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August 6, 2013

Meyer holding off on true evaluation

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just three practices into the 2013 season, Urban Meyer is admittedly not in a position to give a fully formed opinion about this year's Ohio State team. But that didn't stop the second-year Buckeyes head coach from sharing a little bit of optimism following his team's first day in pads on Tuesday, especially in regards to quarterback Braxton Miller

"I'm pleased with Braxton and he's come a long way. I know that's just three days, but he had a really good day today," Meyer said of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. "I just see a much better presence by him."

Miller broke school records for total offense and took home several awards in his sophomore campaign under Meyer, but struggled passing the ball consistently with a completion percentage of just 58.3. That's a number that his head coach expects to climb in 2013 after an offseason where chemistry with his receivers -- and improved fundamentals -- were placed at a premium.

"Just his whole demeanor," Meyer answered when asked what the biggest difference he's noticed in Miller has been. "His relationship with the receivers, which I thought was -- I don't want to say non-existent -- but I just didn't see that. He didn't really know what he was doing. And it's hard to lead when part of being a leader is setting the standard and leading by example. He wasn't leading by example, because he really didn't know what he was doing."

It's not just Miller who has caught Meyer's attention in the past three days.

After the Buckeyes' Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback spent Big Ten media days in Chicago two weeks ago singing the praises of freshman running back Dontre Wilson, the four-star prospect appears to be living up to the hype. While not yet ready to compare him to former Florida star Percy Harvin, Meyer is clearly excited by the dynamic that the 5-foot-10, 174-pounder brings to the Ohio State offense.

"I would say he's going to play," Meyer said of Wilson. "He's got something that we didn't have and that's just electric speed and he doesn't care, he just goes hard.

"He's got jets."

Another freshman catching Meyer's eye for the right reasons is punter Cameron Johnston. The Australia native and late addition to the 2013 class made a stellar debut during the Buckeyes' practice on Sunday, and possesses ability that could add flexibility to the OSU punt game.

"The first day was ridiculous. He was a one-shot wonder. Second day he was okay and third day he was okay," Meyer said of Jonston. "He's a live guy and he's a fast athlete, so we might be able to do some things with him moving in the pocket and so forth. He's our No. 1 (punter)."

The first three days of fall camp, however, haven't been without their own causes of concern for Meyer, who is entering his 12th season as a college head coach.

While positions like running back and defensive back possess a plethora of depth, Meyer is less enthused about his offensive line and linebacker units. The Buckeyes lost two linebackers to graduation and two more to transfer in the offseason, and only managed to bring in one offensive line recruit following the dismissal of Timothy Gardner two weeks ago.

"They just don't look Ohio State-ish. At the other positions, you can see three guys who are all good looking players, and at offensive line and the linebackers, we're not where we need to be," Meyer said. "We're just gonna have to hang on there for this fall and not get guys hurt, because we have depth issues."

Despite his optimism for some groups and disappointment with others, Meyer knows that the true test for his second-ranked team is still ahead. With two-a-days having yet to start and practice in pads just beginning, the two-time national champion head coach is holding off on making a true evaluation of the 2013 Buckeyes.

"It's one-a-days, it's the first day in pads, this is all candy," he said. "Come back on the field and talk to me in about a week, they'll be asleep on the mattresses by now. Camp is terrible. But this is not camp yet. This is just practices."

Other notes: Running back Carlos Hyde, who has been suspended for at least the first three games of the 2013 season, has been cleared to practice with his team, as has cornerback Bradley Roby, who was arrested in July for misdemeanor battery ... Center Corey Linsley has been hampered by a foot injury, but Meyer stated that "he should be fine" ... Jordan Hall is currently playing the Buckeyes' H-Back role, although Meyer said that the door is open for one of the younger guys -- like Wilson -- to play that position.



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