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
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
”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
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
”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.”
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