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Meyer’s Arrival Masks Negative Vibes at OSU

Coach is known for winning

August 22, 2012
By RICH GIBSON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

COLUMBUS, Ohio - No Big Ten title? No BCS bowl game? No problem?

The Buckeye Nation must somehow comprehend and live with the NCAA's ongoing punishment which finds Ohio State in a most unusual and unique position.

Normally, much unrest would be evolving regarding an upcoming season that has the Buckeyes basically playing to regain a measure of national respect the program lost in the wake of 2010's alarming scandal that resulted in wholesale suspensions to many of the team's high-profile players.

Not to mention, of course, the ultimate demise of once highly respected head coach Jim Tressel whose 2011 Memorial Day resignation marked the end of a dark era for Scarlet & Gray supporters.

Interim head coach Luke Fickell was - in essence - burdened with the unenviable task of attempting to right the ship and provide a quick fix a year ago.

Owners of a 6-3 record heading down the homestretch, OSU failed to win another game, the adversity starting with an unexpected 26-23 overtime setback to Purdue.

Fact Box

Sept. 1: Miami, Ohio12:30 p.m.

Sept. 8: UCFnoon

Sept. 15: Calnoon

Sept. 22: UABTBA

Sept. 29: at Michigan StateTBA

Oct. 6: Nebraska8 p.m.

Oct. 13: at Indiana8 p.m.

Oct. 20: PurdueTBA

Oct. 27: at Penn State6 p.m.

Nov. 3: IllinoisTBA

Nov. 17: at WisconsinTBA

Nov. 24: Michigannoon

PREDICTION

Win 10, Lose 2

In Week 11, Penn State invaded the Horseshoe, emerging with a 20-14 triumph. Under Fickell, the Buckeyes produced a spirited battle against Michigan at Ann Arbor, only to suffer a 40-34 loss in the regular-season finale.

Though just 6-6, Ohio State accepted a bid to the Gator Bowl where it again came up short, this time absorbing a 24-17 loss to Florida to complete a rare 6-7 campaign.

Ordinarily, offseason fallout would have permeated, resulting in months of bad vibes from Akron to Zanesville.

Fortunately, prior to the Gator Bowl setback, Ohio State had already announced the hiring of one Urban Meyer, the only candidate interviewed by a five-member search committee.

Through 10 full seasons as a head coach, Meyer is a sterling 104-23, a mark that includes two national championship seasons at Florida.

Thus, despite carryover sanctions directly affecting 2012, a distinct air of prominence has returned following a relatively brief absence.

Many players are labeling 2012 a 'redemption' year for the program which figures to be highly competitive with a total of 15 returning starters.

Meyer's teaching and leadership skills are unquestionably solid. The Ashtabula native commands immediate respect as dozens of his players have already confirmed.

It's no secret, Meyer fully intends to have OSU in the title hunt a year from now. In the interim, the 2012 Bucks are expected to succeed with many preseason polls projecting a Top-25 ranking.

Sophomore Braxton Miller became OSU's full-time quarterback in Game 4 last season. Though the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Huber Heights native struggled with consistency at times, Miller finished with 1,159 passing yards (13 TDs).

Additionally, he scrambled for 715 more yards and seven scores. Miller earned the Big 10's Freshman of the Year award.

While Miller will earn the vast majority of snaps, 6-2, 206-pound junior Kenny Guiton is his primary backup. The Texas native is in his fourth year with the program but has played limited snaps.

Meyer is counting on top running back Jordan Hall to recover from a late-June accident that resulted in foot surgery. The 5-9, 200-pound Hall should be on track for a September return.

Playing behind the departed Boom Herron last season, Hall ran for 405 yards and a pair of scores. The western Pennsylvania native also landed 12 passes for 114 yards and three scores. Hall will also be OSU's primary kick return specialist.

The run game is further enhanced by junior Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235) who has 707 career rushing yards, including 566 as a sophomore.

