Speedy pace integral to Ohio State’s new approach

After six years steeped in Southeastern Conference speed, Urban

Meyer wants a similar look from his new team.

”I just want guys to play fast,” he says.

So in his first season at Ohio State, he has instituted warmups,

drills and practice procedures all built around the central tenet

of, well, hurrying. He has said he doesn’t care so much if a player

does something wrong so long as they do it quickly.

The message has soaked in, and it carries over from a fast-paced

world: Don’t dawdle.

For a generation raised on 140-character summations and rapid

Google searches, it’s only natural that optimizing your time in

football means packing as much as possible into a short period.

”We’re very impatient,” Luke Fickell said, sounding more like

a sociologist than a defensive coordinator. ”So when things are

happening fast, it’s almost like these guys are used to that.

Everything is instant nowadays. So I think they enjoy the up-tempo

practice. It adds a little bit more excitement.”

And what the 18th-ranked Buckeyes do in practice they hope

carries over to games, such as their opener on Saturday against

Miami (Ohio).

Meyer preaches that he wants everyone’s body clocks set to a

span of 4 to 6 seconds of full-bore activity. He wants his offense

to run so many plays so quickly that defenses either don’t have

time to make adjustments or break down from the incredible

pace.

”Coach Meyer has that motto, `Practice hard so the games are

easy,”’ defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. ”He’s doing that.

Everything’s really fast. You don’t get a rest. So that when the

game comes, the 8 seconds in between each play, you’re just loving

it.”

So, is this a track squad, a football team or a game of musical

chairs? Truth be told, it’s all of those things.

Meyer has been critical of his receivers and backs since the

first day of practice because they don’t show the breakneck speed,

versatility and athleticism he was used to during his time as coach

at Florida. The SEC, winner of the last six national championships,

is the acknowledged capital of sprinters in shoulder pads.

”There’s some fast times that our (players were timed at) this

year. Like, fast times. (But) they don’t play real fast,” Meyer

groused midway through fall workouts. ”So our job as coaches is to

get them to play fast. I think there’s enough here that I hope to

get wowed a little bit.”

It started with his offense. The defense has had to adapt to

keep up. Now opposing teams will have to follow suit.

”Once the offense becomes second nature, the whole game slows

down and the tempo doesn’t seem near as fast for the guys who are

doing it,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.

Even the massive, meaty linemen have gotten into the rhythm of

things.

”I felt like, in the spring, when we were scrimmaging, we got

into that seventh or eighth play of the drive the defensive line

was, like, `Oh, man!’ They’d never seen something like that,

players like us going as fast as we can, getting the play off as

fast as we can,” said center Corey Linsley, hardly a scatback at

6-foot-3 and 295 pounds. ”It’s a huge advantage.”

So much for the dog days of practice. There’s been no respite

from the unrelenting pace.

”They’re going in a jet,” cornerback Doran Grant said of the

offense. ”Fast. Playing downhill running, passing. You’ve got to

be on your toes.”

Defenders can just about forget catching their breath.

”There’s no time for you to walk back to the huddle,” safety

Orhian Johnson said. ”We have to get set up and get ready for the

next play because you never know when Coach (Meyer) is going to get

that ball snapped.”

The hurry-up philosophy carries over to even the skill

positions, usually the domain of precise footwork and timing.

”It’s quick reads, get the ball out of my hands and get the

ball into playmakers’ hands,” quarterback Braxton Miller said.

The benefits are many: conditioning, stamina, ball control and

another way to enforce your will on the opposing team.

No wonder the Buckeyes advise fans coming to Ohio Stadium to

save their restroom and concession trips until halftime. Leave your

seat at your own peril, they say, or you just might miss a 70-yard

touchdown. Or a dozen other plays.

”They will definitely see more explosive plays and up-tempo

offense: quick, scoring quick, getting down the field in a hurry,”

running back Carlos Hyde said. ”Just more excitement.”

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .