Urban Meyer spent his first two seasons at Ohio State adapting his offensive system to the talent he inherited, playing less of the spread formation he used at Florida and going with more of what he called a “pro-style” game geared to the run.
“You just adapt and make the best of what you’ve got,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference Tuesday. “We became more of a downhill [running team]. It was just part of the transition.”
The Buckeyes won their first 24 games under Meyer before losing to Michigan State in last season’s Big Ten championship and then losing to Clemson in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
That Orange Bowl defeat proved costly, since then junior quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a shoulder injury that limited him in spring practice. Miller reinjured the shoulder last week and will miss the entire 2014 season.
It means that the Buckeyes, ranked fifth in the preseason, will have to readjust again going into their season opener Saturday against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will start in Miller’s place.
Asked what he has learned about his new quarterback in the past couple of weeks that he didn’t know before, Meyer said Barrett has simply reinforced what he and his staff saw while Barrett was being recruited.
“He comes from a really good high school program, and a really incredible family, and all those positives are coming out right now,” said Meyer. “I saw it before the [Miller] injury but you really see it now.”
Barrett has not taken a live snap in nearly two years, after suffering an ACL injury midway through his senior year in high school in Wichita Falls, Tex. Barrett won the job at Ohio State over redshirt junior Cardale Jones.
Not only do the Buckeyes have to replace Miller, who was being mentioned as one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy, they are also going into the Navy game with a rebuilt offensive line as well as tailback Ezekial Elliott taking over for Carlos Hyde, a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers.
Meyer said that he addressed Miller’s absence with the offensive line during a "little conversation" at practice Tuesday in Columbus, and was planning on talking with the entire team Tuesday night about the need to make up a leadership void created by Miller’s injury.
“They’ve been trained for a year and a half on about how you can’t control events, how you can control your response to events,” Meyer said. “This is as difficult as an event you have to deal with when one of your captains go down, and it happens to be a quarterback, which is a very important spot.”
As for the offensive line, Miller said, “Everyone just has to go a little bit harder. Braxton made a lot of bad plays right with his athleticism. J.T. certainly has the ability to do that as well, maybe not as dynamic as Braxton. But everyone has to go a little bit harder and be that much more sound and step up and protect our guy.”
The game against the Midshipmen will be the first of two trips to the region for the Buckeyes in a little more than a month. Ohio State plays Maryland at Byrd Stadium on Oct. 4 in what will be the Big Ten home opener for the Terps.
“It is interesting that we have two games on the East Coast, it is a big recruiting area and a lot of history between Ohio State and those players,” Meyer said. “In the last two years we’ve done well out there [recruiting]. It’s exciting and hopefully we get a lot of exposure. We have to do well, though.”
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