Simon, Hankins Disrupting Meyer’s New Offense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer knew it was going to take time for him to install his new offense at Ohio State.
It didn’t happen over night at Bowling Green, Utah or even Florida—despite his early success as a head coach at all three of his previous stops.
The terminology is new, the tempo is challenging and the no-huddle offense isn’t always an easy transition for young quarterbacks like Braxton Miller. It takes time to find a rhythm, especially for a team transitioning from a run-oriented power offense to a high-speed spread attack that barrages the defense both vertically and horizontally.
John Simon zeroes in on Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Meyer wasn’t overly impressed by his new offense during the first week of practice, but he has no plans to panic any time soon, although he did say they may slow things down this week and work closely on installation.
“We’re not where we need to be. I am not upset, I just wish we would grasp it a little faster,” Meyer said Wednesday after practice.
“On offense, any time you’re installing or you’re doing something new, nine guys do it right and two guys do it wrong and it looks like the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen. We just have to be a little more consistent.”
It might be a little easier for Meyer’s offense if he could find a way to get defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins off the field during the winner-loser scrimmages in practice.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Hankins came up a little wobbly at the end of Wednesday’s practice after tackling tailback Rod Smith on the final play, but he and Simon have been a headache for Meyer and new OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
“Right now there’s two guys on defense disrupting everything and that’s Simon and Hank,” Meyer said.
“Defense has won the first two winner-loser days and you’d expect that. They better win this early.”
Especially with 3 or 4 of Ohio State’s best players on that side of the ball. Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier emerged as a playmaker for the Buckeyes late last season and redshirt sophomore Bradley Roby is developing into a shutdown corner on one side of the field.
It all starts up front, however, with Hankins and Simon—arguably Ohio State’s two best players from a season ago.
“I have a lot of great players and my job will be to not screw it up,” OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said during Tuesday’s Coach Meyer Spring Kick-Off event.
“We’re going to play physical, play square and play with violent hands. We’re going to make it difficult for other teams to attack us downhill.”
Starting with their own offense.
With Simon on the outside and Hankins clogging things up in the middle, the first-team offense had a tough time getting anything going during Wednesday’s scrimmage. They fell behind early, and it looked like the defense was going to dominate from start to finish before Miller led the offense on a late push.
“The good thing about the scrimmage if you were watching close, they battled back and got it really got close at the end,” Meyer said.
“They came back—they started just awful—but they came back and battled and got the score really close at the end.”
Miller threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Corey Brown, who worked as the first-team slot receiver Wednesday, while Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith busted off a few big runs late in the day.
Ohio State’s offense made it close, but they could not overcome the duo of Simon and Hankins—along with emerging sophomore Michael Bennett, who joined Simon, Hankins and Goebel on the first-team defensive line Wednesday.
“Luke (Fickell) was much higher on him than I was through the off-season workouts,” Meyer said of the second-year player out of Centerville.
“I can see it now on the field. He’s a playmaker—he’s just a good players. He’s hard to block.”
Especially for an offensive line that is trying to replace a pair of multi-year starters on the outside in Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts.
“We don't have tackles. We have one tight end and a guard playing tackle,” Meyer said bluntly of the fact potential starters Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel were not playing tackle last season.
“You lose two kids who played here a long time in Adams and J.B. and it is just process of elimination. We have a first-string offensive line that’s adequate. Obviously they have to do better than that, but we’re getting better.”
Meyer has not hid his displeasure with Ohio State’s lack of depth on the offensive line. Freshmen Jacoby Boren and Taylor Decker have all but worked their way in to the two-deep, but he still considers the second group to be “a problem” right now.
Meyer did rave about the play of Mewhort this spring, and the first group might be all right if they didn’t have to block Simon, Hankins and Bennett on ever play. Sophomore Steve Miller also got some snaps with the first group Wednesday, and they should only get deeper in the fall with the arrival of 5-star defensive ends Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence.
Freshman Se’Von Pittman missed Wednesday’s practice with an apparent knee injury and is expected to miss the rest of spring ball. The same goes for fifth-year senior Nathan Williams, the guy who could make a real difference for the Buckeyes this fall.
“They are going to start jogging him in June,” Meyer said of the Miami Trace product.
“We need him.”
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