Urban Meyer returns to the sideline this week when the Buckeyes take on the Tulane Green Wave at 3:30 Saturday afternoon. I know this excites a lot of Buckeye fans, but what I’m most excited about is who else will on the sideline with Meyer. Ohio State’s head coach announced offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who led the team as interim head coach through its first three games, will remain on the sideline, instead of returning to the press box. Meyer is so impressed with the way the offense performed, he’s said he is going to be more of a “game manager” and is turning the keys to that Ferrari of an offense over to Day and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
Meyer announcing Day and Wilson will continue to call the plays is music to my ears, because I love the way Day handles this offense. I can think of only two occasions where I questioned what he did. If a play is successful, he’ll run something with similar backfield action, but change the focus of the play. An example from last Saturday is when Mike Weber gained 7 or 8 yards on a sweep. On the next play, Weber took the same course to the right, Dwayne Haskins faked to him and threw back to a receiver on the left side of the field. Day will, also, run the same play from multiple formations. He’s done a great job spreading the ball around and utilizing all of the weapons available to him. Twelve different offensive players have scored touchdowns, so far, this year, compared to fourteen all of last season. Fans think you need to have a huge playbook in order to have a successful offense. You don’t. What you need is diversity and creativity. Day has both.
Some think the Buckeyes’ offense struggled against TCU. While it may have taken them time to get started, they still piled up 526 yards. J.K. Dobbins ran for 121 yards on 18 carries; Haskins threw for 344. I’d like more balance, but as I said in my preview blog, you take what the defense gives you. The Horned Frogs were determined to stop the run, so it makes sense for passing yards to make up the majority of the total. I don’t think they’ll have problems getting started this week and I, also, think you’ll see another 700 yard day. Tulane gave up 378 passing yards to a true freshman making his first start, in their game with Wake Forest a few weeks ago. They love to blitz, so if Dobbins and Mike Weber do a good job picking up those (running backs coach Tony Alford said they missed two against TCU), it should be pitch and catch for Haskins and Tate Martell. Meyer said he’s hoping to use Martell early in Saturday’s game. I, also, expect Dobbins and Weber to have some very large holes to run through.
Giving up big plays has haunted the Ohio State defense through the first three games. They’ve been burned for scoring plays of 93, 80, and 78 yards. Those are just runs. Scoring passes of 51 and 49 yards have been given up as well. Two of their opponents have gained either half or most of their yards on just seven plays each. This has to stop. Too many quality teams are lurking down the road and you’re not going to win a national championship giving up that many “chunk” plays. Tulane is capable of big plays, they have 21 of over twenty yards already. But, there won’t be enough to really challenge the Buckeyes. Jonathan Banks is, like TCU’s Shawn Robinson, a dual threat quarterback, but not overly accurate with his throws. Their offense is averaging just under 28 points per game. But, of the 83 total points they’ve scored in three games, 42 of those came against FCS opponent Nicholls. I don’t see them approaching the 417 total yards per game they’ve averaged and I think it will be difficult for them to rush for 100 yards, something they’ve accomplished in every game dating back to the 2016 season. The Green Wave offensive line has struggled to protect Banks and I think they’ll have an awful time trying to block Ohio State’s defensive line. They’re going to have a difficult time moving the ball consistently.
Here are a few random things about the Buckeyes:
On Thursday afternoon, Meyer announced Nick Bosa had undergone surgery to repair a “core muscle” injury. He gave no timetable for the junior defensive end’s return, but I’m guessing he will be out longer than originally expected.
I’ve seen some criticism of the offensive line and their coach, Greg Studrawa, this week. Understand this: you don’t put up over 500 yards of offense with poor line play. Meyer said all five graded as “champions” for the TCU game. That says a lot about how well they played. TCU is good, they’re going to make plays every now and then. But, I thought the offensive line got better and better as the game progressed. As far as Coach Studrawa is concerned, does everyone think Isaiah Prince improved so much over the last few seasons by accident? I had my concerns the first year Coach “Stud” was on the staff, but not anymore. I think he’s done an outstanding job developing his linemen.
Another group that has gotten some criticism is the linebackers. Meyer said they played well in the first two games, but TCU’s tempo bothered them a bit last week and there were some misalignment issues. He also said Malik Harrison is “playing great,” and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is happy with the group’s progress. I thought Harrison and fellow outside linebacker Pete Werner were real factors in causing issues for TCU’s offense in the second half. Also, Meyer said he is pushing for Justin Hilliard to get more playing time.
