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

Dan Wismar



Brutus and TBDBITL- Saturday, September 22, 2012

- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, OH

- UAB at Ohio State

- 12:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: Big Ten Network -

The UAB Blazers will meet the Ohio State Buckeyes for the first time ever Saturday at the Horseshoe in what amounts to a tuneup for the first game of the Big Ten schedule next week in East Lansing. Ohio State has not lost a home game to an unranked non-conference opponent for 30 years, a streak that has now reached 60 games, and that’s not likely to change this week against the 0-2 Blazers.

The 16th-ranked Buckeyes (3-0) are a 36-point favorite to dispatch a winless UAB squad playing under first-year head coach Garrick McGee, who served as offensive coordinator at Arkansas for the last two seasons, and was on the staff in Fayetteville for four years. The Blazers are coming off a 49-6 loss to South Carolina a week ago after losing earlier to Troy State 39-29 (which by my count makes them the fourth best FBS team in the state of Alabama).  UAB returns 11 starters from a group that went 3-9 in 2011. The Blazers have not had a winning season since 2004, when they were 7-5.

The focus for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes this week has been to get back to fundamentals of tackling on defense, an area that stuck out like a sore thumb last week against Cal. They will also be trying to fine-tune a rushing attack with players other than Braxton Miller, an effort that began last week with Jordan Hall getting back into the lineup, and which this week may also involve Rod Smith. The Blazers’ 104th-ranked defense is allowing an average of 477 yards per game to this point, which bodes well for an OSU offense looking to work out some kinks.

Ohio State leads the Big Ten with a 40.6 scoring average (FBS rank No. 20) , while allowing 18 points per game (FBS rank No. 36) to their opponents. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 66 among FBS schools in total defense, allowing an average of 392 yards per game.


State of the Bucks

The Bucks are a little bit banged up in the defensive secondary, with cornerback Bradley Roby nursing a shoulder bruise and safety C.J. Barnett a sprained ankle. Both could probably play, but a decision hasn’t been made yet on them. Michael Bennett is out again this week, but Meyer said he should be ready for Michigan State next week. Carlos Hyde will miss at least this week’s  game with his MCL sprain.

RodSmithAkron1John Simon (shoulder) has been limited in practices this week and is getting better, and the man Meyer called “the most selfless player I’ve ever been around” will be ready to go Saturday. Nathan Williams, who missed the second game after playing extended minutes in the opener, is improving steadily, Meyer said. Although he will probably be a week-to-week decision all season due to the serious nature of his situation (microfracture knee surgery) Williams is expected to be ready for UAB.

Meyer said on his weekly call-in show Thursday that junior Rod Smith (pictured) has passed Bri’onte Dunn on the running back depth chart behind Jordan Hall (and the injured Hyde) and has earned some playing time with his practice performance in recent days. He also mentioned that freshman defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington have been coming along in the last couple weeks of practices, and can be expected to have increasing involvement in the rotation.

Meyer told reporters Wednesday that he is pleased with the progress of his freshman linebackers, and that we might expect to see more of Josh Perry, Cam Williams or Jamal Marcus in the next few games. “It’s a meritocracy here at Ohio State.” If you’re not playing, “it’s because you’re not good enough” said Meyer, with the candor and matter-of-fact tone that sets the new guy apart from his vested predecessor.


UAB: Key Personnel

If there is an identifiable strength to this Blazers team, it would be on offense, and specifically throwing the football. McGee is an offensive-minded coach, and his UAB team has all of their skill position starters returning.

UAB LogoJunior quarterback Jonathan Perry is a dual threat guy, who is not necessarily a dangerous threat running the ball, but he can pull it down and rush it when he has to. He rushed for 294 yards and 3 TD’s as the starter in the season’s second half a year ago, and he has 38 yards rushing in two games this year. Perry is passing at a 52.2% clip so far in 2012, for 536 yards, with two TD’s and an interception.

