|Schutt goes down, won’t be back until midseason|
|Thursday, August 29, 2013 12:35 AM|
By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — What’s brewing with the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes …
BUCKEYES BUZZ: Ohio State’s defensive line was a pressure point to begin with. After losing a top backup, there will be even more scrutiny up there.
After Wednesday’s practice, coach Urban Meyer confirmed that Tommy Schutt — a backup at both inside spots on the line — will be lost until midseason after breaking a bone in his foot in Monday’s practice. Meyer said Schutt had surgery to insert a screw into the bone to hold it together.
“Doggone it,” Meyer said.
Schutt was a promising player on a line that is replacing all four starters from last year.
“He was actually rotating in a little bit,” Meyer said. “Joel Hale and Mike Bennett will start. We moved Chase Farris over there to defense to get some reps and yesterday he had a great day. He’ll play. Which is unbelievable: One day and he’s going.”
Farris is listed as the backup to Andrew Norwell at left offensive guard.
Meyer added the loss of Schutt wasn’t crippling with freshmen Mike Hill and Joey Bosa seeing more time, along with 340-pound sophomore Chris Carter.
SWOOSHING THE HEAT: It was brutally hot and humid at the Buckeyes’ practice on Wednesday. Then Meyer stepped into the stifling heat within the indoor practice field, where there was no breeze.
A smart-aleck sports writer cracked, “I heard Oregon’s indoor field is air conditioned.”
The Ducks recently opened a new, state-of-the-art facility with Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight donating millions.
Meyer smiled and replied, “I’m going to call Mr. (Phil) Knight and find out if he can help us.”
DEPTH CHARGE: Ohio State has released its depth chart for the Buffalo game. There were few surprises.
All of the expected starters are in place on the offensive side: Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall and Taylor Decker on the front wall, Braxton Miller at QB, Jordan Hall at RB and Jeff Heuerman at TE. The only wrinkles are that Corey Brown and Devin Smith are listed as either/or starters at the X receiver position, Evan Spencer is tabbed as the first-teamer at the Z and, in a mild surprise, Chris Fields is listed as the top H-back, although Hall will undoubtedly see double-duty also at that spot.
On defense, Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are the ends, Bennett is at tackle, Ryan Shazier, Curtis Grant and Josua Perry at the linebackers and Armani Reeves (for the suspended Bradley Roby) and Doran Grant at the corners, plus Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett at their accustomed slots at safety. In one of the tightest battles, Hale beat out Schutt at noseguard.
The kicker is Drew Basil and punter is Cameron Johnston, with Kenny Guiton holding on placements, Corey Brown and Jordan Hall returning punts and Hall and Dontre Wilson back deep on kickoffs.
THE GREATEST: At an interview session earlier this week, LB Ryan Shazier wore a T-shirt with the iconic photo of Muhammad Ali standing over a prone Sonny Liston on the front.
“I’m a really big Ali fan because he wanted to be great and I want this team to be great and I want to be great,” he said. “I have a lot of posters of him. I look up to Ali a lot.”
NAJEE THE FLASH: Najee Murray, a promising sophomore CB out of Cleveland, has left the Buckeyes and is enrolled at Kent State. He played the first half of last season on special teams before going down with an ACL injury.
OCTOCAPTAIN: The eight captains announced on Tuesday night is the most ever for an Ohio State team. The most previously was six in 2010. Last year there were five.
“It’s real unusual,” Meyer said a day later. “One thing I did the senior class. This year there were eight guys, most of them were within eight votes of each other. I said, ‘You know what, what a great experience to be named captain’.”
Ohio State will have game captains and at the end of the year, Meyer will name official captains for the season.
Asked if there was a danger of watering down the title of captain, Meyer shook his head.
“(DL coach) Mike Vrabel said it best,” Meyer added. “He wasn’t elected a captain here his senior year. But he was a captain. When he said that, it made a lot of sense. Captain sometimes is by title only. That doesn’t mean you stop trying to lead.”