Since his fumble recovery for a touchdown Saturday night, nose tackle Devon Hamilton is enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame. Meyer said he’s one of the most improved players on the team. The 25 snaps he played against TCU is the most he’s ever seen in a game for the Buckeyes. He attributes his success this season to more confidence and better physical conditioning. With both Robert Landers (who Hamilton backs up) and Dre’mont Jones under 300 pounds, the 6’4”, 308 pound redshirt junior gives the Buckeyes a much needed big body in the middle. Hamilton is no stranger to recovering fumbles around the goal line. When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight fumbled the snap near the Buckeyes’ end zone in 2016, it was Hamilton who pulled it in while laying on the turf.
When asked about the secondary on his weekly radio show yesterday, Meyer said, “Still not where they need to be.” He said the “field” safety spot needs to be better. Is this the week Shaun Wade sees some time at that position, after being the “nickel” cornerback the first three games? Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint have certainly struggled at times and played a part in giving up some of those “chunk” plays I mentioned.
Mike Weber went over 2,000 yards for his career in the game against TCU. He is the 26th Buckeye to reach that milestone. K.J. Hill surpassed 1,000 career receiving yards.
Meyer told a great story on his radio show, about the “trick” kick return TCU tried. As the teams were lining up, Ryan Day heard someone screaming into his headset, “There’s a man down in the end zone!! There’s a man down in the end zone!!” Day thought someone had been shot. Meyer said, when he told the team, they broke-up in laughter. He also said the player on the kickoff team who is assigned to check for those kind of things was a freshman and missed it.
The Buckeyes are the only team in the country with three wins over Power 5 opponents. Their eight game winning streak is the second longest in the country. They’ve not surrendered a point in the fourth quarter this season.
Offensive linemen Nicholas Petit-Frere and Jack Jamieson are the latest freshman to lose their black stripes. Petit-Frere was the number one offensive tackle in the country for the recruiting class of 2018. He’s currently the top back-up to Isaiah Prince at right tackle. Jamieson is a walk-on from Cleveland St.Ignatius.
With Nick Bosa being out, there are a few changes to the defensive depth chart. Chase Young will make his first start of the season. Robert Landers is questionable for this week, so Davon Hamilton is listed as a co-starter at nose tackle. After being listed as a back-up to Dre’mont Jones at the “3-technique” tackle for the first three games, true freshman Tommy Togiai is now backing-up Landers and Hamilton.
Not a Tidal “Wave”
Tulane, a member of the American Athletic Conference, has had one winning season in the last fifteen years (7-6 in 2013, they lost to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl). So far this year, they are 1-2 with their only win coming over FCS program Nicholls. They’ve lost to Wake Forest and UAB.
Their best offensive player is running back Corey Dauphine (pictured). He’s rushed for 236 yards on just 19 carries. That’s an eye-popping 12.4 yards per attempt. Quarterback Jonathan Banks is completing less than 50% of his passes, but has thrown five TD’s with just one interception. Leading receiver Darnell Moody has 18 catches for 308 yards, while Terren Encalade averages over 22 yards for each of his eleven receptions. They’re about a 60\40 run to pass ratio, but average nearly the same amount of yards for each. The offensive line is suspect at best and has given up twelve sacks, so far.
The defense is led by linebackers Zachery Harris (26 tackles, 1 sack) and Graham Lawrence (25 tackles). The Green Wave is giving up 465 yards per game, with nearly 200 of that being rush yards. Despite the big passing yardage total they yielded to Wake Forest, they’re holding opposing quarterbacks to a 54.5% completion rate and have picked-off six passes. Senior cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr. has two interceptions and five pass break-ups. Make no mistake, facing this Ohio State offense is easily their biggest challenge of the season.
What Do I Think?
I know this is going to sound arrogant, but I don’t think there is anyway Tulane stays close to the Buckeyes, much less upset them. Oddsmakers have OSU as a 37-point favorite. I think Dwayne Haskins and company roll to an easy win. To me, the two most important things about a game like this are not getting anyone hurt and looking sharp. With Penn state looming next week, you don’t want to be sloppy against an inferior opponent. Only 56 players saw the field last week against TCU. I think that number will be up into the 70’s against Tulane, much like it was for the first two games. Buckeyes win this one BIG.
The Impact Of Exes
As I’ve detailed here a few times, ex-Buckeyes are making an impact on their new programs. Five players, who transferred after the 2017 season, are starters. The most high-profile of all of them is quarterback Joe Burrow at LSU. He won the starter job in August camp and currently has the Tigers sitting at 3-0. Last week he led them to a come-from-behind 22-21 win over Auburn. His numbers are not great (36 of 78 for 540 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions). But, as we saw Saturday, he makes plays when he has to. Take a look at what he did against Auburn.
