The first week of fall practice is in the books for Ohio State football, and what coach Urban Meyer said is that perhaps the most telling week of them all is about to begin.
Meyer discussed the critical week of training to come and fielded questions about his transition at OSU, the quality of his wide receiving unit and players switching positions during the team’s annual media day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
One big week
OSU is allowed 28 practices during fall camp, Meyer said Sunday, and the team will plough through eight of those in the next five days.
Meyer, who said his team faces a training schedule that includes two-a-day practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the coming week, added “this will make us or break us.”
“Your practices – 28 before the first game – are all about development,” Meyer said. “As a player, once you start, you’re not going to get that much better throughout the fall. So, that’s where we put all the emphasis.”
Two “caged tigers”
Referring to redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton and sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller as “caged tigers,” Meyer said both quarterbacks are on schedule in their preparations for the coming season.
“One of the challenges I had for Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton was to throw the ball a little bit and they have. Not near where we need to be throwing the ball but much different than what you saw in spring,” Meyer said. “Our two quarterbacks are doing what they need to do.”
Meyer also said that Guiton has earned consideration for playing time and could see time if the player is deemed to be among the top 11 offensive playmakers.
“If he’s in our best 11,” Meyer said, “we’ll have to find a way to get him on the field.”
Miller did not appear during the team’s media day availability.
Comparing Gators to Buckeyes
Meyer, now well into preparations for his first season as coach of the Buckeyes, compared his transition into the OSU job to the transition to Florida, his last stop as coach, and called them “very similar.”
After departing the Utah in 2004 for the Gators, Meyer inherited a team coached by former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook.
“I took over for a guy named Ron Zook who is a very good recruiter and a very good coach and was able to keep a couple guys on (Zook’s) staff,” Meyer said. “Here, I took over from a very good football coach – coaches – so, I think it’s fairly similar.”
“Not Ohio State-caliber yet”
Senior Jake Stoneburner is now officially a member of OSU’s wide receiving unit, Meyer said Sunday. With or without Stoneburner, Meyer said the receivers are still short of the program’s expectation for them.
“Not Ohio State caliber yet,” Meyer said of the receivers. “The effort is much better.”
Meyer mentioned sophomore Devin Smith and senior Corey “Philly” Brown as players that have improved on their spring practice performances while also noting Stoneburner’s position switch.
“Devin Smith is much better than he was in the spring. The guy that got dinged up a little bit in spring was Philly Brown, and he’s playing at a much higher level,” Meyer said. “We have some depth… We’ve got some numbers. We’re still improving as far as quality, and I’m obviously a lot more optimistic about them.”
A battle at right tackle
Meyer highlighted the competition for the starting right guard position between senior tight end-turned-lineman Reid Fragel and freshman lineman Taylor Decker, calling it a battle.
Decker said he’s working as hard as he can to win the position, adding he doesn’t “wish anything ill” on Fragel.
“Reid’s a great player. He’s obviously a tremendous athlete, being a tight end and everything,” Decker said. “I would love to be able to play… but I love (Fragel).”
Fragel was complimentary of Decker as well, saying the two maintain a positive relationship.
“Coming out of high school, Taylor’s a strong guy. He’s got some great feet on him too,” Fragel said. “At the end of the day, Taylor’s a great player. The way it should be in any system is the better player will play.”
Another freshman joins the team
Freshman defensive end Noah Spence has joined classmate and defensive back Devan Bogard as the only first-year players to be officially welcomed to the Scarlet and Gray.
Meyer said Spence had the stripe removed following a Saturday scrimmage while Bogard became the first freshman to have the black stripe ceremonially removed from his helmet to signify his official arrival of a member of Meyer’s OSU squad on Friday.
Jordan Hall injury update
Redshirt senior running back Jordan Hall cut his foot after stepping on glass and had surgery to repair the cut June 29 and appeared at OSU’s Sunday media day at the WHAC in a walking boot.
Hall said he is now resigned to the fact that he will miss up to two games in the 2012 season.
“It’s getting better. I get this boot off in a week,” Hall said. “I was like ‘no, it’s my last year.'”