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Earlier today, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer met with the media as a part of the Buckeyes' annual media day. Speaking for more than 20 minutes, the first-year Ohio State coach talked about the progress of his team, who's standing out in fall camp, and an important position change for the OSU offense.
In the two Ohio State practices that were open to the media last week, we witnessed Jake Stoneburner lining up predominantly in the slot and not spending a lot of time at the tight end position he played in his first three seasons at Ohio State. On Sunday, Meyer made Stoneburner's position switch official by announcing that the Dublin Coffman product will be playing wide receiver this year and will be counted on to play role similar to the one that Aaron Hernandez played for Meyer at Florida.
"He's with the receivers. He'll practice at times, we'll use him as a surface tight end, but we have two very good tight ends in Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett," Meyer said. "So he's going to be our Hernandez-type guy, the guy that can do some things."
Stoneburner has also seen time playing the pivot position role that Jordan Hall played before suffering an injury this summer, but Meyer said that he currently doesn't expect the 6-foot-5 receiver to carry the ball much in that role.
"As of right now, no. But we'll see how it goes," Meyer said when asked if he saw Stoneburner as a potential ballcarrier. "It's not exactly what you want, but it's probably going to be a lot different looking than it looked at the other place."
One reason why the Buckeyes can afford to move Stoneburner to wideout is because of the emergence of Vannett, who Meyer said has been one of the team's most improved players.
"Nick Vannett is a guy that, he's going to be right in the middle of this thing, and I didn't see that at all in the spring. If you noticed, I didn't even bring his name up because he really was not a very functional guy in the spring," Meyer said. "I love giving credit where credit is due, and that guy got really busy about studying the playbook, learning the game, and Tim Hinton and Nick Vannett have done a nice job."
Meyer also named defensive back Christian Bryant and defensive lineman Joel Hale as players who have surprised him through the first week of fall camp, as well as starting running back Carlos Hyde.
"Carlos Hyde is a guy that- I saw, I called it the Wednesday practice. He had a Wednesday practice in the spring where it was a legit, like a legitimate tailback practice at Ohio State University. Unfortunately he didn't have a Monday, Friday, Saturday to follow up the Wednesday practice," Meyer said. "But I think we're what, eight, nine (days) into it? And he's really solid."
Another stripe earned
On Friday, defensive back Devan Bogard became the first freshman to lose the black stripe on his helmet and "officially" become a Buckeye under Meyer. On Saturday, defensive end Noah Spence joined Bogard in earning his stripes.
"I think that every program should have some kind of a way that you can graduate into becoming a full-fledged Ohio State Buckeye," Meyer said. "You kind of start things and some things take off and some things don't. This one exploded. And our coaches love it, our staff loves it, and most importantly, our players love it. And it's a right of passage to become an Ohio State Buckeye. You have to earn it."
Who the next player to lose his black stripe will be remains to be seen, but the Ohio State coaching staff wouldn't be surprised to see linebacker Davis Perkins take that next step.
"The guy that has really taken a notice and he's not a black stripe guy yet, but David Perkins from South Bend, he had a heck of a scrimmage yesterday, and he's a fly and hit guy, which you want," Meyer said. "He's a guy right now that he'll play this year. How much? He's still working on that."
One of the biggest questions heading into Meyer's first fall camp as Ohio State's head coach is how improved will a passing game that ranked 115th in the nation a year ago be. The OSU coach said he likes where his quarterbacks are in terms of progress, but also knows that neither Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton have been able to showcase their full abilities yet.
"Our quarterbacks, on purpose, are caged tigers right now. They get quick whistles, they've got black shirts on," Meyer said. "And obviously our style of play, that changes the whole game."
Despite not being allowed to be hit or tackled, the OSU quarterbacks have been utilizing drills to keep their scrambling skills sharp for the Buckeyes' season-opener on Sept. 1.
"It's innate, but scrambling and running is different from scrambling and keeping your eyes downfield," Meyer said. "We're scrambling but we're not running. We practice our scramble drill a lot where you keep your eyes downfield."
Worst is yet to come
While Meyer likes the current state of his team, he also knows that the worst of his first fall camp in Columbus is yet to come.
"This will be the hardest week of training camp," Meyer said. "They're about to hit the two-a-day two, one, two, one two coming up. So that's a lot of practices. This will make or break us this week."
Meyer is also aware of the importance of these next few weeks, especially considering the limited practice time that his team will get during the season as it prepares for each opponent.
"There are 24 practices once the season starts 'till it ends and then you've got 28 before the first game," Meyer said. "So that's where the focus is."
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