer can't possibly see all the guys before they offer them now, which he called a "shame."

On injuries, Devon Bogart is likely out again, needing surgery, which will be a big hit for the team. Jacboy Boren is cleared.  Cam Barrows is questionable, as is Rashad Frasier.  Corey Smith will be taking over on kickoff and is getting coached "hard" to block and disrupt.  Meyer said the team is moving guys up from scout team, so the scout team is getting a little thin now.

Meyer and team will look to continue their rebound run when they travel to Penn State for an 8 p.m. game Saturday night.