Three of the five players I mentioned are starting along the offensive line. Right tackle Kevin Feder has helped lead a resurgence at Kansas. Jack Wohlabaugh is now the starter at center for Duke, while Matthew Burrell is the first-team left guard for FCS school Sam Houston State. Another ex-Buckeye at an FCS school is former cornerback Wayne Davis. He’s started all three of James Madison’s games at linebacker.
Running back Antonio Williams is North Carolina’s leading rusher with 143 yards in two games. Darius Slade, who transferred before the 2017 season began, is not a starter for Arizona State, but is getting his share of playing time and has four tackles and two sacks, so far. Kyle Trout is another who transferred in 2017. He’s become a mainstay on the offensive line for Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati Bearcats.
All of this speaks to not just how much depth and talent there is on the Ohio State roster. It, also, speaks to how hard it is to be a starter for the Buckeyes. A lot of good players battle for playing time and, in many cases, rarely see the field.
On his 28th birthday, Buckeye great Carlos Hyde rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with just over two minutes remaining, to help the Browns FINALLY end their 19-game losing streak with a 21-17 win over the Jets. Cornerback Denzel Ward forced a fumble and returned it inside the Jets 10-yard line to set up a field goal in the first half.
Before I get back to more NFL Buckeye news, I want to comment on Baker Mayfield’s performance last night. I know a ton of Ohio State fans can’t stand him because of his antics on the field after he and his Oklahoma Sooners beat the Buckeyes last year. I never liked him and his immature displays, and was not happy when the Browns drafted him. But, a few days later I was in our local Wendy’s and, as I was gathering up straws and napkins, a guy dressed head to toe in Steeler garb was running his mouth to anyone who would listen about how much Mayfield sucked, what an awful pick it was, the Browns suck and will always suck. It was at that point I decided I was going to be the biggest Baker Mayfield fan on the planet, because I’m tired of seeing the Browns lose and be a laughingstock to certain groups of fans. I’d love to talk to that loudmouth jackass today, because last night wasn’t just a one-time, flash-in-the-pan thing. Get used to seeing Mayfield perform as he did last night.
There is lightyears difference between Mayfield throwing the ball and Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield’s release, arm strength, and accuracy set him far apart from Taylor. It was interesting to see him play against #3 overall pick Sam Darnold, because you could see a difference in the type of ball each of them throws. I do believe Darnold is going to be good NFL quarterback, he did some good things last night. But, right now, the comparison is not close. Mayfield, who went 17-23 for just over 200 yards, gives each play a chance to be successful because of his accuracy. Time and again he put the ball where it needed to be. When the pocket begins to collapse, he doesn’t panic and take off running. Rather, he moves to keep the play alive while still looking up the field for a receiver. He’s a rookie and is going to make rookie mistakes, but he gives the Browns a chance. After suffering through the last few seasons, all I want is to feel the Browns have a chance to win each week. Mayfield, along with that defense, gives them that.
Back to NFL Buckeye news. Defensive lineman Adolphus Washington, who was recently released by the Bills, has signed with the Cowboys and placed on their practice squad. J.T. Barrett was released from the Saints’ practice squad.
We Knew It Was Coming
We all knew what was coming when Urban Meyer returned. We knew certain media outlets would continue to slay him and assassinate his character. After he met with the media for nearly an hour on Monday, that’s exactly what happened. But first, let’s take a look at how ESPN presented the interview Meyer did with Tom Rinaldi, which aired on Sunday.
Instead of simply having an anchor intro the piece, ESPN decided to run a montage of talking heads bashing Meyer. So, before the interview even aired, they’d put doubt in the viewer’s mind about Meyer’s truthfulness and credibility by bombarding them with negative comments. I have no issue with the way Rinaldi conducted the interview. He appears to be one of the few involved on the reporting side of ESPN, who still have some journalistic integrity. After the interview aired, the first person ESPN had comment on it was Paul Finebaum. It is well known the “Mouth of the South” has never liked Meyer. When he was a beat writer covering Alabama football for a Birmingham paper, he routinely took shots at Meyer any chance he got. The entire way ESPN presented the interview looked to be an attempt to discredit Meyer. This is nothing new. We’ve seen it since the story first broke.
