February 21, 2013

Buckeyes making offseason progress

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State's 2012 season was perfect. At least that's what the Buckeyes' record will tell you.

Playing in its first season under Urban Meyer, Ohio State won every game that it played, amassing a 12-0 record while laying the foundation for the type of program that the now second-year Buckeyes' head coach wants to run. But while OSU made it through last season unscathed, Meyer's debut in Columbus was far from perfect, at least outside of the Buckeyes' record.

"We might have been the most flawed undefeated team in the history of college football.," Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said. "That's a testament to the kids too, they found a way to win every week."

They may have been the only undefeated team in Division I-A college football last season, but the Buckeyes deficiencies were glaring. Aside from having two games come down to overtime and four others decided by a single score, Ohio State ranked 105th in the nation in passing yards per game and 47th in total yards per game.

Those aren't the type of numbers that will earn most teams a shot at a national championship, which the Buckeyes will be expected to compete for thanks to the expectations that they set for themselves with their undefeated season. And without 15 bowl practices to work with thanks to last season's postseason ban, Ohio State's need for improvement has only been amplified in the weeks leading up to the March 5th start date for spring practice.

"You gotta go get them, some how, some way," Herman said of the Buckeyes' missed practices. "We can't be hands-on at all, so this is where you take the next step as a leader and go make sure that some how, some way, you guys are throwing and doing drills and all that stuff that are making up for those 15 practices."

While not currently allowed to witness it in person, Herman has received nothing but positive indications that his offense is making progress. Returning nine starters to the unit and quarterback Braxton Miller now in his junior season, the OSU offensive coordinator is under the impression that the Buckeyes' maturity and experience is paying dividends this offseason.

"If there is a football on the field, I can't be within of viewing distance of them," Herman explained. "From the reports I get, it's like what a very well coached, and well rounded offense should be doing in the offseason, and that's having the quarterback out there throwing the football around with all the skill guys and the O-linemen doing drills, and this that and the other.

"From what I understand, all that's getting done."

Of course what the OSU offense looks like this spring could differ from what it looks like come fall camp or the start of the season. Thanks in part to Herman's recruiting efforts, the Buckeyes brought in the country's second-ranked recruiting class for the 2013 season, which includes offensive playmakers Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, and James Clark.

Still months away from getting to play with his new toys, Herman said that having freshmen who can contribute right away is more of a luxury than anything else, but it's one that he's certainly willing to enjoy.

"We tell our guys all the time, we're going to go try to recruit somebody better than you," Herman said. "We're going to go try to recruit guys that are better than you. If they are, and they come here and prove it, then they're going to play. There's no such thing as seniority. You play the best guys, so it doesn't matter if they're a true freshman or a fifth-year senior. The best guys play."

But regardless of whether or not any of the Buckeyes' incoming freshmen are capable of making an immediate impact, Herman knows that it will all but for naught should his existing players not continue to take the necessary steps in the coming weeks.

"There's a lot to improve on," Herman admitted. "We got a lot of work to do still. It's exciting knowing what we accomplished last year, but being as not even close to the potential that we think we can be."


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