August 20, 2012

Comparing Meyer's Buckeyes to his former Gators

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Thanks to his unique style of offense and a habit of referencing players from his past while evaluating his roster, it seems as though every role on an Urban Meyer-coached team is a unique one. With that in mind, we at Buckeye Grove are taking a look at some of the key players from this year's Ohio State squad in hopes of finding which players they could compare favorably to from the six Florida teams that Meyer coached from 2005-2010.

Braxton Miller as Cam Newton

This may be a bit of a stretch, considering that most of Newton's success came at Auburn after he was removed from the Florida roster for disciplinary reasons, but if there's one former Meyer-coached player who Miller has the skillset to emulate, it's the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.

Although he may not have the size of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton, Miller has both the speed and the arm strength to become the same type of dual-threat player that made Newton the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Miller has previously stated that the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year is one of his favorite players to watch, and should he find anywhere close to the success at Ohio State that Newton found at Auburn, Meyer won't have to wait long for success to come in Columbus.

Jordan Hall as Percy Harvin

Aside from quarterback, if there's one position designed to be a star and playmaker in Meyer's offense, it's the pivot position. A running back-wide receiver hybrid, the pivot is one of the cornerstones of Meyer's version of the spread and helped turn Harvin into a first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

With the player playing pivot often having to take handoffs while in motion, Meyer said that the player's body is just as important as his skill set.

"You also want the body type that's going to be able to not just have to run east-west all the time," Meyer said. "That's where Jordan was a perfect guy. Percy Harvin, Brandon James, Jeff Demps- those are perfect body types.

Hall has referred to the position as being "the guy" in Meyer's offense, but how quickly he'll get his shot at being that guy will depend on when he returns from foot surgery that is expected to keep him out of at least the Buckeyes' first two games of the season.

Michael Thomas as Dallas Baker

While it's the smaller, speedier players who get most of the recognition in Meyer's spread, the first-year also has a special place in his heart for taller, more physical receivers.

At 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, Baker excelled in his senior season under Meyer, catching 60 balls for 920 yards and 10 touchdowns. And if there's a player on the Ohio State roster that fits a mold similar to Baker's, it's the 6-foot-2, 193-pound true freshman Thomas.

An early enrollee, Thomas has already shown what he's capable of under Meyer, hauling in 12 receptions for 131 yards in April's spring game.

Jake Stoneburner as Aaron Hernandez

Tight ends haven't always been a staple in the Ohio State offense, but they have been in Meyer's.

In 2009, Hernandez hauled in 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns. And while he may officially be listed as a wide receiver, Meyer has made it clear that he has plans for Stoneburner to play a role similar to that of the 2009 John Mackey Award recipient.

"He's going to be our Hernandez-type guy who can do some things," Meyer said of the fifth-year senior Stoneburner. "We'll use him as a surface tight end."

Corey Linsley as Maurkice Pouncey

In an offense as complex as Meyer's, perhaps no position on the offensive line is more important than the center.

Meyer had a great one at Florida in the 2009 Rimington Trophy Award winner Pouncey, and he hopes to have similar success this season with a first-year starter in Linsley.

Like Pouncey, Linsley has shown the ability to play multiple positions across the offensive line, and according to freshman right tackle Taylor Decker, he's already showcased similar leadership skills.

"He's a monster. We did one-on-one drills and he's tough to move for anybody. He can blow guys off the ball," Decker said. "Corey, he's a really good guy. He's helped me a lot learning the offense. He's been kind of a mentor for some of the younger guys."

Noah Spence as Carlos Dunlap

Rated as the No. 1 defensive end in the nation coming out of high school in 2007, Dunlap was one of the anchors of a defense that helped lead the Gators to the 2008 BCS National Championship.

In less than a month on the job at Ohio State, Meyer landed a similar type of player in the No. 1-rated defensive end in the 2012 class in Spence. While he may not have the size that Dunlap has, Spence has already made his mark in his first fall camp in Columbus, and has earned praise from several teammates who expect him to make an impact once the season starts.

"I'd say Noah Spence has stepped up as a freshman," right tackle Reid Fragel said. "Very quick off the edge. I think he'll be a special player in the future."

Curtis Grant as Brandon Siler

The middle linebacker is as important of a position that you'll find on a defense, and Meyer was lucky to have a special one on his 2006 National Championship team in Siler.

After underperforming- especially by Ohio State's standards- in 2011, Meyer is hopeful that his linebacking corps will see a big boost in 2012, but just how improved it will be may depend on how Grant fairs in his first season as a starter.

The No. 2 overall recruit in the nation in 2011, Grant has caught the eye of at least one of the Buckeyes' coaches in fall camp.

"He's one of those guys that I'll promise you I'll lay my head at night on my pillows knowing he's going to give me everything he's got," OSU co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. "He'd die for this game, he loves this game, he studies it, he works at it. He's got a chance to be a great player."

Bradley Roby as Joe Haden

In the spread-heavy SEC, having a lockdown cornerback like Haden was important to Meyer's teams at Florida. And with the spread's influence growing in the Big Ten, it may become just as important at Ohio State.

After a three-year career at Florida, Haden went on to be the No. 7 pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. Roby has shown flashes of being a first round-capable talent, but is still waiting to have the breakout season for the Buckeyes that everybody's been waiting for.

"That's my goal. That's why I came here: to be one of the best," Roby said. "I was the first one to believe that, now y'all are just seeing that."

Christian Bryant as Reggie Nelson

Every defense needs an emotional leader, and Bryant is hopeful that he can just be that.

Like Nelson, the emotional leader of Meyer's 2006 championship team, Bryant plays free safety and has consistently showed the most emotion on the field of any player on the Buckeyes' defense.

This fall, Meyer has said that he's seen Bryant make improvements that will help him back up that talk.

"I know Christian Bryant played here, but I didn't see as much as I'm seeing now as I saw in the spring," Meyer said. "He got real busy."

With a bowl ban in place for this season, Meyer will have to wait until 2013 to see if any of these players' talents translate to a BCS National Championship like his former players did, but it's clear to see that there are already pieces in place to help make Meyer's run in Columbus a special one.


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