Before Urban Meyer looked forward to his team’s matchup this week with Central Florida, the Ohio State head coach took time to brag about the individual performances of some of his new players in a 56-10 pasting of Miami (Ohio) last weekend.
Meyer identified more than a dozen players who qualified to be part of the Champions Club because they graded out a winning performance.
On offense, he highlighted the performance of quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton, running back Carlos Hyde, fullback Zach Boren, wide receivers Cory “Philly” Brown and Devin Smith and offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell.
“Five knockdowns, two pancakes, no pressures or sacks,” Meyer said of Norwell, a junior who started at left guard. “Coach (Ed) Warinner is very high on him and says he’s one of the most improved players on our team.”
Mewhort was credited with three knockdowns in his first start at left tackle.
Hyde received a grade of 93 percent, in part because he picked up 58 of his 82 yards after contact, while Boren earned an 81 on a day that included the first rushing touchdown of the senior’s career.
Miller was named offensive player of the game after throwing for 207 yards and rushing for an OSU quarterback record 161 more. Meyer praised his managament of the team through a rocky first quarter, and he liked what he saw from Guiton, his backup, too.
“His nickname from this point forward is Coach Guiton,” Meyer said. “He does some things. He made a couple of checks out there, and he does it without the reps. A lot of his things are mental reps, so we really appreciate Kenny Guiton. He did a nice job.”
Wide receiver was a sore spot for much of the offseason as Meyer looked for playmakers to emerge from a group that struggled collectively last season, but he was happy to see a pair emerge against the RedHawks.
Brown graded out at 81 percent while Smith produced the first touchdown of the game with a highlight reel catch in the end zone.
“He’s come a long way,” Meyer said of Smith. “If you told me after our first week of spring practice he graded champion our first game, we’d have a little conversation about that. But I’m really proud of him. He’s done a nice job and has improved.”
Defensively, Meyer recognized safety Christian Bryant and cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Travis Howard.
Bryant graded out at 96 percent but Roby was named defensive player of the week after coming through on 25 of 30 opportunities to make a play and grading out at 83 percent. Roby’s honor was a result of totaling 30 production points for big plays such as turnovers, pass break-ups and tackles for loss.
Howard received a grade of 90 after totaling two interceptions and two tackles. He was successful on 18 of 22 opportunities.
“Our two corners graded out against the throwing outfit pretty good,” Meyer said.
Sophomore defensive back Adam Griffin received the special teams player of the week. He made a pair of tackles while taking part on a majority of the special units.
“I love the guy,” Meyer said. “He goes really hard and tries really hard.”
The coach also recognized special teams contributions by kicker Drew Basil, punter Ben Buchanan and freshman linebacker Jamal Marcus.
“I’m very proud of the way our guys played,” Meyer said. “Very disappointed in the first quarter, but I’m glad after you evaluate it now. I’m very glad that happened. It gives us an opportunity to coach very, very hard and get some things corrected.”
In looking ahead to UCF, Meyer said he is familiar with the program and head coach George O’Leary, who has led the Knights since 2004, one year before Meyer took over at Florida.
“We have great respect for everything they’ve done,” he said. “They’ve led the defense in their conference the last three years. They have very good players. 300 pound plus defensive tackles, two athletic defensive ends, it’s what you’d imagine out of Central Florida.”
He expects a heavy contrast from the previous week when Miami threw 54 passes compared to 20 rushing attempts. The Knights ran 46 times for 206 yards while attempting only 19 passes in a 56-14 win at Akron last week.
Whether or not the Buckeyes will be at full strength on the defensive line when the Knights come to town remains to be seen.
Sophomore defensive end Michael Bennett, who was to make his first start last week, remains questionable after aggravating a groin injury during pregame warmups on Saturday. Sophomore J.T. Moore started in his place, but senior Nathan Williams ended up playing about 30 snaps in his return from a 2011 knee injury.
“He was very sore yesterday,” Meyer said of Williams. “They’re off today, but I would anticipate that the rust is officially knocked off him and we’ll be ready to go. He was in a good mindset after that game.”
Senior running back Jordan Hall (foot surgery) is not expected to be ready to play Saturday, but Meyer did not rule him out yet.
“He’s got the look on his face like he’s dying to get out there, so I think he might practice this week, but I’ll let you know,” Meyer said. “I should know that, and I apologize that I don’t.”
One player who will not be back is Adam Bellamy, a senior who left the team prior to the season for personal reasons.
“He just lost his love of the game of football and didn’t want to play anymore,” Meyer said. “A year ago he went through a very similar thing. He’s a great kid. I love his family, good people. We wish him well. Nothing happened, he just didn’t want to play football anymore.”
The 18th-ranked Buckeyes and Knights are set to kick off shortly after noon at Ohio Stadium. ESPN2 will have the broadcast with Beth Mowins doing play-by-play and Joey Gallway, an All-Big Ten wide receiver at Ohio State in the early 1990s, set to add color analysis.