Meyer, Buckeyes Take First Step Toward “The Chase”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Everyone is chasing something.
Those were the words of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on Tuesday as he began his second spring camp in Columbus under the lights inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
It had been 105 long days since Meyer was on the field with his football team. That was the price the Buckeyes paid for the past sins of Jim Tressel and a few of his players.
It will be another six months before Meyer gets a chance to see what his team is really made of in the season-opener against the University of Buffalo. Until then, the chase is on.
With a new banner hanging over the practice field to honor a “12-0 Undefeated Season” in 2012, the Buckeyes took the field for the first of 15 spring workouts on Tuesday. They have a long road ahead, and a lot of holes to fill, but they are chasing down a dream not many teams will ever have a chance to realize.
“We’re all chasing something,” Meyer said after his first practice of the spring.
“We’re 15 practices behind a lot of teams — as a matter of fact every team that played in a bowl game last year. So the chase is on. Some guys are chasing starting positions. Some guys are chasing bowl games. Some guys are chasing NFL contracts. ... They’re chasing their dream.”
For Ohio State, that dream leads to Pasadena and chance at the most coveted prize of all: the crystal football. It has called the Southeastern Conference home ever since Meyer pulled off the upset at Florida against Tressel and No. 1-ranked Buckeyes back in 2007.
Both of Meyer’s BCS championship teams were led by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Now Meyer will chase after his third ring with another Heisman candidate running his offense in Columbus.
“I thought Braxton Miller had one heck of a day,” Meyer said after practice.
“I mean a heck of a day. His fundamentals and his footwork were not very good last year, but it was fantastic today.”
Miller had a few nice scrambles against the two-hand-touch defense on day one of spring camp, but the highlight of the first day was a 40-yard pass over the middle to fifth-year senior Jordan Hall.
The shifty back out of Jeannette, Pa. is making the transition to flex receiver this spring, and he looked pretty fluid catching the football for a guy who missed all but three games last season with foot and knee injuries.
“Boy was he great today. I thought he was great today,” Meyer said with twice the fervor.
“I have to be careful. I start to like players too much and it gets me in trouble, but I love that guy. He didn’t bat an eye. Go play H, and he did.”
Hall lined up in the slot, with guys like Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas on the outside, and he proved to be a matchup nightmare for the defense. The linebackers weren’t fast enough to stay with him and even the safeties had trouble slowing him down.
It helped Miller and the offense overcome the loss of senior wideout Corey Brown, who left practice with a minor knee injury before the Buckeyes really started scrimmaging at the end.
“Philly had a small sprain of his knee and he should be fine,” Meyer said.
“They did an MRI and he’s fine. He should be ready to go on Thursday. We’re starting to get some guys who can maybe make some plays. When the recruits get here in June you’re starting to have a couple guys who you say lets get the ball to.”
With things starting to come together offensively, a lot of the focus this spring will be on the defense. The Buckeyes must replace seven starters from a year ago, including junior Johnathan Hankins who spent the evening watching his former teammates on the defensive line.
“On defense there’s a lot of young puppies running around out there,” Meyer said. “But offensively I thought the carryover was good.”
Hankins could be a first round pick in next month’s NFL Draft, but he isn’t the only guy the Buckeyes are going to miss from their 12-0 team a year ago.
“The only thing I don’t feel great about is when you look and you don’t see my leaders from last year,” Meyer said.
“I grew to love those guys. They turned out to be as good a human beings as I’ve ever been around. So that’s the only void you feel.”
It’s a pretty big one considering some of the names on that list – guys like Boren, Simon, Williams, Goebel and Sabino – but there’s no looking back. The chase goes on.
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