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Big Ten Media Days 2014: Urban Meyer on fixing Ohio State's secondary

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Urban Meyer has the technology. Can he rebuild the Buckeye secondary in time to make a title run?

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Problem

Despite putting out what was arguably one of the best offenses in the country on a weekly basis, the Ohio State defense was not a unit that regularly inspired confidence in 2013. The secondary was the clear weak point on that side of the ball--the Buckeyes allowed an average of 268.0 passing yards per game, and gave up 2.2 touchdowns per game through the air (per Sports Reference). Scoring points? Allowing points? We're a long way from Tresselball, folks.

A few notable examples come to mind when considering how the Buckeye secondary failed to show up in some key moments last season. Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis made mincemeat of first-round NFL Draft pick Bradley Roby (and his help defenders in zone packages), going off for a cool 207 yards on 10 catches, plus a touchdown. Clemson's Sammy Watkins boosted his own draft stock immensely by shredding a depleted OSU defense for 227 yards on 16 catches, with two touchdowns to boot. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd threw for five TDs in that one.

Urban Meyer is aware of this deficiency.

"We've completely blown up and started from scratch in an area we weren't very strong with," Meyer said.

Gone are senior safeties Christian Bryant (Rams), C.J. Barnett (UDFA), and Corey "No, not that one" Brown (UDFA). Gone too is Roby, snapped up by the Denver Broncos at the earliest opportunity. Linebacker Ryan Shazier, another first-round pick, will also be missed--Shazier racked up 16 pass deflections in his OSU career, and returned his lone INT all the way to the house.

The Caveats

Perhaps 2013 was an anomaly rather than a harbinger of things to come. Bryant broke his ankle in the team's first B1G game, and was sidelined for the remainder of the year. Roby battled nagging injuries all season, and missed the Orange Bowl (the same game that the Boyd-Watkins combo ran roughshod on the defense). Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell also seemed prone to running packages that didn't fit the strengths of his personnel--the Buckeyes played a lot of zone coverage, which didn't utilize the press-man coverage skills of Bradley Roby.

Looking to the upcoming season, Meyer was instrumental in the offseason hiring of former Buckeye foe (and Bret Bielema disciple) Chris Ash. Ash will serve as the defensive co-coordinator and defensive backs coach. Can Ash provide the boost to the secondary that they so sorely lacked last season?

"Chris Ash has done an admirable job of installing a brand‑new pass defense that we're going to test and see how it goes during training camp. Went very well during spring," Meyer added.

The Lineup

Meyer, Ash and co. will have some solid talent to work with as they rebuild the secondary in 2014. New starters Tyvis Powell (SS) and Vonn Bell (FS) made names for themselves last year with one huge play apiece: Powell picked off the would-be game winner against Michigan, while Bell made one of the most athletic plays in all of football to intercept a pass against Clemson. Doran Grant, a solid replacement for Roby when needed last year, will step into the CB1 role. Highly-touted freshmen Erick Smith, Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, and Damon Webb will all look to make an impact off the bench as early as possible.

The Prognosis

Coach Meyer, for one, thinks there's no easy answer in terms of Ohio State reaching their full potential, both in the secondary and beyond.

"Well there's many variables. Chemistry and trust and development of young players are by far number one."