Perhaps the best of Perry’s receivers is Jackie Williams, who caught 58 passes for 607 yards in 2011, and is off to a good start this year with 11 grabs for 202 yards. Senior Patrick Hearn complements Williams with 11 catches for 174 yards in the Blazers’ first two games.

There’s not much of a track record running the ball yet for this year’s Blazers, as South Carolina held them to 27 yards (net) on 42 carries. Their 80.5 yards per game average ranks 114th out of 120 FBS programs in the early going. Sophomore Darrin Reeves is the team’s leading rusher with 58 yards through two contests.

Senior left tackle Chris Hubbard is the only starter returning on the offensive line, and he’s a solid player who made most of the preseason All-C-USA teams, but he is surrounded by inexperience on that line.

Perhaps the less said about the UAB defense the better. They are giving up an average of 44 points per game, and South Carolina ran up over 500 yards in total offense against them. The Blazers do have some solid linebacking personnel, with seniors Marvin Burdette in the middle and Greg Irvin at the strongside spot, but there is too little size and too little experience overall to expect them to hang in against OSU.


Idle Speculation

OhioStadium2011One hopes the highlight of the day for Buckeye fans will be something other than the quadruple Script Ohio at halftime, with TBDBITL assisted by the members of the alumni band...not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But the anticipation of less, rather than more excitement has tickets for this one floating around all over Columbus.

It’s too bad this week’s opponent isn’t apt to provide the kind of stern test that would really benefit the Buckeyes as they try to work the wrinkles out in preparation for the Spartans next week, but you play the games the A.D. schedules for you. At least on defense, the things that have caused problems for the Buckeyes are as much schematic as they are issues of execution, as Ross Fulton of 11W describes in some detail here.

Both UCF and Cal hurt the OSU defense by running stretch runs into the boundary, while the Buckeye defense was set up with its numbers oriented to the field side. Most of the big running plays they have surrendered have seen the running back get to the edge and turn the corner on the short side of the field. The staff has acknowledged the problem and is no doubt adjusting going forward...and for those kinds of issues, the strength of the opponent is less important.

The execution portion of the problem relates to poor tackling and pursuit, especially in the back seven, and for that the coaching staff is stressing fundamentals, including not trying to do too much in the way of deception and shifting. Keeping it simple seems to be the watchword.

Meyer was asked if limiting the carries for Braxton Miller was comparable to shutting down Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals. “Braxton doesn’t have a pitch count” was Meyer’s reply, and he went on to explain that the Buckeyes will use their most potent offensive weapon as much as they need to in order to win games.

Expect to see lots of Jordan Hall once again in the ground game though, and it should be very interesting to see the snaps for Rod Smith that Meyer has promised he’ll get. If indeed the proverbial light has finally come on for that young man, Meyer’s offense could be adding the big back weapon they need , at least until Carlos Hyde returns to full strength.

Meyer says the Blazers, who play a 4-3 base and cover 2 defense, will blitz about 50% of the time, and as much as 75% when the opponent reach the red zone. He likes his elusive quarterback in those situations.

UAB stayed close with South Carolina until halftime last week, down only 21-6 at the break. Gamecocks’ coach Steve Spurrier may have been just trying to be gracious when he said afterwards, “"This was one of the closest 49-6 games I have ever been around,” but the Blazers moved the ball, and had two separate 1st-and-goal opportunities on which they failed to score. UAB passed the ball for 240 yards, and even though they were almost completely unable to run the football, they dominated the time of possession to the tune of 36 minutes to 23 for the Gamecocks.

I don’t really believe the Blazers have a chance to win this game, but the Buckeyes have been anything but dominant in their first three wins, and it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that UAB will cover the 36 point line. So that’s my call here...OSU 38-10


Ohio State Roster

UAB Roster

OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)


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Photo credits: Jim Davidson and Dan Harker - - (Don't know what we'd do without you guys...thanks)

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