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Published: Wednesday, 4/17/2013

Buckeyes confident after spring

Questions still abound for offensive linemen

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS — It was Woody Hayes who famously said, "There are only three things that can happen on a pass, and two of them are bad.”

Last spring, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman wasn’t sure he agreed.

There was a good possibility?

On Wednesday, a year later, Herman smiled at the memories. Ohio State’s passing offense ranked only 101st nationally last year, but with quarterback Braxton Miller and all of his top options back, he predicts a far more balanced look this season.

One measure of his confidence: He didn’t lose sleep the night before Saturday’s pass-heavy spring game.

"I don't think I'll be as frightened to call a pass play [this year]," Herman said. "It was like 100 percent pass Saturday, and it felt OK. When we tried to do that last year in the spring game, it was a disaster. That's probably the biggest thing is it felt OK to call pass after pass after pass.

"To say that's who we're going to be, it's not. But at least you don't clench up and say, well there's 12 guys in the box, I guess I have to call a pass here. It's like OK, we're capable of doing this. It’s a little bit of a relief to call that and not be so frightened."

If not a resounding endorsement, his relief reflected a degree of comfort among Ohio State’s coaches in their second season together.

A year ago, with the Buckeyes coming off a 6-7 season in 2011, Urban Meyer and his staff scrambled to install a new culture and upended a new no-huddle spread offense — all while dealing with the aftershock of NCAA sanctions that would keep OSU out of the postseason.

The assistants who met with reporters Wednesday spoke of a fresh sense of order — and confidence among the team that comes with a new way of life yielding a perfect 2012 season.

"When good things happen, it's easier for people to believe it," defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said of last year. "It's like seeing something, it's a little bit easier to believe it. I think that may be the best thing for all of us, for the strength program, for us as coaches. There are some different ways of doing something, but guys see it worked. So you don't question it as much."

Not that Ohio State closed spring without questions. The Buckeyes must walk the walk with their new-look passing game, replace six starters in their front seven, and find a way to keep their edge after graduating the team’s top leaders. A couple position battles also will continue into fall camp, including at right tackle, where sophomores Taylor Decker and Chase Farris have struggled to seize the line’s only open spot.

"It's pretty close," offensive line coach Ed Warinner said, giving the slight edge to Decker. "It will sort itself out. But I feel like we're in good shape compared to last year where we were still battling with that the week before the game. I feel like we're ahead of that."

So, even with the question mark Meyer said will cause him unsettled nights, OSU is feeling good. In this spring of optimism, Meyer might be just as willing to call his right tackle’s struggles a product of the defensive line.

Meyer called the front seven — including the entirely rebuilt defensive line of sophomore ends Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence and junior tackles Michael Bennett and Joel Hale — the "most improved unit of the spring."

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



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