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Urban Meyer pleased with strong start by Ohio State’s secondary

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After losing 3 starters from last year, it’s hard to find fault with 7 interceptions through 2 games.

NCAA Football: Ohio State Spring Game Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

“Did I think Malik Hooker would be playing at the level he’s at? I wouldn’t be telling you the truth. At this level? I thought he’d be a very good player for us and grow into that position. He’s growing real fast - same with [safety] Damon Webb.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via Nicholas Piotrowicz, The Toledo Blade

It’s hard to blame Urban Meyer if he had concerns about the secondary heading into this year after losing Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, and Tyvis Powell. Through two games Meyer has been able to breathe a little easier since the Buckeyes in the defensive backfield have exceeded expectations. Malik Hooker has intercepted three passes, which is tied for the NCAA lead, and Marshon Lattimore was just named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his two interception performance against Tulsa.

So far Ohio State’s defense hasn’t given up an offense touchdown and a lot of that is due to the work of the secondary. Meyer knew there was plenty of talent with the new starters, he just wasn’t sure how long it would take for those players to put it all together. This marks the first time in school history that Ohio State has intercepted seven passes through their first two games. Now Meyer is hoping the secondary can continue their hot play as they’ll travel to Oklahoma and be tasked with trying to shutdown Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield and the rest of the Sooner offense.

“It’s a great situation. We have a lot of depth right now. They’re all performing at a high level. We’re just going to rep them and rotate them until they separate themselves. I’m playing 10 guys right now, which is kind of unheard of, but it’s a great problem to have.”

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith via David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News

Coming into this season one of the biggest question marks about this Ohio State team was who was going to step up at wide receiver. So far the Buckeyes have had plenty of players trying to make their mark in the passing game, with 11 players having caught at least one pass through two games. Six of those players hadn’t caught a pass coming into this season. With so many players making plays, wide receivers coach Zach Smith is riding the wave until some of the receivers separate themselves from the rest of the group.

One player who has done just that so far is h-back Curtis Samuel, who already has caught 14 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns. The junior is also getting it done on the ground as well, rushing for 162 yards in two games. Samuel is on pace for 2,406 total yards, which would fall just short of Keith Byars school record. Wide receivers Noah Brown and Terry McLaurin have each caught four passes, and if the Buckeyes continue to get contributions from guys such as K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell their offense will be tough to slow down.

“I feel way more involved. I feel my role every week is huge. I prepare different. I practice different. I do everything different than I have in the past because I play a lot more plays.”

Ohio State h-back Dontre Wilson via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

This Dontre Wilson is what Ohio State fans were expecting to see when he came to the Buckeyes as a four-star recruit from Texas. After having to deal with numerous injuries throughout most of his Ohio State career, Wilson is finally healthy, and has put up big numbers in the first two games of the year. Wilson is averaging 10 yards per touch and has already scored three touchdowns. Now the Buckeyes are going to need Wilson to continue to roll up numbers like that this weekend when they head to Oklahoma for a showdown with the Sooners.

Wilson might have a little extra pep in his step on Saturday night since his hometown of DeSoto, Texas is just a three-hour drive from Norman, so he’ll have some family and friends in attendance. So far this year, Wilson and Curtis Samuel are creating a lethal combination at h-back, which defenses haven’t found a way to stop. As a senior, Wilson is one of the elder statesmen of the Ohio State offense and he’s just hoping to stay injury-free and help Ohio State take home another championship this season. While Wilson’s breakthrough for the Buckeyes is coming later than most expected, at least it is better than not coming at all.

“Meyer’s young Buckeyes will take on Bob Stoops’ No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners in Norman on Saturday, a battle between two of the most consistent winners in college football. The schools have combined for 55 top-five finishes (OU 30, OSU 25) and the two coaches have combined for 13 (Meyer seven, Stoops six).”

Bill Connelly, SB Nation

At this point people don’t need to be told just how important Saturday night’s clash between Ohio State and Oklahoma will be in terms of the national title picture, but what will end up deciding the game? With the talent both teams will have playing on Saturday, there isn’t a lot of room for error for either team. If Ohio State has any designs on winning on the road, they’ll have to run the ball with more efficiency than they did against Tulsa. The Buckeyes will need more from Mike Weber, as the redshirt freshman will be going up against the tough defense he has faced in his young career. Even though Houston was able to take down Oklahoma, most of their damage was through the air, as the Sooners were able to bottle up the Cougars rushing attack. An x-factor for Ohio State could be h-back Curtis Samuel, who can not only run the football, but also can catch it out of the backfield if the running game isn’t working.

With Oklahoma having Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon in the backfield, it’s a bit of a surprise they don’t utilize the rushing game that much. With Ohio State’s youth on the defensive line, this might be a prime opportunity for the Sooners to unleash their rushing attack. At least for the Sooners if they are going to look to pass more, they have a quarterback like Baker Mayfield to lean on.

The final key which could decide the game will be field position. If Oklahoma forces Ohio State to punt at least the Buckeyes have a weapon like punter Cam Johnston to try and pin the Sooners deep in their own territory. The Buckeyes can’t afford to give Oklahoma a short field, because the Sooners are too talented not to capitalize. No matter what the outcome ends up being in this game, fans should be in for a treat when they settle in to watch on Saturday night.

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