Meyer's return gives game extra meaning

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says his focus at practice has been fundamentals, ball security and the kicking game. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Normally, a game against a 36-point underdog wouldn’t be special for a coach with the resume of Urban Meyer.

But it should come as no surprise that Meyer can’t wait to get on the sideline against Tulane at Ohio Stadium on Saturday. After serving a three-game suspension for his handling of the allegations against fired receivers coach Zach Smith, Meyer makes his 2018 debut for the No. 4 Buckeyes (3-0).

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“My love for this university is unwavering and so real,” he said Thursday on his radio show. “My love for the fans is unwavering and so real. I’ve been a Buckeye since as far back as I could stand.

“I’ll forever love to be on that sideline. Between the third and fourth quarter when The Best Damn Band In The Land plays ‘Hang On Sloopy,’ that’s the moment I always stare down there, and I’m very grateful to be a part of that.”

Meyer was miserable being separated from his team after Aug. 1, when he was placed on paid administrative leave. Three weeks later, his suspension was issued after an OSU investigation.

“I sat in my house,” Meyer said. “I stared at walls for two weeks. And it was awful.”

Meyer was permitted to rejoin the team the week after the Buckeyes’ season-opener but was prohibited from being with it on game days. The team operated smoothly under acting head coach Ryan Day. Meyer doesn’t want to jump on a speeding train and slow it down.

“I was back two weeks ago, and I even asked today how do I assist?” Meyer said Monday.

Meyer said that since his return he’s been more of an overseer, with his main areas of emphasis on fundamentals, ball security and the kicking game.

“I have not been that involved in the offense,” he said. “I give my ideas. And I think they're doing exceptional. So I'm trying to just help, do the best I can.”

Meyer said he intends to be a “game manager.” Ryan Day will stay on the field and will conduct the play-calling with fellow offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who’ll remain in the press box.

“There’s been a comfort level there I think for the quarterbacks and myself being on the field,” Day said. “This week, we’ll be able to sit down on the bench with the guys on offense, with the quarterbacks, and discuss what happened throughout the last series and make some in-game adjustments right there on the bench. Maybe the last couple weeks I wasn’t able to do that because I was watching the defense or special teams.”

With Day at the helm, Dwayne Haskins Jr. has attempted only one designed quarterback run — an option play that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown against TCU. That’s mostly a function of Haskins’ skillset. He’s a pure pocket passer, unlike his predecessors J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.

But Meyer’s offenses have historically featured the quarterback run as a way to get a numerical schematic advantage on defenses. Meyer described the absence of Haskins’ runs as “lost yardage” this week.

“Statistically and production-wise, he’s been great,” Meyer said of Haskins. “But the lost yardage is the Q-run, the Q-draw and the Q-read plays. You have to pick up that yardage somewhere else. He’s at 340-some (yards passing) a game, throwing very accurately. The receivers are playing fairly well and he’s got two good backs behind him.”

On defense, the Buckeyes will be without defensive end Nick Bosa, who was more than living up to his preseason All-America status. He had core-muscle surgery Thursday.

Bosa’s absence could be a major factor in next week’s showdown at Penn State. It shouldn’t matter much against Tulane (1-2), which has sandwiched losses to Wake Forest in overtime and Alabama-Birmingham around a victory against Nicholls State.

It would be a major surprise if the Green Wave can seriously challenge the Buckeyes, especially with the team wanting to welcome back its coach.

“He’s been out for so long,” defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions built up. He might cry if we win.”


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