April 5, 2012

Defense wins, offense keeps improving

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Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - One-third of the way through his inaugural spring practice at Ohio State, head coach Urban Meyer believes his baby - the offense - has a long way to go.

On day No. 5, the offense had some bright moments - quarterback Braxton Miller's 45-yard touchdown ass to Corey Brown - but the defense emerged victorious in the scrimmage.

"We're not where we need to be," Meyer said of the Buckeyes' offense. "But I'm not upset. I just wish we would grasp it a little faster. Anytime you install (a new offense), nine guys do it right and two guys do it wrong and it just looks like the most disgusting thing you'll ever see. So we've just got to get a little more consistent."

The offense ran sprints and drank water from hoses following practice, as the defense relaxed and drank Gatorade. But as Meyer alluded to, offensive struggles aren't all that surprising.

"They'd better win," Meyer said of the defense. "It's early yet. They're playing well and the defensive coaches are doing a nice job.

The defense returns nine starters and is learning far less new schemes compared to the offense's seven returnees.

The daily competitions have traveled with Meyer from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida and, now, to Ohio State. With winners and losers everyday and a two-deep set following the spring game, the 2012 spring has been the most competitive at Ohio State in years.

Coaches - especially Kerry Coombs - have joined in and are constantly in players ears and faces offering motivation or letting them know they messed up.

Meyer said as practice rolls in he will continue to evaluate the offense and may start to scale back the installation of his complex offense in favor of concentrating on execution.

"We're a lot better today than we were yesterday," he said. "So as long as we keep doing that, it means there's still the bar is being raised."

CAPTAIN BUCKEYE: In seasons past, the football captains haven't been selected until mid-August. The new sheriff in town has decided to change that. Meyer already indicated that senior defensive lineman John Simon will be one captain. Now it appears as if senior fullback Zach Boren will be another.

Meyer has raved about the two impact players since he arrived at Ohio State in November. The praise has continued during spring practice.

"The first thing is they're not just popping off," Meyer said. "I can't stand a guy who just stands up there and talks. That's not leadership to me. Leadership is by example."

And Simon and Boren have what it takes. Work ethic, character and offering direction are three of the qualities Meyer believes Simon and Boren bestow on the team.

SCARLET AND GRAY GAME: Ohio State announced that the annual spring game will be televised by Big Ten Network. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. on April 21 at Ohio Stadium.

Tom Hart, Derek Rackley and Lisa Byington will be the broadcast crew.

Demand for the game is high - more than 15,000 tickets have already been sold - and indications are 90,000-plus could be in attendance if the weather cooperates. The school record for spring game attendance was set on a sunny day in 2009 when 95,722 people showed up.

And that was nothing more than drills. The format this season will be a true game.

There will be two drafted teams this season, with the offense competing against the defense like any other football game. Meyer said his reasoning was to get the younger players in the groove on game days. His hope is that the huge crowd and rush in the spring will prepare them for the fall.

"One thing a place like Ohio State gives you is a game-day atmosphere experience," Meyer said. "We have to utilize that."

Tickets are $7 if purchased prior to game day and $15 each on the day of the game. Tickets on game day may only be purchased with cash.

Tickets are available at OhioStateBuckeyes.com, through the Ohio State Athletics Ticket Office at 800-745-3000, at the ticket office located in Value City Arena, at any Ticketmaster location or at any Central Ohio Donato's.

Ohio State students with a BuckID and children 6 and younger will be admitted for free.


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