Offensive growth with defensive pains

Nick McWilliams, Staff Writer
Buckeye Grove

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he was pleased with the offenses growth against Army, but needed to see more on defense.

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Kevin Noon - Buckeye Grove

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Even against Army West Point, there were obvious strides forward for the Ohio State offense, all thanks to the run-pass option.

The bread and butter of quarterback J.T. Barrett, the coaching staff set their quarterback up for short routes, and let the pass catchers do the work. Defenders began cheating towards the potentially short bubble screen routes, and allowed bug running holes for running back J.K. Dobbins.

Meyer said Tuesday things are not quite where they should be, but it's a step in the right direction.

"I think all phases were better and obviously, no disrespect to Army, it is just a different group than we faced the week before," he said. "We are still a work in progress and still working very hard as a staff and players to become the kind of offense that we want to be. I think you saw glimpses of it in the first two games, we were very balanced and very efficient. That is what we are looking for."

Although running back Mike Weber, who was slated to be the team's starting ball carrier, has still been appearing in a limited capacity, he might become a bigger factor as his hamstring continues to heal.

Meyer hinted Monday that Weber would be receiving more handoffs the closer he is to 100 percent.

"It's not that Mike is a lost soul around here," Meyer said. "He's one of the few freshmen, I want to say three freshmen to ever rush for a thousand yards as a freshman. He's very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks. So we're going to need him at full strength."

The emergence of K.J. Hill and Austin Mack alongside Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin against the Black Knights should be a welcome sign in the offense as well, and the offensive line for the Buckeyes looked much more tenacious in the trenches.

Things are looking up when Ohio State is controlling the ball, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows in Meyer's eyes.

DEFENSIVE SHORTCOMINGS

Right now, Ohio State has the 92nd ranked pass defense in the country. Basically, things are not going great for the secondary that lost three-first round NFL draft picks.

The Buckeyes got a break against an Army team that does not put the ball in the air often, but there were still a few occasion where Ohio State got mixed up in coverage. The Black Knights would have had an easy interception if not for a great play by safety Erick Smith.

Meyer said the team needs to find an efficient way of preventing quick passes that opponents have used to negate his team's strength at defensive line.

"You can just play tighter coverage in man, but we are pretty tight coverage anyways, they are just trying to pop it over our heads," he said. "Also mixing in a variety of coverages which our coaches have had plenty of conversations about that. That is one way that teams are negating the strength. Oklahoma, the way they negated too is the guy got out like nine times where he just scrambled out of trouble. Those are all areas that we work on."

Meyer further detailed that his team needs it's biggest improvement in the secondary as a whole, and not just at cornerback and safety. Ohio State will be looking to improve coverage close to the line of scrimmage and pressure the quarterback more, according to their head coach.

This Saturday is an intriguing matchup, between the Ohio State defense that has given up lots of yards through the air and on the ground and a UNLV offense that has moved the ball well. Numbers on both sides are skewed, however, with Ohio State's game against Army pushing the rushing totals up and passing totals down, while the Rebels have played relatively overmatched opponents.

If defense wins championships, the Ohio State coaching staff while no doubt put a little more emphasis on Meyer's areas of concerns this week in practice.

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