If you’re an Ohio State football fan, the temptation is unavoidable.
If you’re Urban Meyer, it’s unwise.
Ohio State mostly had its way in a 38-7 victory over Army on Saturday, and the rest of the month figures to be even easier. UNLV, which lost to Howard in its opener, visits this Saturday. The Buckeyes then travel to play Rutgers. The next major test for Ohio State figures to come Oct. 28 against Penn State.
Buckeyes followers might view this stretch of the schedule as a way to stretch their team. Tinker with schemes, give extended looks to young players and start devising a strategy for the big games to come.
With some of his previous teams, Meyer said, that might be the path he would consider pursuing. But the Buckeyes’ coach said his current team remains flawed enough that he and his staff can’t afford to look beyond the present.
“There have been times in my mind, and maybe in a couple of key members of the staff, when maybe we would have some of those conversations,” Meyer said. “We are not there yet. We have so many areas to fix that were exposed early in the season. We’re trying to get better and better and win games. We’re not at that point (of looking ahead).”
Meyer said the biggest issues are pass defense and “continued growth on offense.” He also mentioned the lack of a punt return game and the Buckeyes’ struggles when kicking off.
“Kickoff coverage is a mess right now,” Meyer said. “We don’t have a kicker that can kick the ball. If you notice, one almost went in the seats. There are a lot of issues we have to clean up. Our focus is on that.”
But some issues are unavoidable. Redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. made his debut against Army. He looked sharp in completing all four pass attempts in the final minutes.
“I thought he played very well,” Meyer said, adding that he wanted to get Haskins more throws but didn’t want to run up the score against Army.
But it’s not clear that Haskins is even the top backup. Joe Burrow, the 2016 backup, is close to being healed from the broken hand he suffered in training camp.
“We’ve got to make some decisions about who is the first one in there,” Meyer said.
As for the starter, Meyer was happy that J.T. Barrett bounced back from the Oklahoma game. The senior completed 25 of 33 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, and he did a superb job running the zone-read option.
“He’s a very intelligent player,” Meyer said. “He’s a guy that works extremely hard. He puts in more hours than anybody on our team.”
Though Barrett isn’t as flashy as predecessor, Braxton Miller, he is, Meyer said, an excellent decision-maker with the ball.
“J.T. doesn’t have that skill set, but he’s got a great sense of space on the field,” Meyer said. “And we need to continue to utilize him more (with the zone read). I think you’re going to see more and more of that as we move forward.”