Final exams at Ohio State may be over, but Josh Myers is busy cramming for his biggest test of the year.
The Ohio State center will be a pivotal player in the Buckeyes’ Fiesta Bowl showdown against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals on Dec. 28.
For starters, the third-year sophomore from the Dayton suburb of Miamisburg is tasked with blocking Clemson’s stout defensive tackles, Tyler Davis and Nyles Pinckney. But he also has to be prepared and react to the wrinkles that Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables will use to try to disrupt the Buckeyes.
Venables is regarded as one of the top coordinators in the college game, as his $2 million annual salary attests. Myers must be spot on with his blocking calls.
“Yeah, it puts a lot of pressure on me,” he said this week. “From the film I've seen, they've run a ton of different looks, a ton of different blitzes, and I'm going to have to be prepared for all of it.”
Myers is already immersed in preparation from video study.
“I take a lot of notes — a lot of notes,” he said. “What I'm looking for is little things I can pick up, little tendencies, anything I can see in their defense. That's something I do pretty much every game, and it's nice to have more time to be able to do that for this one.”
Myers believes he’ll be helped by the fact opponents have repeatedly given looks they hadn’t shown earlier in an attempt to surprise the Buckeyes. Given Ohio State’s dominance, teams generally just don’t line up and play their normal style.
“There hasn't been a whole lot that we haven't seen this season,” Myers said. “We've had so much stuff thrown at us, which is beneficial."
Most opponents haven’t been successful. The Buckeyes are averaging 48.7 points and 531 yards per game. But Wisconsin did have success with blitzes in the first half of the Big Ten championship game. The Badgers held Ohio State to one touchdown in the first 30 minutes before the Buckeyes scored 27 unanswered points in the second half.
“It was just the sheer numbers that they were bringing,” Myers said. “They were blitzing a lot, like almost every play. And then they were bringing a lot of people. They were loading up on us and bringing quite a few people."
Venables no doubt studied what Wisconsin did, and Myers knows that he and the Buckeyes must be ready.
Though Myers makes the blocking calls, it is a group effort. All of the linemen must be in sync. One thing is for sure: They have faith in Myers, who earned all-Big Ten honors in his first year as a starter, second-team by the media and third-team by coaches.
“Josh Myers just leads the offense like nobody's business,” right tackle Branden Bowen said. “Not only does he make the calls, but he's confident about it. He knows what he's doing.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day was even more effusive.
“I don’t even know if I can really put it into words,” he said before the Big Ten championship game. “I think for a first-time starter, what he’s done this year has been excellent. He’s as good as I’ve ever been around at that age.
“His communication, his ability to get the calls from tackle to tackle, his pad level, his strength, his protection, his athleticism, the leadership — he’s very, very talented.”
In a week, Myers will need to be at his very best.