Veteran Zach Boren (6-0, 246) again shows the way at fullback. The Pickerington native, used last season exclusively as a blocking back, has 27 career starts. Meyer has indicated Boren will be employed as a receiver on occasion. Another senior, 6-3, 245-pound Adam Homan spells Boren.

OSU's passing game is due for an upgrade, particularly considering the Bucks return their top three terminals from 2011.

Sophomore Devin Smith (6-1, 196) could well evolve into a consistent big-play threat. Last year, the Massillon Washington prep product hauled in 14 passes, good for a team-leading 294 yards and four scores.

Smith has plenty of company on the perimeter with classmate Evan Spencer perhaps primed for a breakout campaign.

Son of St. Clairsville native and ex-Buckeye running back ace Tim Spencer, the 6-2, 205-pound Evan made his first collegiate TD reception one for the highlight reel, pulling in a one-hand, 33-yard scoring grab vs. Akron in the season opener.

Spencer was forced to miss the final two weeks of spring practice because of a shoulder injury but is expected to be a full strength for Sept. 1's season opener against Miami, Ohio.

Junior Corey "Philly" Brown can also be an impact go-to target for Miller. The 5-11, 186-pound wideout totaled 205 yards and a score in 2011.

Junior Chris Fields (6-0, 197) adds solid depth. The northeast Ohio native has 21 varsity games on his resume and contributed 114 yards in receptions a year ago.

At tight end, senior Jake Stoneburner is back in good graces following offseason disciplinary action initiated by Meyer.

Stoneburner (6-5, 245) could see his 2011 numbers (14 catches, 193 yards) elevated in Meyer's spread formation.

In addition to Stoneburner, two additional returning starters up front include guards Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell.

Mewhort (6-6, 310) takes over at left guard for the graduated and now Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Adams. Mewhort should be among the Big 10's premier linemen.

Norwell, a 6-6, 304-pound junior, is a Cincinnati Anderson prep product and has played in 24 games during his first two seasons.

Junior Marcus Hall (6-5, 317), an All-Ohio prep star at Cleveland Glenville, enjoyed a productive spring campaign and figures to inherit the starting post at right guard.

Three-year senior letterman Reid Fragel has converted from tight end to right tackle and put on 20 pounds (6-8, 297) in the process.

The Buckeyes needed someone to take over at center following the departure of 49-game starter Mike Brewster.

Youngstown (Boardman's) Corey Linsley, a 6-3, 292-pound junior, appears to have answered the call. Linsley has 16 games on his resume, mostly as a reserve guard or tackle.

Chillicothe's Drew Basil returns and will handle all placekicking duties for 2012. Basil is coming off a solid sophomore campaign when he led all Big Ten kickers in field-goal percentage (84.2), connecting on 16 of 19 attempts. He nailed 36 of 37 PAT attempts.

Serving as long snapper is 6-2, 230-pound junior George Makridis of Warren.

Redshirt senior punter Ben Buchanan enters his senior season coming off a productive 2011 where he averaged 41.3 yards, fifth best in the Big Ten.

Buchanan is a Westerville Central High prep product. Ex-Bellaire head coach John Magistro now heads up the Westerville Central program.

Fickell was retained as part of Meyer's staff and will serve as co-defensive coordinator. The return of eight regulars should place OSU's defense among the Big Ten's elite.

Four three-year lettermen help show the way - none finer than senior defensive end John Simon, a relentless pass rusher who compiled seven QB sacks a year ago.

"Ohio State is getting better because John Simon is leading the way," Meyer recently praised of the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney product.

Meyer went on to say the 6-2, 260-pound all-Big Ten standout, "harnesses the power of the elite." Simon is a 2012 frontrunner on several postseason watch lists including the Bednarik and Nagurski.

Junior Adam Bellamy (6-4, 292) is expected to line up at right end. Bellamy saw extensive time last season and a 10-game starter.

Bellamy will often split line duty with 6-3, 250-pound redshirt senior Nathan Williams returning to active play after going down with a knee injury one game into the 2011 season.

