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Buckeye Brief: Ohio State running back Mike Weber’s reward, struggles of defensive backs and more

Ohio State redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell races to the end zone for a touchdown that was called back due to a holding penalty during the second quarter of the Buckeyes’ game against Army. Credit: Nick Clarkson | Social Media Editor

Ohio State rebounded well Saturday after its 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, beating Army 38-7. Coach Urban Meyer shared his view on what he expects to see from the team in the next couple days before its next matchup against UNLV at a press conference Monday afternoon. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Struggles of passing defense

A game in which Ohio State’s defense allowed just 19 passing yards could be viewed as a positive for the team, but only if the context is removed.

Ohio State faced off against the least-productive passing offense in college football, as Army had accumulated just 17 passing yards over its first two games of the season. The Black Knights almost solely relied on the triple-option for offensive production.

After the game, Ohio State went from ranking last in average passing yards allowed per game (403 yards) to ranking 101st (275 yards), but Meyer said Monday that passing defense is still an area the team is looking to improve.

He added that the team’s younger and more inexperienced players could earn themselves playing time if he doesn’t notice improvements, listing freshman cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah as two players who have caught his eye.

“Wade’s been dinged up a little bit. He didn’t practice at all,” Meyer said. “Okudah is scratching the surface of playing time. [Cornerback Kendall] Sheffield is getting better. He had his best week of practice last week. And I know it’s [Sheffield’s] third year in college, but he’s not had a lot of experience. And [cornerback Denzel] Ward’s gotta continue to get better. Those are the guys we keep moving forward.”

Going back to Oklahoma film

In preparing for their matchup against the Black Knights, the Buckeyes had to put away the film from the Oklahoma game as they prepared for a team that could not have been much more different than the Sooners.

Now that Ohio State has beat Army, it can go back to look at and learn from the Week 2 film as it prepares for more commonly used spread offenses in UNLV and Rutgers.

In fact, Meyer said the team already has.

“[The defense] spent all day yesterday on Oklahoma,” Meyer said. “Graded the effort and rewarded the effort in here with me and the team, and they went to work. And they’ll continue to work on, because now we’ll see another spread offense.”

Campbell being used more

With six wide receivers listed as starters, it could be viewed as a challenge for any one player to stand above the pack. But if anyone in the receiving corps has looked like he could take that next step, it would probably be H-back Parris Campbell.

Campbell leads the team in receiving yards with 217, ranks fifth in rushing yards with 32 on three carries and has averaged 36.5 yards on kickoff returns in four attempts.

The redshirt junior first flashed his explosion against Indiana in the opening week, when he caught a pass on a short crossing route and bolted through the secondary, taking the ball 74 yards for a touchdown. He used that speed again versus Army, nearly scoring his first rushing touchdown of the season when he broke out past the defense and into the end zone, before it was brought back due to a holding penalty.

Meyer said he sees a lot of former Buckeye H-back and current Carolina Panthers wideout Curtis Samuel in Campbell, and added he’d like to get the ball in Campbell’s hands more often.

“Everybody can see [the comparison]. I was so upset we had another holding call,” Meyer said. “Parris has that kind of skill set.”

Weber could be ‘rewarded’

For the bulk of this season, redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber has been helplessly watching from the sideline as freshman running back J.K. Dobbins dominates on the field.

Weber has been limited to 42 yards on seven carries due to a lingering hamstring injury that has prevented him from seeing regular playing time.

However, Weber is coming off a season as Ohio State’s primary running back in which he rushed for 1,096 yards on 182 carries and added 91 receiving yards on 23 catches.

Despite his injury and Dobbins’ success as the No. 1 running back so far, Weber could still return in a major role for Ohio State’s offense once he is fully healthy.

“He’ll be rewarded once he gets back full speed,” Meyer said. “It’s not that Mike’s a lost soul around here … He’s very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks.”

The third-year running back had just four carries for 13 yards in Saturday’s 38-17 victory over Army.

Nuernberger could start as kickoff specialist

Another area Meyer cited kickoff coverage of an area needing dire improvement. Freshman kicker Blake Haubeil has handled kickoff duties so far this season, and Meyer said the freshman and the rest of that special team have not been effective thus far.

“Kickoff coverage is a mess right now,” Meyer said. “We don’t have a kicker that can kick the ball. If you notice, one almost went out up in the seats.”

Army returned five kicks during the game and averaged 23.2 yards in returns, including a 43- yard return. The Black Knights twice began a drive after a kickoff twice beyond their own 25-yard line, and Oklahoma was able to bring the ball out beyond its own 25-yard line three of its times in four returns.

Meyer suggested the poor start for Haubeil could lead to a change, stating that redshirt junior kicker Sean Nuernberger could become the team’s new kickoff specialist.

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