With his official debut as Ohio State's head coach fewer than two weeks away, Urban Meyer met with the media on Monday to discuss the progress that his team's made after more than two weeks of fall camp. And after evaluating the Buckeyes through two-a-days, scrimmages, and practices, it appears that Meyer likes what he's seen.
Beaten, not broken
Before the start of last week, Meyer referred to the Buckeyes' final full week of full camp as a make or break week for his team. With the crucial week now in the books, Meyer is pleased with what he saw.
"It was a make. If it was a break, I probably wouldn't tell you. I'm proud of these guys," Meyer said. "I like where we're at right now. We're certainly not perfect, but our guys our trying and we're doing decent."
According to many players, this has been one of the most grueling training camps that they have ever endured. But with no serious injuries arising in the last few weeks and a stellar out-of-conference record to his credit, the Ohio State coach feels as though his methods are well warranted.
"The only thing I worry about is the health and the heat. I'm scared to death of the heat. We've been fortunate, we haven't had to deal with it," Meyer said. "We try to push them as hard as possible in camp."
More stripes lost
Through the end of last week, five Ohio State freshmen 'officially' became Buckeyes when they earned the rite of passage of having the black stripe removed. On Monday, running back Warren Ball and Cardale Jones joined that list.
"I didn't recruit Warren, the more I get to know him, the more I'm really glad he's a Buckeye," Meyer said. "He's a tough guy, a hard runner."
Meyer also said that he's pleased with the improvements that Jones has made since he enrolled early at Ohio State in January.
"The guy that's really made as much progress as anybody, he was a non-factor for really about five or six months is Cardale Jones," Meyer said. "He's done a nice job."
If there's one area with more question marks than anywhere else for the Buckeyes, it's in their passing game. But thanks to some improvement from his wide receivers, Meyer likes where the Ohio State passing game is compared to a season ago, when it ranked 115th in the nation.
"The area where we're much improved is throwing and catching. They couldn't go much the other way, but they are much improved," Meyer said. "The receivers that have stepped up, and we're probably beating it to death, but they deserve it, if you watch film, they weren't very good, but Devin Smith's doing a nice job. Corey Brown's the No. 1 receiver."
After referring to the OSU wide receivers as "non-functional" in the spring, Meyer has been impressed with the progress that the wide receivers have shown this fall.
"Not where we need to be, but so much improved. I just enjoy being around them," Meyer said. "I didn't enjoy being around non-competitors. They weren't competing in the spring, they're competing now. I enjoy being around guys like that."
Oh captain, my captain
On Sunday, seniors John Simon, Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino, Jordan Hall, and Garrett Goebel were selected as the first captains to play under Meyer at Ohio State. After allowing the players to vote on who would earn such honors, Meyer was impressed with who the Buckeyes chose.
"Some obvious, some rather not obvious. Simon, obviously, and Zach Boren, those were the two No. 1 vote-getters," Meyer said. "Sabino was the third one. He's a come a long way. I didn't realize he hadn't played that much 'cause he acts like a veteran player and he's playing pretty good ball for us."
Meyer pointed to Hall's 3.0 GPA in his past two quarters at Ohio State as evidence of how far he's come since the start of his time at the school. He also said that Goebel's selection was not one that he saw coming when he first arrived in Columbus.
"I didn't know Garrett the first four months I was here. Probably a guy that doesn't look real good when we're running around cones, but he plays really good as a 'G' and an inside guy and tough as nails," Meyer said. "I love the guy. He's who we want at Ohio State. Just a tough guy, no nonsense, and plays hard."
With fall camp in the books, the Buckeyes are no longer just focused on themselves. Meyer said that despite it being more than a week away, his team is already preparing for its Sept. 1 opener with the Miami (OH) Redhawks.
"We're trying to win a game now. We're trying to win a game," Meyer said. "Today was all game planning."
So how was Monday's practice different from the two weeks of fall camp that the Buckeyes had just endured?
"A lot of scout work. Against each other, we don't do as much against each other as scout work against what we're going to see that first game," Meyer said. "It's much different this week than it was last week."