Ok, so back to the reaction after Monday’s press conference. It drew the usual comments from the usual suspects. Finebaum, noted OSU hater Clay Travis of Fox Sports Radio, Dan Wolken of USA Today. They all weighed in, solemnly shaking their heads and saying “tsk, tsk” yet again. But, my favorite reaction has to be that of Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. While Buckeye fans have been hating on ESPN for their coverage of this whole mess, the guys at Yahoo! have been brutal on Meyer. Here is what Wetzel had to say: “What is clear to me is he doesn’t believe Courtney Smith at all and he wants Buckeye fans to know that…” Hey, Danny Boy!!!!! NOBODY BELIEVES HER!!!!!! Not one solitary person or entity has corroborated her claims. Not the Delaware County Prosecutor’s office. Not the Powell Police Department. Not even her own mother. Nobody has come forward to support her story. I keep hearing the media say “Urban Meyer and Ohio State fans don’t get it.” But the real question is, what don’t you get??!!
When Lynn Bruce, Zach Smith’s mother, revealed, in an interview with Jeff Snook (more on him in a minute), Courtney Smith’s claim she would “take down” Zach and Urban Meyer with him, Dan Wetzel and the rest of the sports media should have been all over this. Bruce’s assertion was confirmed by Courtney’s mother, Tina Carano. When Carano, also, said she did not believe her daughter was being truthful, this should have been on the front of every sports website in the country. Instead, it was ignored. Oh, and let’s not forget Kristina Miller, the mother of an Ohio State commit and domestic abuse survivor, releasing a statement affirming her support for Meyer. This was ignored as well. So, please, after I spent over 27 years working in the news industry, this is one Buckeye fan who most certainly “gets it.” Dan Wetzel and others refused to report developments, which would have called into question the credibility of Courtney Smith. By doing so, they drove the story in a certain direction. You never do that as a journalist. In my opinion, it’s a breach of ethics. Far too many in the sports media were too cowardly to stand up to the bullying #MeToo movement and do their jobs as journalists.
Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports is right when he said, “…the media is not interested in the truth. The media is not interested in context. The media is interested in hanging people.” Those like Dan Wetzel, Paul Finebaum, and others can’t find a big enough tree to hang Urban Meyer.
On his Facebook page Wednesday, Jeff Snook released an article detailing what went on in the Board of Trustees meeting that led to Meyer being suspended. The two anonymous members he spoke with believed the suspension “was not warranted according to the facts” and the “majority” of the trustees did not agree with university president Michael Drake’s decision.
After reading the report of the investigative committee, one of the trustees told Snook, “It was clear to us that there was no substantiated domestic violence abuse and there was no coverup of such.” Both trustees said there was universal agreement among the trustees, “This case was not about an abused woman.” One trustee indicated it was more about the way Meyer mismanaged Zach Smith.
A majority of the trustees believed Meyer deserved no further punishment, but President Drake strongly felt different. Neither side would budge. In the end, Drake won out. “Ultimately it’s the president’s decision and he has that right to make it,” one trustee told Snook.
But, here’s where things began to fall apart. According to Snook’s article, the trustees let Drake know to make it clear during the press conference that Meyer was being suspended for mismanaging Smith and not for covering up any alleged domestic abuse. As we all know, Drake did not do that and the media making it look like Meyer was suspended for some sort of coverup greatly affected public opinion. “…we made it clear when we left the room that night. We wanted it portrayed accurately (by Drake). It was not. It reflected poorly on the university. It damaged the university’s credibility,” said one of the trustees.
When Meyer was first suspended, I agreed with it based on some of the language in his contract. But, after reading this account by the two trustees, I do not agree with the suspension. In my opinion, Drake intentionally did not reveal the reasons for the suspension, at the press conference, because he was comfortable allowing the media to surmise Meyer had been suspended for covering up alleged domestic violence. Yes, it made the university look bad, but I really think Drake was trying to appease the #MeToo movement.
I highly suggest you take the time to read Snook’s article. You can do that by clicking here.
Ohio State and Cleveland Browns great Jim Houston passed away recently, at the age of 80. A three-year starter at end for Woody Hayes from 1957-59, he was twice named All-American. Houston was a 2006 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame.
He was a member of the Cleveland Browns from 1960-72. A four-time Pro Bowl participant, he began his career as a defensive end before moving to linebacker. Houston won championships at every level of football. He won a state championship in high school at Massillon, a national championship with the Buckeyes, and was a member of Cleveland’s 1964 NFL Championship team.
I’ll be at the Shoe tomorrow to welcome Meyer back and witness the carnage. Enjoy your weekend everyone.