Lantern file photo
Miami (Ohio) football junior punter Zac Murphy better watch out – he and his teammates could be the first victims of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s “freak show.”
That is to say, the RedHawks will be the first team to face a revamped OSU special teams unit that features a punt-blocking subunit of Buckeyes players that fellow teammates and coaches have taken to calling “the freak show.”
Meyer inherited an OSU team whose special teams squad that had two punts blocked and one costly point-after attempt deflected in a Nov. 12 game against Purdue that effectively ended its Big Ten championship hopes. The unit failed to block any opponents’ punt in 2011.
The Buckeyes’ first-year coach boasts a freakish pedigree for developing special teams talent, though – in his six years at Florida, Meyer’s teams blocked 21 punts, eight field goals and three extra points.
He’s already attempting to achieve the same kind of abnormal special teams success at OSU.
Meyer has tightened things up on the special teams front, junior kicker and backup punter Drew Basil said, and also had the unit striving to be the best in the country.
“Coach Meyer – he puts the pressure on us. He definitely emphasizes special teams,” Basil said. “If we’re not the best in the nation with how much we go over everything, then that’s going to be a failure … we have to be the best. We’re going to be the best.”
The aforementioned subunit – the freak show – could be the piece that pushed OSU’s special teams group to the top in the country.
Redshirt senior linebacker and captain Etienne Sabino said not every player – not even himself – is a part of the freak show, though he will be involved with special teams this year.
Basil wouldn’t divulge which players had been deemed members of the freak show, but Sabino said it was comprised of, you guessed it, the team’s physical freaks.
“It’s a whole bunch of freaks out there,” Sabino said. “I mean, any one of them can block it. You have, you know, Bradley Roby, Travis Howard – all the fast guys out there.”
Basil, who had an extra point blocked in OSU’s Nov. 12, 26-23 overtime loss to Purdue, said last year’s special teams group was merely average. Meyer has all the kickers, punters and freaks on the same page heading into the 2012 season.
“(Meyer) teaches us a lot of stuff – what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Every day you’re sitting there thinking, ‘What even happened last year?'” Basil said. “But this year, we’re learning stuff bit by bit. It’s going to be a freak show. If we don’t set the NCAA record for blocked punts this season then, once again, it’s going to be hard to believe.
“You’ll see on Saturday.”
Meyer brings his freak show, along with the rest of the Buckeyes, into Saturday’s contest against the RedHawks with a personal career win-losses record of 104-23. Miami’s Don Treadwell, who helped lead his team to a 4-8 record in his first year in Oxford, Ohio, opposes Meyer.
OSU has a 4-0 all-time record against Miami with the most recent win occurred on Sept. 3, 2005, when the Buckeyes defeated their in-state rival, 34-14. OSU’s only other win against the RedHawks in the modern era of college football came in 2000 – the Buckeyes won, 27-16.
In 1911, OSU beat Miami, 3-0, and, in 1904, ran out to an 8-0 lead and won by the same score.