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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview: Miami at Ohio State
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

- Saturday, September 1, 2012


- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, OH

- Miami University at Ohio State

- 12:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: Big Ten Network (BTN) -

A new era of Ohio State football begins this Saturday as the Miami Redhawks visit Columbus to provide the opposition for Urban Meyer’s OSU head coaching debut. BTN will televise the game nationally at noon, and shortly thereafter Buckeye fans will get their first glimpse of an offensive system radically different from the one they have grown used to seeing on fall Saturdays.

The new, up-tempo offense figures to be the most conspicuous departure from recent history at Ohio State, but the defensive coaches have implemented some changes as well, and there will be lots of fresh faces in Scarlet and Gray on that side of the ball.

Ohio State has won 33 consecutive home openers, the last loss coming against Penn State in 1979. The Buckeyes have twice dropped season opening games on the road since then, both times in the now-defunct Kickoff Classic, in 1986 vs Alabama, and in 1999 vs Miami (FL).

The Buckeyes are 4-0 vs Miami, the last meeting a 34-14 home victory in 2005. Ohio State is ranked 18th in the AP poll coming in to the opener, and Miami is unranked.

Urban Meyer becomes the 24th head coach in Ohio State history to take to the sidelines in a Buckeye opener. In his 11th year as a head coach, Meyer’s career record is 104-23 (.819), plus those two national title notches on his belt. Miami is coached by Don Treadwell, who is in his second season in Oxford. The Redhawks were 4-8 in 2011.


Brax2012 copy

R.I.P. Tresselball

“We're going to go as hard as we can and try to score as much as possible,” Meyer said Thursday on his weekly call-in show. Asked about the possibility of running up the score on the Redhawks, he was quick to compliment Miami’s team in general, and especially quarterback Zac Dysert and receiver Nick Harwell, but added, “We are a no-huddle team. Our objective is to win the game. We don't think about it....We have to wear them down because we're going to go no-huddle. We have to pound them. That's going to be our M.O. every week."

In other words...don’t take it personally when we run up the score on you. It’s the system.

Braxton Miller (pictured) begins his sophomore season as the Buckeyes starting quarterback, and he can’t wait to get unleashed. Meyer has protected Miller from tackling and most heavy contact throughout spring and fall camps, and has referred to both Miller and his backup Kenny Guiton as “caged tigers” waiting to be sprung. The OSU offense is largely based on mismatches created by the threat of the quarterback running the ball on every play, so this game will be the first opportunity for Miller to utilize his full arsenal of weapons by adding his own quick feet and elusive running style.  

The final spot on the starting offensive line was won by converted tight end, senior Reid Fragel, who will man the right tackle position. Meyer said Fragel had his best week of practice this week, holding his own against John Simon, and he got the starting nod over true freshman Taylor Decker. The starting line, left-to-right, will be Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall and Fragel.

Much has been said already about the OSU wide receivers, as Meyer has wondered aloud which ones will step up as playmakers for this offense. It appears now that the answers to that question are junior Philly Brown, sophomore Devin Smith and senior Jake Stoneburner. At least those are the receivers we’re likely to see getting the first shot at delivering the big plays Meyer needs from this unit. Tight ends are also expected to have a major role in the offense, and both sophomore Jeff Heuerman and redshirt freshman Nick Vannett will see action in that role.

The Redhawks can expect to get a large dose of Carlos Hyde from the tailback position, and freshman Bri’onte Dunn will see action as Hyde’s first backup. Meyer said Thursday that they will also “throw a bone” to fullback Zach Boren once in a while, using the senior as a tailback and giving him a carry from scrimmage on occasion. Boren’s next carry will double his career total in his fourth season as a starter.

Hankins4Reloading the Silver Bullets

On defense, the Buckeyes will be aiming for a rebound from last season’s disappointing performance, and they’ll be counting on their depth and experience in the defensive line and the secondary to make life easier for their still unproven linebacking corps.

Everyone agrees on the talent and depth along the OSU defensive front, which features senior All-American John Simon and junior tackle Johnathan Hankins, along with nose tackle Garrett Goebel and end Michael Bennett. Senior “Leo” end Nathan Williams is said to be getting closer to being game-ready, but if he sees any action this week it will likely be a very limited number of plays.

A groin injury to Bennett will limit his action against Miami as well, and the departure from the team of Adam Bellamy will mean early playing time for some of the talented freshmen on the defensive line unit. Meyer said Thursday that all four freshmen could see action Saturday. (Noah Spence, Se’Von Pittman, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington).

Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino return to the linebacking corps, but all eyes will be on new starter Curtis Grant, the sophomore from Virginia who is being counted on to anchor the middle of this defense at MLB. Keep an eye on #14 as a major key to the success or failure of the Ohio State defense.

The secondary looks like a strength of the team, with returning starters at all four positions. Bradley Roby has emerged as a true shutdown corner, and Meyer has remarked about the tremendous improvement made over the last year by Travis Howard at the opposite corner spot. At safety, C. J. Barnett is pegged as a preseason all-conference performer, and Christian Bryant has been getting good reviews for his play this spring and summer as well.

