Mondays are the days Urban Meyer holds his press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. As camp wraps up, the focus now shifts to the Week 1 foe, Indiana. Meyer spoke for a little more than 11 minutes to the press, unveiling some tidbits of information about what this Ohio State football team will look like as they prepare for the Hoosiers.
Let’s break down the four biggest points made by Meyer during the presser.
1. “[J.K Dobbins will] play. He's earned that right. We're going to call his family this week and tell them to get ready to watch some football because he's going to play.”
The running back position at Ohio State has seen legend after legend handle the rock. This season seems to be no different, as Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins appear to be the guys who will be counted on in the backfield.
Weber, who rushed for 1,096 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, appears to be over the hamstring injury he sustained back in July. When asked about Weber, Meyer said that the redshirt sophomore RB is doing well; when asked if Weber is good to go in the game, Meyer replied, “oh yeah.”
Combine Weber with the fact that Dobbins is doing all the right things leading up to the start of the season, and a running back tandem is in the works. Dobbins was the first of the new Buckeyes to lose their black stripe—he had it removed back on Aug. 4.
Dobbins give the backfield the added depth to take it to the next level. Quarterback J.T. Barrett also becomes a viable running threat, making it very likely that there will be a pair of fresh legs ready to take off down the field at a moment’s notice.
Last season, Barrett and Weber both rushed for 100-plus yards apiece against Michigan State. More options on the ground are a good thing, but added depth is even better—something that OSU has.
2. “Bowen, if you're singling out players, would fall into that category of really, really improved.”
For the rushing and passing games to excel, not only do the RBs and QB have to make plays, but the offensive line has to give them time to make the plays.
Over the offseason, Meyer and the coaching staff have worked with the O-line to make them better, as last season saw the line come under fire for failing to live up to expectations against Clemson. With position battles still happening, the right guard position may be occupied by redshirt sophomore Branden Bowen at some point.
During the presser, Meyer said Bowen was “in the mix” to be named starter at RG. Last season, Bowen saw action in 13 games—with extensive series in three of those games. However, those three games (Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland) were huge blowout victories.
The RG position battle also includes Demetrius Knox and Malcolm Pridgeon in the mix. Either way, whoever gets the nod will have an important role in keeping the OSU offense functional.
3. “[Kevin Wilson] goes quick. He spits plays out real fast. Him and Ryan Day work very good together.”
This is the first time that Kevin Wilson and Meyer have been part of camp at OSU. Wilson, who coached at Indiana for six seasons from 2011-16, is now the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes. Combined with a new QB coach in Ryan Day, who was in the NFL coaching circles before coming to Columbus, this Buckeye offense has new guys on the sideline calling shots.
Hearing that both are working well together highlights an important point for this Scarlet and Gray coaching staff: hitting the ground running.
Last season, Indiana went 6-7 with Wilson as their coach, but most of their losses were close losses. The Hoosiers didn’t really get blown out in any of their games in 2016. With Tom Allen now in charge at IU, he’s got six starters returning on offense and three starters on defense returning from the Wilson Era. The Hoosiers will be out to get a big win in Week 1—especially being at home.
If the OSU offense is running on all cylinders, meaning that Wilson, Day, and the rest of the coaching staff are all on the same page, then Ohio State should be able to get the win in Bloomington, Ind. on Aug. 31.
4. “A little more emphasis on return game. That's an area that we deemed inadequate a year ago, obviously. We worked very hard on it.”
Like the offensive line, the Buckeyes' staff spent time over the offseason revamping the special teams. Last season, the longest punt returned for OSU was 27 yards, and no punt returner had an average greater than seven yards per return. The highest return average belonged to Dontre Wilson, who brought back punts for an average of 6.3 yards.
After being signed by the Los Angeles Chargers, Wilson is no longer part of the Buckeyes. Meyer said that K.J. Hill and Demario McCall would be rotating as the punt returner. Last season, Hill did not return any punts, but he did bring back a kick return for six yards. McCall has more experience on returning punts, as he brought back three punts during the 2016-17 campaign.