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On Monday, Urban Meyer held his first full fall camp practice as Ohio State's head coach. Competing in just helmets, jerseys, and shorts, the Buckeyes practiced for just more than two hours at the Harmon Family Football Park next to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. After his first run with his roster for the 2012 season, the new Ohio State coach broke down what he liked- and what he didn't like- about Monday's practice.
Two steps ahead
Before the Buckeyes officially began their practice, Meyer preached the importance of the players going two steps beyond what was asked of them. Despite that motto being an in-house rallying cry, the OSU coach elected to elaborate just exactly what that means for his team.
"Our thing is that if we ask you to go 10, go 12. If we ask you to go six, go eight. You hear the whistle blow, you don't anticipate, a lot of times you see teams play slow because they anticipate a whistle," Meyer said. "We want to run through the whistle for two steps. It's all two steps. Keep going two steps. I've had some teams play like that. And this team, right now, doesn't play like that."
One player who did catch Meyer's eye as a player willing to go above and beyond what was asked of him on Monday was safety C.J. Barnett.
"I don't know why, I just was looking in their helmets, I saw the guys, C.J. Barnett's a guy that does not accept to be average," Meyer said. "Then I looked a couple guys next to him and they do accept it. So it's our job as a motivator and a coach to not allow that."
Perhaps the biggest question about Ohio State- whether it's being asked by Meyer or the fans- pertains to the current state of a passing game that ranked 104th in the country a season ago. Despite it just being one practice, Meyer was impressed with what he saw from Braxton Miller and his receivers.
"I was hoping to see what I saw on offense where there was a lot of carryover. We were all very disappointed, and when you evaluate it, you probably weren't that disappointed in the spring or early half of spring because it was all new for them," Meyer said. "I can tell you this: they did something this summer. They sure did."
Perhaps one reason why the passing game has come as far as it has is because sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith appears to have emerged as the team's No. 1 wideout.
"The guy that looked good today was Devin Smith. My gosh, do we need a guy like that to do something," Meyer said. "We need that someone."
In spring practice, Meyer stressed the importance of his players using that time to win their position battles, so that they're ready to focus on the season when fall camp comes around. Now that fall camp is here, there's some fresh faces on campus, however, and the OSU coaching staff is expecting them to play.
"There will be some freshmen, from what I've seen so far, there will be a bunch- not a bunch- there will a good chunk of freshmen playing that first game," Meyer said. "Go beat someone out, go get it."
After having their scholarships for the summer quarter and being temporarily removed from team activities following June arrests that saw them both plead guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, tight end Jake Stoneburner and left tackle Jack Mewhort returned to their roles as starters for the Buckeyes on Monday. Barring any setbacks, Meyer expects both players to regain their scholarships in a few weeks.
"As of right now, when we start school in the fall, they'll be on scholarship," Meyer said of Stoneburner and Mewhort.
Meyer said that both players are expected to play crucial roles on his team this fall, and that they are learning from the mistakes they made that led to their loss of scholarships.
"They're leaders, they're on my leadership committee," Meyer said. "We're going to do the best we can to help them be less stupid. If there was a bad guy situation, then they wouldn't be playing here."
Aside from Curtis Grant, who spent Monday in Virginia with his ill grandfather, and Verlon Reed, who is recovering from a torn ACL, the entire Ohio State roster was on the field on Monday. That included other injured players such as defensive end Nathan Williams and running back Jordan Hall, who worked individually in non-contact drills while their teammates practiced.
"Both of them are right on schedule, if not ahead of schedule," Meyer said. "So their both attitudes are fantastic. Those kids. Your heart bleeds for a guy like Nathan Williams. I'm starting to really know that guy. To take football away from him's like taking- that kid lives for it."
Meyer wasn't willing to provide the media with a timetable for the two players' returns, but implied that they would likely come sooner than later.
"I don't want to give you that. I'm not the doctor, I can't," Meyer said when asked when Williams and Hall were expected to be ready. "It's around the beginning of the season."
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