Redhawks Look to Bounce Back

Miami is just one season removed from winning the MAC East and a bowl game in 2010, and they have 16 starters returning from a squad that went 4-8 a year ago in Treadwell’s first season at the helm. Everyone in Oxford expects improvement from last year’s mark, and their outstanding quarterback-receiver combo of Dysert and Harwell is a big reason why.

Miami Logo copyWith 8,530 career passing yards coming into his senior season, Dysert will break Ben Roethlisberger’s Miami passing yardage record (10,829) this year if he stays healthy, and he led the Redhawks to the 14th-best passing ranking in the nation in 2011 at 299.1 yards per game.
He completed 65.8% of his passes, throwing for 23 TD’s against 11 interceptions.

Harwell is a guy Urban Meyer says is capable of playing on Sundays after catching 97 passes a year ago, for 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns. Senior wideout Andy Cruise is another big target for Dysert, having grabbed 48 passes in 2011 for 391 yards and four TD’s.

The Redhawk running game was as weak a year ago as the passing game was strong. The Redhawks finished dead last in the FBS in rushing yards per game with just a 73.8 yard average per game, and their leading rusher Erik Finklea gained 328 yards for the season.

On defense, the Redhawks’ leading returning tackler is Pat Hinkel, who piled up 79 stops as a safety a year ago, but is being moved up to linebacker for 2012 to help make up for the loss of the team’s top two linebackers from last year. Dayonne Nunley is one of the best cornerbacks in the MAC, with nine career interceptions in two years as a starter.


Random Notes

One thing to keep an eye on Saturday is how well OSU players live up to Meyer’s insistence on “4-6 seconds of relentless effort and focus”. That’s what Meyer demands of all his players, on every play. And that is the basis on which he will award the coveted Buckeye leaves for players’ helmets after each game. Meyer wants that visible recognition to be based more on effort than on individual play-making.

OSUHelmetThe Buckeyes have a decided edge on Miami in the kicking game with Drew Basil and punter Ben Buchanan. Of Basil, Meyer said on Thursday, "I love our kicker. He’s a stud". He mentioned Basil’s effort and achievement in the weight room, the best he has seen from a kicker.

Most coaches think of the punt defense unit as the “punt return” team. Urban Meyer appears to prefer thinking of it as the “punt block” team. He has assembled his fastest and most athletic 11 guys to come after every punt with the intent to block it. He has warned his defense to expect the occasional penalty for running into the kicker, which could send them back on the field after they stop the opposing offense. He understands that it’s going to happen from time to time when you’re sending what Meyer calls “The Freak Show” unit after most every punt. Expect Bradley Roby, Philly Brown, Etienne Sabino, Ryan Shazier, Travis Howard, and maybe freshman David Perkins to be among the players on that unit.

One NCAA rule change this year may come into play with the Freak Show. Players are no longer permitted to attempt to vault over the deep “punt protect” wall in an attempt to block a punt (like Arkansas did late in the 2011 Sugar Bowl vs OSU) They may try to crash through that human barrier, but leaping over it is considered a safety risk, since once a player is airborne, he can tend to land on his head or neck if he is upended by a blocker.

Idle Speculation

The expected improvement in the Redhawks aside, this game figures to be a tune-up for what looks like a very good Central Florida team coming into Columbus in Week Two.  (In case you missed it, I tried to answer some of the many questions about this 2012 Ohio State team in my column last week)

Drums OSUTwo things I consider keys to this game, and keys to the entire OSU season: Protecting the OSU quarterback, and rushing the opposing passer. The Buckeyes did neither thing very well last year, ranking among the worst FBS teams in sacks allowed, at 3.54 per game (and this from a team that didn’t attempt very many passes). They also didn’t get much productivity from their own pass rushers against opposing QB’s.

A team like MIami...with a productive passing attack and a negligible rushing threat...might be the ideal opponent to attempt a strategy of “stopping the run on the way to the quarterback”, as the old saying goes. I would expect the defense to send the house after Dysert and worry about the run as an afterthought.

We hear that OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs has his unit playing a bit less press-man coverage this year, instead giving opposing receivers a little more space to allow his corners to better break on the ball. Watching starting corners Travis Howard and Bradley Roby battle a good passer in Dysert and a Biletnikoff Award candidate in Harwell should be interesting viewing.

With the possible exception of the OSU debut of an elite head coach, no storyline in this game is more compelling than the unleashing of the “caged tiger” Braxton Miller as the triggerman in the Meyer-Herman no-huddle-all-the-time offensive attack. Even with all the advance notice and breathless anticipation, it may still result in a case of culture shock for the Ohio State faithful.

Buckle up.

I’m guessing 41-13 Buckeyes, with lower numbers possible if the expected rain comes before or during the game.


Ohio State Roster

Ohio State Depth Chart (pdf)

Miami University Roster

OSU Athletics Communications Game Notes (pdf)


on Twitter at @dwismar

Dan’s OSU Links and Resources


(photo credits - Jim Davidson and Dan Harker -

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