COLUMBUS – Maybe because it’s the season for endorsements, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer made a pair of them at his weekly press conference on Monday.
For the first time, he said he believes OSU quarterback Braxton Miller should be regarded as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
And after nine straight wins to start his first season as the Buckeyes’ coach, he described this year’s team as a special team.
“This is a special team. They’re fighting for each other. It’s a refuse-to-lose type atmosphere,” he said on Monday. “Some of us have seen teams that play really well, and they’re blowing teams out all the time. We’re not that type of team and I can give you 150 reasons why.
“However, we are a bunch of guys that work really hard, have a blue-collar approach, that show up every (week) and want to get better. You don’t want anything else as a coach,” he said.
Until now, Meyer had stopped short of calling Miller a Heisman Trophy candidate. He says he won’t campaign for his sophomore quarterback but thinks he deserves to be in the race.
“Do I believe he’s a Heisman candidate? I do,” Miller said. “I didn’t say that before, but I do believe Braxton is a Heisman candidate. He has to play much better but just from the sheer production of a team that’s 9-0, it puts him in that category, and that’s without knowing the other candidates.”
Miller has passed for 1,527 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 1,063 yards. He has gained more than 100 yards on the ground in six of OSU’s first nine games.
No. 6 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) plays Illinois (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten) on Saturday.
The Buckeyes are a heavy favorite, but that hasn’t always been a guarantee of an easy afternoon at the stadium this season.
Road wins at Penn State and Michigan State, an improbable comeback to beat Purdue, and coming from behind in the fourth quarter for a win against California are some of the things that led Meyer to put the label of “special” on his first Ohio State team.
OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said, “We find ways to win football games. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that are believing in themselves.”
Some other thoughts from Meyer:
—- The defensive pressure Ohio State put on Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin in a 35-23 win over the Nittany Lions last Saturday might not be a one-game occurrence, Meyer said.
“It (more aggressive defense) is something I’ve been pushing. I’ve been pushing a little bit and will continue to push,” he said.
—- Redshirt offensive lineman Chase Farris has been impressive in practice recently. “I see development. Chase Farris right now is on fire. You don’t know Chase Farris. Someday we’re going to be talking about him because his development has been great.”
—- Except for long-term injuries, like those to linebacker Etienne Sabino and running back Jordan Hall, Ohio State is getting healthier.
“Our trainer says we’re as healthy as we’ve been,” Meyer said.
—- The punt Penn State blocked – the third this season against OSU punter Ben Buchanan – was caused by a missed assignment when two players attempted to block the same defensive player.