Meyer wants crisp, mistake-free play vs. Buffalo

Enough with the appetizers and the preludes for the Ohio State

Buckeyes.

Spring workouts, fall camp – they’re all finished. Now it’s on

to the real thing.

Next in the sights of the nation’s second-ranked team is its

opener on Saturday against Buffalo.

Coach Urban Meyer says he doesn’t want a rerun of what happened

a year ago, his first prowling the sidelines at Ohio Stadium. The

Buckeyes struggled in the first quarter, punting on their first

four possessions, and trailed 7-0 to Miami (Ohio). There were

mistakes everywhere and, even though they finished up coasting to a

lopsided 56-10 win, Meyer was upset.

Now he’s looking for crisp play, efficiency and a killer

attitude.

”I want us to play well. I want us to play clean,” he said of

his team’s opener at the Horseshoe against the Bulls. ”I’m hoping

that we leave that field Saturday, obviously with a win, but you

feel good about the fundamentals of your football team. If you do

that, that’s a real positive.”

Meyer also was unhappy with the way his team played in the

ensuing three weeks after the Miami victory. But then something

clicked in the Big Ten opener at Michigan State and the Buckeyes

were off and running to a 12-0 season.

This year he wants to see his team playing well from very

start.

Despite the Buckeyes’ lofty ranking, they still have some areas

of concern. The defense will be missing eight starters against

Buffalo, with new faces filling all four spots on the line and two

of the three linebacker spots.

It’s enough to make anyone a little nervous, even though the

Buckeyes know they have a lot of talent on offense and a bunch of

quality players waiting in the wings on defense.

”The only concerns I have right now is about the linebackers,”

said Ryan Shazier, the only holdover starter on the front seven

from a year ago. ”I have to try to get them right. Everything

else, on the D-line and the secondary, I feel they’re doing a great

job. We have a lot of inexperience right now in the front seven and

a lot of young guys.

”When we get a lot of guys that haven’t played together, it’s

kind of a struggle.”

It may be difficult to tell just where the defense stands.

Buffalo was just 4-8 a year ago and the offense was 99th in scoring

at just over 21 points a game.

Luke Fickell, the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator, doesn’t

have any major concerns about the linemen and linebackers,

however.

”I feel great about (the front seven), to be honest. I really

do,” he said. ”I really have a lot of confidence in what they’ve

done, the maturity they’ve shown throughout camp.”

Ohio State will also be without standout cornerback Bradley

Roby, suspended for the opener after a legal problem.

The Buckeyes are the highest-ranked team ever to face the Bulls.

No wonder coach Tim Quinn, 9-27 heading into his fourth season at

the school, recognizes that his team can’t fumble and bumble at the

outset either.

In fact, he believes the Bulls have to play like a team with

five or six games under their belts.

”We know Ohio State’s a tremendous football team,” he said.

”It’s one of the elite programs when you look at what they did

last year, being 12-0. We know it’s a race to be in midseason or

late-season form, right at the beginning.”

The Buckeyes haven’t changed much. Sure, there are new names to

learn, particularly on defense. On offense, Braxton Miller is back

running the same uptempo, no-huddle spread offense, with mostly the

same players – his side of the ball has nine starters back.

”When and how the ball is distributed may be a little bit

different being that we have improved on the perimeter and at

little bit at quarterback, too,” said co-offensive coordinator Tom

Herman.

Jordan Hall, back from an injury-plagued season, will get the

call at tailback and occasionally, the hybrid H-back. Last year’s

leading-scorer, Carlos Hyde, and top backup Rod Smith are both also

suspended, so Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and freshmen Ezekiel

Elliott and Dontre Wilson will all see action.

Meyer hung large signs up at the end of the Buckeyes’ indoor

practice field heralding ”The Chase.”

A year ago his team was just trying to regain some

respectability and came up with a shockingly perfect season. Now

that they are highly ranked, the scales have tipped the other way

and other teams will target them.

”(Last year) we were 12-0 and some really great things

happened, some incredible leadership, motivation and a team that

got really, really close,” Meyer said. ”(Now it is) blocking,

tackling and great football position and the things we work so hard

at.

”That’s a big part of The Chase.”

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