Urban Meyer opened the third week of his first Ohio State football preseason camp with an update for local reporters covering a variety of topics.
The head coach was happy to report another pair of young Buckeyes earned their rite of passage when quarterback Cardale Jones and running back Warren Ball had the black stripes removed from their helmets, signifying they are considered full-fledged members of the team.
“I didn’t recruit Warren Hall, but the more I get to know him I’m really glad he’s a Buckeye,” Meyer said of the Columbus native, who committed to Ohio State when Jim Tressel was still the team’s head coach. “He’s a tough, hard runnner.”
The head coach called Jones, “a guy who has really made as much progress as anybody” after being “a nonfactor really for about five or six months.”
Overall, Meyer said he feels good about the progress his team has made this month as it works to implement a new offense and an overall new team attitude. Such is no doubt enhanced by what he described as an overall healthy month for the squad with only one significant injury that has been revealed.
“It’s been unbelievable with the way we’ve practiced,” he said as he knocked on the wooden table in front of him.
That would be freshman offensive lineman Joey O’Connor, who is sidelined for the season after having left knee surgery last week.
Zach Domicone, a senior safety expected to have an impact on special teams, also had knee surgery but only an arthroscopic procedure that is expected to sideline him for about two weeks.
Meyer also identified starting sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier as having been “dinged” but being on the mend and noted freshman wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos has missed a significant amount of the month with a hamstring problem.
Tight end Jeff Heuerman was slowed for a week by a similar ailment, but the head coach said he is back at it now. In the meantime, redshirt freshman Nick Vannett was able to turn the heads of the coaching staff with his play.
“Heuerman had a little bit of a tug on his hamstring but now he’s back to full speed, so it’s 50-50 right now,” Meyer said. “Heuerman is a little better point-of-attack blocker, but he’s also got skill catching the ball. Right now I can’t really name a starter because I don’t know who it is.”
Additionally, the competition between senior Reid Fragel and freshman Taylor Decker continues at right tackle, where no starter has been determined yet.
“We’re trying,” he said. “One looks like a freshman at times and one looks like a guy who just moved from tight end.”
He wants to see more toughness at the position.
“It’s fresh in my mind that we got slapped around a little bit at the position today,” Meyer said.
He described the state of the offense as “fairly competent” after the first-team offense performed well against the second-team defense in a scrimmage last Saturday.
“I can’t say great because I don’t see that now, but I see competency,” Meyer said. “I see the ball being snapped correctly, I see the offensive line protecting and doing the right things. The skill is just starting to improve, and it didn’t look that way for the first two weeks of the spring.”
The coach also turned a few heads when he revealed sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller threw for 350 yards in a scrimmage.
Now the team has started to point toward the Sept. 1 opener against Miami (Ohio).
“We’re going to go try to win a game now. Today was all game-planning. We do a lot of scout work against each other, scouting what we’re going to see that first game. It’s much different this week than it was last week.”