COLUMBUS — Drenched after a two-and-a-half-hour practice Wednesday, Jack Mewhort plunked down into a folding chair as he prepared to meet with reporters.
The Ohio State left tackle and his weary teammates were gearing for another big football Saturday, but they won’t be among the participants.
“I’ll probably lay on the couch and watch games all day,” Mewhort said. “I don’t plan on doing much.”
The fifth-ranked Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) are ready for their bye week — a chance to mend mind and body before their Nov. 17 trip to Wisconsin.
Coach Urban Meyer expressed concern the break could dull the edge of a Buckeyes team coming off a 52-22 victory against Illinois and took steps to keep them sharp. Per usual, they practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and will convene again today. As Mewhort said, offensive line coach Ed Warinner is “coaching us like we’re playing the Super Bowl on Saturday. The coaches don’t let up.”
Meyer, though, said OSU needed off Saturday.
“This is the first time [strength coach Mickey Marotti] and I through our history that we've ever had 10 weeks straight through,” he said. “So we're going to get them healthy and hopefully get [Etienne] Sabino back.”
The return of Sabino, who broke his leg Oct. 6 against Nebraska, would help plug one of the team’s most glaring holes.
The senior linebacker still has a slight limp, but worked with the first team Wednesday and is on course to return against Wisconsin. Meyer plans to play Sabino with sophomore Ryan Shazier and fullback-turned-linebacker Zach Boren in the Buckeyes’ 4-3 base defense.
“Wisconsin is mostly a ‘12’ — one back, two tight ends — and ‘21’ — two backs, one tight end — so we’ll be in more base than nickel,” he said.
Other benefits to the week off: More time for the backups who will not benefit from the usual 15 bowl practices to develop — Meyer said he will limit his starters’ work this week — and more recruiting time. Meyer and his assistants have all hit the road, where the Buckeyes’ unbeaten season has not gone without notice.
“It’s all been positive,” said Meyer. “They kind of like this style [of offense]. Kids these days, they want to see points, and I think they also know there’s an opportunity for them. We have some holes we have to fill and our numbers are down, so it’s going pretty good right now.”
On a personal note, Meyer is thankful the bye coincides with his daughter’s senior night for the Georgia Tech volleyball team. Meyer and his wife, Shelley, will watch Nicki, a senior libero, Saturday in Atlanta.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. Her career is winding down. She has a 3.8 GPA, is a captain, and I get to watch her play. That’s really cool.”
Like his players, though, Meyer also hopes to sneak in a few college football games on TV, perhaps to see how the Buckeyes match up against the unbeaten teams ahead of them in the polls — Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, and Notre Dame.
“Sure, I try to visualize how we would do,” he said Tuesday during a teleconference. “The teams that you just mentioned are playing at a very, very high level. The one common denominator on those teams is speed. That’s an area where we need to improve a little bit. But I certainly like to think we could play with those teams.”
Asked again Wednesday about the Buckeyes’ place among the elite, Meyer smiled. “This will be a headline however I answer,” he said, “so let’s move on.”
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.