Hard work could make Ohio State punter Johnston the Ray Guy winner

COLUMBUS — Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston is called on only a little more frequently than an umbrella in Phoenix but Urban Meyer’s biggest concern about him might be that he will be overworked.

Even though he has averaged fewer than four punts a game in his career, Johnston puts in a lot of work in practice. Sometimes maybe a little too much.

“He’s a nut as far as work ethic. He’s a grown man. We got him when he was 20 or 21. He’s a grinder, he’s a worker and we have to back off. He never punts back to back days because he’ll just blow himself up,” Meyer said on Wednesday.

“I’ve had to threaten him a few times that if I see you kick a ball, you’re going to pay a bad price,” he said.

Johnston, a former Australian rules football player, is one of the top candidates for the Ray Guy Award, given to the player voted the top punter in college football.

His 50.6 yards per punt average ranks second nationally and eight of his 11 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. None of his five punts in a 45-24 win over Oklahoma the last time OSU played were returned.

Johnston, from Geelong, Australia, has led the Big Ten in punting in two of his first three seasons at Ohio State and was second the other season.

Ash changed OSU: It is not unusual for a coach to praise an opposing coach the week their teams play, but Meyer went beyond the ordinary when talking about Rutgers coach Chris Ash, who was Ohio State’s defensive coordinator the last two years.

“He’s one of the best defensive coaches I’ve been around,” Meyer said on his weekly radio show on Thursday.

“Think about our pass defense when he first got here. We were bordering on awful. We completely changed the way we thought as far as our approach in the back end of our defense. For years and years it was all stop the run, stop the run, stop the run because teams don’t throw the ball that well.

“But in the evolution of offenses and spread offenses and throwing the ball down the field, it has really forced people to change defenses. We made the transition with Coach (Luke) Fickell and Chris Ash being very instrumental in that,” Meyer said.

Schiano update: Meyer described co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as “devastated” over being involved in a traffic accident on OSU’s campus last Thursday which injured a 26-year-old student.

“That broke his heart. I don’t want to say much more than that our prayers are with the young person,” Meyer said.

Schiano is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday after being cited for failure to control his vehicle.

Hail to the victor (not that one): Ohio State’s wide receiver position is already crowded, but Meyer said another new face, Binjimen Victor, might have to be added to people competing for playing time.

“I want to play him, he’ s catching everything,” Meyer said. “He’s faster than you think.”

Victor, from Coconut Creek, Fla., was rated a 4-star recruit when Ohio State signed him in February.

Talking cornerbacks: Ohio State’s three-player rotation at cornerback of Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward is one of the big reasons Ohio State’s defensive backfield has played well in the first three games of the season.

Meyer said he hoped those three could perform at a high level, but he wasn’t sure everything would fall into place.

“Gareon, we kind of knew after his first year. Denzel Ward started to show signs of that last year and in spring training he was outstanding. Marshon is the one who always has been gifted, he just had horrible issues with his hamstrings. We kind of knew we had them, it was just a matter of keeping them healthy,” Meyer said.

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By Jim Naveau

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Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Jim Naveau
Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.