It’s finally here: Game Week.
With that being said, Monday brought another Urban Meyer press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio. Meyer answered questions surrounding the look of his offense, as well as what to be expecting on Thursday night when Ohio State battles Indiana.
Let’s breakdown the four biggest points from Meyer’s presser.
1. “At the X, it's going to be Ben Victor and Austin Mack. At the H, it's Parris and K.J. Hill and at the Z, it's Terry and Johnnie Dixon. So there's six in the rotation.”
If there were any questions about how the receiving corps were going to operate in the opener, Meyer gave us the answer: six guys are being incorporated in the game plan.
This strategy may seem like the football version of too many cooks in the kitchen, but this concept may be the better option right now for the offense. Last season, the passing game struggled; it seemed that the further the passes were from the line of scrimmage, the more mistakes, overthrows and interceptions that occurred.
With six different receivers having a chance to catch the next J.T. Barrett pass, someone will have to rise up. That may’ve be the grand plan all along from Meyer and wide receiver coach Zach Smith. Going into 2017, the top three receivers from the 2016 campaign (Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson) are gone. The next highest returner in receiving yards is Marcus Baugh, but he’s at the tight end position. Of the six that are in the WR rotation, K.J. Hill brought the most yards (262 yards) from last season.
The six receivers have experience, but none of them have been “the guy” for Barrett to throw to. That will change come Thursday. Expect all sorts of passes to be made, testing what this receiving corps can do.
It’s easy to take for granted the receiving prowess of guys like Devin Smith and Michael Thomas. Now, the Buckeyes are looking for the next great wide receiver. After Thursday night, we’ll have a good idea of the improvements Zone 6 (the nickname of the WR position) has made, as well as who the go-to guy may be heading into the showdown with Oklahoma in Week 2.
2. “Since that conversation I had with him, whoever deserves it is going to be captain, and it will be on the wall, down the hallway, and you'll forever be known on your resumé as a captain of the Ohio State University football program.”
While there will be a revolving door at who will be lined up at WR, the same can’t be said for who will be leading the team as captains. Nine Buckeyes got the honor as captain, and that raised a question: is nine too many?
Meyer’s take is, actually, a pretty good one: if the team selects the guy who they think should be a captain, then that person will be a captain. Whether that’s two or nine, the ones that are deserving will get the honor.
During the presser, Meyer said that he talked to Mike Vrabel, a former All-American at OSU and former member of the coaching staff, and learned that Vrabel was never named a captain. While he wasn’t named a captain, Vrabel was still a leader for the Buckeyes.
Flash forward to today, and it makes sense why there were nine guys picked to be captains. Meyer reinforced the fact that if you do the work and you are a leader, then you may get an honor bestowed.
Becoming captain wasn’t an overnight epiphany. These nine guys have put in the work, and now, they are leaders of an OSU team that has a real shot at becoming national champions again.
3. “[Branden Bowen’s] the most improved guy, one of the most improved players on our team. Something clicked with him,”
We touched on two big points: a passing game that is improving, and leadership. Now we focus on a third big point that will help the offense immensely if it goes well: a strong offensive line.
Branden Bowen was named the starting right guard for Thursday’s game, and he may be a name we hear more and more as the season progresses. Bowen put in some serious work in the offseason, as he’s skyrocketed up to the starting job at RG.
Last season, he saw action in 13 games. However, the games where he saw more extensive time on the field were in blowout contests like Nebraska and Maryland. Getting the starting job off the bat this season is a testament of the hard work paying off, especially considering that at one point there were seven guys in the running for the position.
The RG spot is the only position on the O-line that didn’t return a starter from 2016. Bowen has big shoes to fill, but with Meyer’s praise on Monday, it seems as if that won’t be a problem.
4. “To say that he mastered our offense, he's done that quite a while ago. It's just the timing, the execution and the trust.”
J.T. Barrett came up in the first point about the receiving corps. Now, he is the main point. Barrett is now heading into year four at the helm of the quarterback position at Ohio State—and enters his third year as a captain on the football team, a Buckeye first. However, his passing ability has been all over the place. He’s shown flashes of greatness for touchdowns, but also ill-advised passes that have been picked off.
A part of this may be because of the new receivers he’s had to deal with. Meyer hit the main points about timing, execution of the pass, and trust as being the components of what will make Barrett better at QB.
The rotation of six WRs may be tricky at first in the game setting, but Meyer may be foreshadowing the breakthrough needed to make Barrett an elite QB on the college level this season. It’ll take some time (i.e. games) for the problems to be ironed out, but if Barrett makes an improvement in the timing and execution of his passes, and increases his trust of the WRs, then expect a year of more records being broken—with a chance of a Heisman.