Going into Homecoming Week, the Ohio State Buckeyes roll back into Columbus, Ohio with a 4-1 record. On Monday, Urban Meyer talked with the media and answered questions from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Up next for the Buckeyes are the Maryland Terrapins, who will come into The Horseshoe with a 3-1 record, and Meyer gave us a glimpse of what to expect from his team this Saturday.
Let’s break down the three biggest points from the presser, and see how they’ll impact Saturday’s clash between the Buckeyes and Terps.
1. “Jordan Fuller is playing at a very high level right now. And the corners are getting better and better and better but we're also realistic.”
Since the primetime loss to the Oklahoma Sooners at home, the Buckeye pass defense has come under scrutiny from pundits, critics, and various people on Twitter. But since that loss, Meyer’s defense has gotten better against the pass.
Against Rutgers, the defense shut down the Scarlet Knights' receiving corps, allowing zero receptions from the guys who are supposed to catch the ball.
If there was a star of the pass defense, it looks to be Jordan Fuller, as Meyer mentioned him by name on Monday afternoon. It’s expected that the defensive backs will get better each week, but after seeing what the past couple of seasons have produced—in terms of talent going to the NFL—there is a sense of pumping the brakes a little bit. Saying the staff was realistic about the expectations of what can be done to prevent the pass is refreshing, as Meyer knows that progress can’t be made overnight.
With Fuller getting the praise, he may very well be the person the secondary looks to; in a sense, he’s another leader on the field. Against Rutgers, Fuller led the team with eight tackles, and he also tallied .5 tackles for loss.
The Terps are averaging 173.8 passing yards per game, so there will be some tests against this secondary—but not as much as others in the Big Ten. However, when Max Bortenschlager starts slinging passes, expect Fuller to be in the vicinity to make the tackle. Maryland will make some plays in the air, but with the corner play getting better (as said by coach Meyer) and Fuller flying around on the field at a high level, don’t expect too many Baker Mayfield-esque performances against the Buckeye pass defense.
2. “...Jalyn and Tyquan got the strength and the body type to get in there.”
Dre’Mont Jones missed the Rutgers game due to scraping his leg in the locker room and needing stitches to close up the wound. That post-practice injury will take the defensive lineman out of the Maryland contest, too.
Have no fear, though; the Buckeyes have options at who to move into that defensive tackle position. Jalyn Holmes, who was listed with Sam Hubbard on the defensive end portion of the depth chart prior to Jones’ injury, slid into the role against the Scarlet Knights—and looks to be a possible guy for this week against the Terrapins.
Additionally, Tyquan Lewis can move into that position, leaving Nick Bosa at DE. Lewis is the reigning Big Ten conference defensive lineman of the year, and his stats last season backed up the accolade: eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. This season, Lewis tallied two sacks in the season opener against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Holding the point of attack by the offense is the main goal of a DT, and Holmes or Lewis can do exactly that. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is one of the best coaches out there when it comes to stopping an offense. He has the talent on this team to help fill the void left by Jones, and so far, things seem to be going well.
But looking at this Saturday’s afternoon game with UMD, look for Holmes or Lewis to help clog the rushing lane—and maybe even force an errant throw from the QB.
3. “Coach Durkin was my graduate assistant...He coached with me at Bowling Green. He was a GA that I was ready to make full time when he was 21 years old. I tried to hire him a couple of other times.”
Paths will cross on Saturday, as Maryland’s DJ Durkin and Meyer will be meeting on opposite sidelines, again. Last season, Durkin’s first in College Park as a head coach, the Terps got flipped onto their back by the Buckeyes in a 62-3 defeat.
With this Maryland team a lot better than they were in 2016, things may get interesting inside The ‘Shoe. Already, Durkin’s scored a road victory against Tom Herman’s Texas Longhorns. And just last week, Maryland punctured a hole in PJ Fleck’s ‘row the boat’ mantra by beating the then-unbeaten Golden Gophers at their place, 31-24.
Meyer knew back in his Bowling Green days that Durkin was the real deal. Now, with his feet firmly planted as a head coach—and holding his own with the recruiting in the Washington D.C. area—things are a tad different than last season with Durkin.
Against his assistants in head-to-head battles, Meyer is an astounding 10-1. The only loss came back in 2010, when Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated Meyer’s Florida Gators in Gainesville, Fla. Will Durkin score the second win against the master? History doesn’t side with him, but the trajectory of where this Maryland program is only going up with him running the show.