Despite losses, Ohio State’s D might be better: There was a time not so long ago when Ohio State’s defense was one of the most feared, effective and efficient units in the country.
For this season’s second-ranked Buckeyes to contend for a Big Ten, let alone a national title, Meyer knows his defenders have to harken back to the not-so-distant past.
“One thing about Ohio State defense, for a decade they were about as good a defense as there was in America,” Meyer said. “The last two years, it hasn’t been that way. So I’m anxious to get it back there to the Ohio State level.”
The defense was just good enough to get it through an undefeated season in 2012.
It provided the Big Ten defensive player of the year in lineman John Simon and always seemed to come up with a big play when needed.
No one thought it was a bad defense but the numbers weren’t very good: 360 yards and 23 points a game, including surrendering 512 yards to California, 481 to Indiana and 403 to UAB.
When they host Buffalo on Saturday, the Buckeyes are seeking improvement despite missing eight starters (including the suspended Roby) on that side of the ball.
There’s a lot to accomplish.
“Right now we still have a chip on our shoulder,” said All-Big Ten linebacker Shazier, one of only three holdover starters. “Some people don’t feel like we are worthy to be where we are right now (in the rankings). We’re fighting for championships in November right now.
“We plan on being the best in the Big Ten.”
The new first-teamers include four sophomores and several juniors who have little experience in a big-game spotlight. So there’s a lot to prove — even to the coach.
“The jury is certainly out,” Meyer said. “I’m very comfortable with who they are as people and the way they practice. However, there’s nothing to gauge it upon other than practice. So how (do) they operate in a game? I’m really excited.
“I’m very confident.”
Acclaimed sophomores Washington and Spence get the call at the ends, with Bennett at tackle and Hale at noseguard.
The linebackers alongside Shazier are Grant in the middle and Perry on the strong side.
“There’s a lot of guys in that front seven that we have high expectations for,” co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. “But until they do it in front of 107,000 people, we’re still going to sit here a little anxious to see what they can do. We really have liked what we’ve seen so far, and the upside is incredible.”
Meyer said he’s concerned about the depth and quality at linebacker, a spot that he calls a concern on the cusp of the new season.
The secondary includes rock-solid safeties Barnett and Bryant, with Reeves and Grant at the corners.
“Our intent would be to be better than last year,” cornerbacks and special-teams coach Kerry Coombs said. “We’ve got a lot of young players who are going to play really, really hard.”
Beyond just beating Buffalo, the defense has set some lofty goals in the opener.
“We probably want to just leave a great impression on the world,” Barnett added. “We want to be one of the best defenses in the country, so hopefully we can make strides toward that goal in this game.”
The names have changed but the staff’s second year with even the young players means the defense can do more things.
“I think we’re going to be a faster defense and hopefully more aggressive as we grow in our scheme. And we’ll have more pressure packages,” Meyer added. “Last year, we started the season as kind of a bend-but-don’t-break defense where it seemed we were always on heels. That’s not the kind of defense that anyone wants.”
Every team is optimistic before the games begin. But the Buckeyes’ defenders feel they are almost entitled to something better.
“Last year we had to work through some guys having doubts,” Bennett added of the flux that came with a new staff. “But this year everyone’s bought in, everyone’s more excited and you can see that light at the end of the season that if we do everything right it’s not just 12-0 it’s … big things can happen.”
GET READY TO BOO: Big Ten schools can now show an unlimited number of replays on football stadium videoboards, as recently approved by conference administrators.
Previously, institutions were able to show one replay at no less than 75 percent of real time speed. The enhanced policy gives an institution the discretion to show multiple replays at any speed, similar to what is done for television audiences.
In other words, get ready for the video boards to show four angles, all in slow motion, of that pass interference call that the officials didn’t see.
The Big Ten also has encouraged each school to look into the feasibility of adding full WiFi and other technology, with the content including such things as locker room video.