COLUMBUS, Ohio – Saturday will be a final chance for players like J.T. Barrett, Billy Price, Tyquan Lewis and other seniors to run out of that tunnel and play in front of the crowd at Ohio Stadium as part of senior day. It is a long-standing tradition where players get that one last chance at home to be honored and it can be an emotional time for these players as they get ready to play 60 minutes of football.
The Buckeyes did not draw the most formidable of opponents for this senior day with Illinois (2-8) coming to town, a team that is on an eight-game losing skid and is winless in conference play.
With Ohio State's biggest rival waiting for the Buckeyes to come to town next week, it would be easy to say that many people are looking past this game against the Illini. After all, the oddsmakers have the Buckeyes as staggering favorites in this game and many have penciled the Buckeyes in as winners for this game.
But don't say that around the WHAC. Urban Meyer and his team know what happen when you take your eyes off the road. Meyer will be there celebrating with his seniors for Senior Day but then there is a game that has to be played.
"I think that is a very unique experience, senior day in the Horseshoe," Meyer said during the Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday. "I hear our players talk about it, it is an incredible tradition to salute the players in front of these great fans."
Emotions will need to put in check as the game follows immediately. But for the remainder of the week, Meyer has put his staff on notice to make sure that they keep the team driven and motivated moving forward.
"I just think when a coaching staff has to take the lead with the way we practice," Meyer added. "There will be zero conversation about the past or future, it is about today. And then go play well."
The Buckeyes have 14 seniors on scholarship this year (including one-year awards to former walkons) but also have a talented junior class behind them. Guys like Sam Hubbard, Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon all are completing their fourth year while true juniors like Denzel Ward would be draft eligible. Not to jump the gun here, but a couple of these guys could be looking at making the jump to the NFL after this season.
How would Meyer handle it if a junior asked to take part in senior day?
"I don’t know yet," Meyer said. "That is something, if it happens, I will discuss with them."
Targeted for targeting?
There has been no rule in football that has gained as much attention and hatred as the targeting rule. Almost everyone is in agreement that the rule is necessary but there is a great debate if it is being enforced correctly and if immediate expulsion from the game is the right call on an incidental targeting or one that seems to have no intent.
The rule has been looked at and tweaked every year since it came into existence and this offseason will be no different.
Ohio State has seen four players get dinged for targeting over the last half of this season with players like Denzel Ward, Damon Arnette, Nick Bosa and most recently Dre'mont Jones all getting flagged for targeting and having to leave the game as none were overturned on the field or by the replay official.
Ward's was obviously not targeting while Arnette's most certainly was. The Bosa and Jones calls both were close, but head coach Urban Meyer is not making any excuses for his guys and believes that the rule is important. But don't look for Meyer to go much further and draw the attention of the NCAA because it already seems as if officials have their eyes on the Buckeyes.
"One (Ward's) was a misfire by an official," Meyer said. "The other two (Bosa & Jones) were, I think that Bosa's was, I don’t know if I have ever seen one like that, where it is kind of in the pocket. Dre'mont's was wrong, (on his part)."
On Monday, Meyer was pretty emphatic that replay officials that make mistakes on targeting calls should not be back in the booth. The status of the replay official during the Ward call is not known at this time.
But don't try and tell Meyer that targeting has got to go. The Buckeyes have just got to be better and not be in positions where snap judgment calls can cost them and change the momentum of a game. In Bosa's case, it prolonged an Iowa drive when the game was tied 17-all and the Hawkeyes scored on the very next play en route to blowing the doors off the Buckeyes.
"I met with coach (Greg) Schiano and coach (Larry) Johnson and we are just going to constantly… there is zero resistance on our end, we are proponents of the rule. It is a good rule and is for the best interest of the game and our players and all players. Just to consistently educate and teach and make sure that it is not acceptable
Odds and Ends
Urban Meyer announced that linebacker Jerome Baker has been cleared and fellow linebacker Dante Booker is questionable at this point of Illinois week.
In their absence, the Buckeyes did quite well at the position with sliding Chris Worley from the inside to the outside and bringing Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison in to fill those two roles.
Now with Baker appearing to be back in the mix, what to do?
Borland led the team in tackles from his MLB position and was very active in Ohio State's routing of Michigan State while Worley looked much more like the player we saw in 2016 than one that maybe has not flashed as much in 2017.
The coaches have a lot to think about.
"The next two days to be determined," Meyer said. "We will determine that. I like the fact, we are building a bit of depth. Second of all, those are very tough and consistent players (Worley and Borland) and I see them both playing a lot."