The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

July 5, 2014

A look ahead, Urban Meyer: Buckeyes will have to be prepared to set sail right away vs. Navy

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — Although the calendar says July, blink and it’ll be Aug. 30 before you know it, the day the Ohio State Buckeyes open their 2014 season in Baltimore against Navy.

That kickoff will be the first of a potentially difficult opening non-conference slate for the Buckeyes, who follow up that game with a home night game against Virginia Tech.

“It’s awful, maybe I’m gonna have to talk to Gene Smith about that,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said with a laugh at a press conference at the Spire Institute on Wednesday. “But it’s a great opponent against a team that won 9 games with a quarterback who they say might be the best in their school’s history. They have a really, really good offense, nine starters back I believe. We’re playing them in Baltimore on the road, so we’ve been working on that, not necessarily practice because we haven’t had time because we’ve made so many changes on defense but we’ll spend a great deal of time in training camp preparing for that game.

“They’re a very good opponent.”

Meyer, in town for the third annual Urban Meyer-Dean Hood Youth Football Camp, was referring to Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

Reynolds returns to Navy for his junior year after leading the Midshipmen to a 9-4 record in 2013, rushing for a staggering 31 touchdowns — the most by a quarterback in NCAA history.

While Reynolds may have an impressive resume, Meyer is pretty excited about the quarterback he’ll have under center this fall.

Braxton Miller returns for a senior season that is likely to come with Heisman trophy-type expectations once again.

Miller underwent offseason shoulder surgery in February and isn’t “100 percent yet, but he’s close,” according to Meyer.

“He’s doing great, I love Braxton Miller,” Meyer said. “If he makes the same strides he made from year one to year two and year two to year three and this year to year four he could have a great year. His completion percentage is a steady incline which is what you’re looking for. He’s just a great kid who I love being around. You never hear about him doing anything other than what he’s supposed to be doing. His leadership and vocal ability to communicate has improved drastically and so has his overall football knowledge.

“Typical young quarterbacks want to look at anything but the coverage, it’s so chaotic and he’s getting better and better at that.”

All teams are currently under an NCAA imposed dead period in which players cannot be with coaches, something Meyer praised the NCAA for as a nice chance for the players and coaches to take a break.

But with breaks comes concern of off-field behavior, something that has cropped up for OSU players a few times in recent years.

If they can stay healthy and out of trouble, the third-year Buckeye coach likes the makeup of his team.

“We all know that this time of year is a nightmare for teams,” Meyer said. “(We’re) close but we’re not there yet... It’s a personnel-driven game, not a scheme-driven game but you gotta stay healthy. The bodies and minds change so much from year to year. (Former running back) Carlos Hyde three years ago was unheard of. He was a fourth string running back who weighed 245 lbs. He shouldn’t have. He ended up having a great year at 230.

“There are so many variables, as far as quality people and players I’m excited about where we’re at.”

The Meyer era in Columbus got off to a smooth start as OSU won its first 24 games under Ashtabula’s favorite son, but consecutive losses to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game then Clemson in the Orange Bowl to end the 2013-14 campaign set things off kilter.

The losses were, as Meyer described them, speed bumps, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it pertains to this upcoming season.

“Obviously, we hit a speed bump, a real big speed bump,” he said. “I like angry teams, I had a couple of them. The ‘06 team that we played OSU (in the national championship) was the angriest team I’ve ever been around, they had to prove a point. Complacent is a bad word. Satisfied is a bad word. Angry is a great word. Chip on their shoulder is great, so I’m hoping that’s going to be, obviously, the message when we get to training camp.”

While he never would’ve admitted it at the time, Meyer did concede that the 24-game winning streaked weighed on his players and likely became a distraction.

“Oh yeah, absolutely, probably wouldn’t admit it (at the time),” he said. “I felt it, I saw it. All due respect, it didn’t come from out of our facility, it came... I should’ve censored it and said no one can talk to our players for 12 weeks. I’d probably catch a little heat for that.

“But, you got 18-19 year old kids and coaches hear it and I would hear it and say ‘doggone it, wow. 24, that’s pretty good.’”

Meyer hopes to start another streak in Baltimore on Aug. 30.

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