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Two days after picking up his second win in as many games as Ohio State's head coach, Urban Meyer met with the media to reflect on the Buckeyes' win over Central Florida and to preview Saturday's matchup with California. Speaking for 35 minutes, Meyer touched on a number of topics, including who made this week's champions club and what he'd like to see his team improve on after its 31-16 win over the Knights.
With OSU's second win coming in a far less dominant effort than its first one did, Meyer's 'Champions Club' for players who graded out with winning performances on Saturday looked far less crowded than it did a week ago. In fact, only two defensive players made this week's list: defensive end John Simon and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
"Although they were doing some things to kind of take him out of the game, he was a champion," Meyer said of Simon. "John Hankins also played very well, very disruptive in there."
On the offensive side of the ball, left guard Andrew Norwell joined three wide receivers in Evan Spencer, Devin Smith, and Corey Brown in the Champions Club. Meyer had especially high praise for Brown, who has emerged as the Buckeyes' leading receiver with 13 catches in their first two games and was named this week's offensive player of the game.
"(Brown) graded out 95 percent which is extremely high for a wide receiver," Meyer said. "And he's right now our best playmaker on offense."
With Carlos Hyde going down with an MCL sprain and expected to miss at least this week's upcoming game, Meyer could potentially head into Saturday's matchup with California with just two healthy scholarship running backs in Bri'onte Dunn and Rod Smith. Dunn was listed as OSU's starter on this week's depth chart, but who will get the bulk of this week's carries will depend on who performs in practice this week.
"We are still finalizing on who we are playing and trying to get their defensive schematics together. That is certainly a topic of conversation that will impact how we game plan. Those kids are talented, so it's not like we have a bad player back there," Meyer said. "We'll know more Tuesday and Wednesday because that will be addressed, in a big way. We are not going to wait till Saturday to find out if they are going to step back at you."
Despite his status as a true freshman, Meyer said that he would not hesitate to make Dunn the team's primary runner, if he shows that he deserves to be throughout the week.
"It's one thing getting your mind right to go to be a backup for third string tailback for a game. It's another thing getting your mind right to be the guy that's going to jog out there with the first offense," Meyer said. "There's no just go play."
The blow taken from Hyde's injury could be softened should Jordan Hall return from injury this week. The senior running back has been medically cleared to play, but Meyer remains unsure whether or not he'll make his senior debut on Saturday.
"He's going to run today, and I'll know more," Meyer said. "He was out there working a little bit yesterday, so there's a chance."
On the defensive side of the ball, Meyer said that the groin injury that defensive lineman Michael Bennett suffered appears to be worse than first expected and he could be out for a few more weeks. The OSU coach also addressed the status of defensive end Nathan Williams, who a week after playing against Miami (OH) following the microfracture surgery procedure he underwent a year ago, sat out of the Buckeyes' win over UCF.
"From everything I hear, he's actually on schedule, you know, so it just takes time. I'm hoping we have him for this week but I can't it's going to be I think for the next ten weeks," Meyer said. "It's the first time I've dealt with this type of injury. I don't know Nate as well as the guys that have been around here a long time. The one thing is he loves football, loves Ohio State. So it's just a tough injury."
What's the rush?
Perhaps Meyer's greatest concern from Saturday's came from the production- or lack thereof- of the Buckeyes' defensive line. Thought to be a strength of the team heading into the season, OSU has only recorded three sacks through two games- only one of which came in the Buckeyes' game win against the Knights.
"Teams are doing a good job of defending us and defending our best pass rusher," Meyer said, referring to Simon who is yet to record a sack this season. "I could list a multitude of reasons and excuses and so on and so forth; we have to get better at quarterback or it's going to be a long year."
Meyer said he has already had conversations with his coaching staff about ways that his team can get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
"There's two ways of doing it. One is defeating a man on a pass rush, so I'm going to go beat him and rush the quarterback; or, I'm going to blitz and try to confuse you," Meyer said. "The answer is, we need to do both."
A lackluster pass rush could be troublesome against this week's opponent, California, who will bring coach Jeff Tedford's pass-heavy offense to Columbus on Saturday. Meyer said that he's formed a close relationship with Tedford and has even incorporated parts of the Bears' offensive scheme into his own.
"He's one of my great friends. I've known Jeff for a long time," Meyer said. "Studied football with him back when I was at Bowling Green and still to this day utilize some of his pass concepts."
Although California will come to Columbus with a 1-1 record after a loss to Nevada and a win against Southern Utah, Meyer expressed concerns about the Bears, simply because of the talent that they possess playing in a BCS automatic qualifying conference like the Pac-12.
"Pac-12 team with Pac-12 players and coaches. Very unusual defense," Meyer said. "Very good players. They led the Pac-12 a year ago on defense. Offense, they have a very accurate quarterback, 64 percent completion rate and a very athletic team."
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