Nose tackle Garrett Goebel is a fifth-year senior who has 39 games on his ledger, including 13 as a starter. The 6-4, 285-pound Illinois native is a former backup to current Steeler Cam Heyward.

Johnathan Hankins fills the bill at a tackle post and is expected to be among the Big 10's premier players at his position.

Hankins (6-3, 317) is exceptionally agile for his size and ranked fourth in tackles (67) last season.

The Buckeyes' linebacking corps features an experienced senior (Etienne Sabino) and a pair of rising young guns in sophomores Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier.

Sabino (6-3, 237) should take on a leadership role following a junior campaign in which the south Florida native logged five starts and totaled 62 tackles.

Meyer speaks highly of both Shazier and Grant and for good reason. The 6-2, 226-pound Shazier played in all 13 games last year, starting the final three. He recorded 57 tackles, most by a true freshman since Andy Katzenmoyer.

Grant, meanwhile, came out of 2012 spring drills listed as OSU's starter at middle linebacker. The Buckeyes' braintrust is confident Grant's improved play leads to an exceptional fall campaign.

Ohio State's secondary is easily a team strength, led by fifth-year senior cornerback Travis Howard who earned 11 starts last season.

The 6-1, 196-pound Howard has four career interceptions, including a 'pick-six' runback against Penn State.

Sophomore Bradley Roby (5-11, 190) redshirted the 2010 season as a true freshman but came back to start all 13 games last fall at the other corner post.

Roby (5-11, 190) logged three interceptions and compiled 47 tackles and earned the coaches' defensive player of the year for a first-year player.

A pair of juniors, C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, return to starting safety posts.

Barnett (6-0, 202) has started all 15 games he has played and led the Buckeyes with 75 tackles last season. The Dayton native logged a career-best 12 tackles at Michigan.

Bryant (5-10, 190) is a physical specimen and superb athlete who started every game last season before an injury sidelined him prior to the Michigan encounter.

The Cleveland Glenville product came up big in many of OSU's most high-profile games and figures to vie for an array of postseason laurels.

Among incoming recruits, Steubenville Big Red's Najee Murray could earn periodic snaps in the secondary.

Murray (5-9, 179) was Big Red's secondary leader for three seasons and was a first team Division III All-Ohio selection en route to being named the state's co-Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press.

In addition to Fickell, Meyer opted to retain a pair of 2011 Buckeye assistants - defensive line coach and ex-Buckeye Mike Vrabel and running backs' coach Stan Drayton.

Otherwise, Meyer brought aboard seven new assistants, including Everett Withers (assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties); Zach Smith (receivers); Tom Herman (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Ed Warinner, a Strasburg native (co-offensive coordinator/offensive line); Kerry Coombs (cornerbacks); Tim Hinton (tight ends/fullbacks); and Mickey Marotti, a former West Liberty football star (assistant AD for football sports performance).

The Buckeyes' 2011 slate includes eight home games. Besides the season opener with Miami, non-conference foes Central Florida, California and Alabama-Birmingham invade the Horseshoe.

Big Ten opponents coming to town include Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan. OSU's only road tests come against Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Ohio State will appear in three night kickoffs this season, including the Oct. 6 home game against Nebraska that features an 8 p.m. start.

One week later, OSU and Indiana vie at at Bloomington, an 8 p.m. kickoff on the Big Ten Network.

Finally, Ohio State's first game against Penn State in State College since 2009 kicks off Oct. 27 with a 6 p.m. scheduled kickoff on either ABC or ESPN...

Notes

The 2012 season marks Ohio State's 100th as part of the Big Ten Conference. OSU ranks second in all-time Big Ten victories with a record of 457-171-24. The Buckeyes also rank second with 34 outright or shared Big Ten championships...

A $7 million improvements project this summer replaced the 11-year-old Ohio Stadium scoreboard and audio system with a larger HD screen flanked by two clusters of speakers with new LED ribbon boards running the length of the south stands....

The New Panasonic scoreboard will be 42-feet-x124. The project also included the conversion of 223 standard televisions to HD sets in the concourse areas....

 
 

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