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Published: Tuesday, 8/21/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

OSU offense improving in practice

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS -- Urban Meyer has done his best -- often in no-nonsense terms -- to temper the pick-your-score expectations some touted for this new era of Ohio State football.

The first-year coach hardly inherited a roster of world-beaters while his spread offense would take time for a team with a sophomore quarterback and unproven receivers to learn.

How much thunder could be expected early?

A funny thing happened in OSU's latest scrimmage.

"The offense had its way," Meyer said after the Buckeyes' practice Monday night.

In an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday that was closed to the public, Meyer said quarterback Braxton Miller completed 27 of 39 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns -- a level of production that made the coach look twice when he received the stat sheet afterward.

"The ones on offense moved the ball really well," he said.

Meyer was under no delusion. The achievement came with fine print. The Buckeyes first-team offense went against the backup defense and the second-team offense was fed to the defensive starters.

The scrimmage, however, reassured Meyer the offense will resemble an offense. He expects much better than the unit that ranked 107th nationally last year.

"I feel like right now our offense will be fairly competent," Meyer said. "I can't say great because I don't see that yet. I see competency. I see the ball being snapped correctly. I see an offensive line protecting and doing the right things."

It was just what Meyer hoped to see as Ohio State moves into the next stage of the first season. After the grind of winter conditioning, spring football, summer workouts, and the two-a-days of preseason camp, the Buckeyes shifted focus Monday to preparing for their Sept. 1 opener against Miami. Their scout teams spent much of practice replicating the RedHawks' movements.

"We're going to go try to win a game now," Meyer said. "Today was all game-planning."

He appeared to welcome the switch to season mode after an offseason excessively devoted to teaching fundamentals. That went double when it came to the receivers, who often left Meyer at a loss. He previously called the wideouts the most unprepared position group he had ever coached.

On Monday, Meyer continued to sound a brighter note. He called junior Corey Brown the team's top receiver but also praised the development of sophomore Devin Smith, freshman Michael Thomas, and senior Jake Stoneburner, who has officially moved from tight end.

"I like where we're at right now," Meyer said. "We're certainly not perfect. But our guys are trying, and we're doing decent. The area where we're much improved is throwing and catching. Much improved. It couldn't have gone much the other way, but they are much improved."

Among the biggest changes: The former receivers coach now enjoys his receivers' company.

"I didn't enjoy being around non-competitive [players]," Meyer said. "They weren't competing in the spring. They're competing now. I enjoy being around guys like that. It means something to them, which is neat to see."

EXTRA POINTS: Meyer said senior defensive end John Simon and senior fullback Zach Boren received the most votes for captain from their teammates. Seniors Etienne Sabino, Garrett Goebel and Jordan Hall were also named captains. … Battles at tight end and right tackle remain to be decided. Meyer said converted senior tight end Reid Fragel and freshman Taylor Decker are locked in competition at right tackle. Sophomore Jeff Heuerman and redshirt freshman Nick Vannett are vying to start at tight end.

Contact David Briggs at dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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