Urban Meyer says he will be back at Ohio State next season. Now the question is if his team can get back to where it thinks it should be after a devastating 49-20 loss to Purdue the last time it was on the field.
When Meyer was asked about speculation he might not return as OSU’s coach in 2019 at his weekly press conference on Monday, he said, “I plan on coaching.” Asked if that meant coaching at Ohio State, he said, “Yes.”
Ohio State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) plays Nebraska (2-6, 1-4 Big Ten) on Saturday at noon in Ohio Stadium after an off week of down time, clearing the air and trying to fix season-long flaws in its running game and on defense.
“We had a team meeting on Tuesday to clear the air, clear the bad taste from your mouth and move forward. That was the objective of last week,” Meyer said.
“You can replay that thing (the Purdue game) over and over but we have to move on to the next game,” he said, pointing to three penalties that kept Purdue drives alive and 10 or more missed tackles as especially disturbing factors in the loss.
“We have worked very hard in two areas on offense – the run game and the red zone. That was basically the whole devotion of the off week last week on offense. On defense, it’s missed tackles and getting people on the ground when they get in space. That was the whole bye week as far as what we spent time on.”
“The time spent has and effort been phenomenal. Now it’s time to see some rewards,” Meyer said.
Ohio State has rushed for fewer than 100 yards in its last two games, the loss to Purdue and a 30-14 win over Minnesota, and has averaged 3.1 yards a carry in its last four games. It had only one run of more than 10 yards in the loss at Purdue.
“The No. 1 thing is getting guys in space. That’s something we’ve been pretty good at around here is getting athletes in space and we haven’t been able to do that. That’s kind of our trademark, getting guys to the second level and they do their deal and we haven’t been doing that,” Meyer said.
The mood in the Woody Hayes practice facility is one of urgency, he said.
“I’m not saying it feels bad but there is a tremendous amount of urgency. We understand November, we understand where we’re at, we understand what’s at stake and we understand our shortcomings. Urgency is probably the key word around here,” Meyer said.
When asked about his health and sideline demeanor, he said, “I’m fine. I want Ohio State to be successful in the worst way. I’m working extremely hard to make sure that is happening. I love Ohio State, I love our players. I don’t people to worry about me, I to make sure we’re getting some things right around here. That’s what 100 percent of our focus is on.
“The games have gotten to me for 30 years. We’re not playing well and I’m one of those guys who wants to fix the issue, like all coaches do.
“You see some things we’re doing that are not characteristic of our teams. We certainly have enough talent right now to play better,” he said.
MAKING STRIDES: Wide receiver Binjimen Victor, offensive tackle Thayer Munford and linebacker Pete Werner were the three names Meyer mentioned as being the OSU players who have improved most since spring practice.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Michael Jordan’s move to center after starting at guard the last two seasons has had its ups and downs, Meyer said.
During spring practice Brady Taylor was the first-team center but a knee injury that has kept him out all season so far changed that plan.
“At times outstanding and at other times it has not been great,” Meyer said the play of Jordan and the rearranged line.
“Brady Taylor was hurt and we didn’t feel Josh (Myers) was quite ready. So we had to get our five most effective players on the field. He (Jordan) has been playing pretty good. There is a little bit of a ripple effect but you have to get your five best on the field. You just get the best five.”
Meyer said Taylor and injured guard Branden Bowen “are getting close” but will practice against scout team players, not the first or second team, this week. He did not say they would play against Nebraska but did not rule it out, either.