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COLUMBUS — Ohio Stadium will feature several new wrinkles on Saturday night.
Permanent lights. A 2,500-seat expansion in the south end zone expected to hike attendance past 108,000. ... The forward pass.
Count on a return to the modern era when fifth-ranked Ohio State hosts Virginia Tech in its marquee non-conference matchup.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said he expects to expand the playbook after quarterback J.T. Barrett deftly managed a “very vanilla” game plan last Saturday — with a caveat that the offensive line must improve — while a remodeled secondary will get its first test. In Ohio State’s 34-17 opening win, Navy ran for 370 yards but threw only four times.
“I think we're ranked pretty high in pass defense,” Meyer cracked.
If the secondary coaches wouldn’t mind facing the triple option every week — a pass defense that ranked 110th nationally last season is now third — the Buckeyes are ready for the return to normal. They’ll get it Saturday with longtime coach Frank Beamer’s Hokies, who will let it fly in a pro-style offense. First-year quarterback Michael Brewer, a junior transfer from Texas Tech, completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 and two touchdowns in Virginia Tech’s 34-9 win over William and Mary of the FCS.
“All the people talking about our pass defense, I guess we’ll see it Saturday night,” linebacker Darron Lee said.
Meyer said he was “real curious.” The secondary is breaking in three new starters and a more aggressive scheme.
“We have to shift gears,” he said. “Getting ready for this game is tough enough. It's just now you have to go back to work on a pass defense that's brand new. So we actually started in earnest [Sunday] on the field, which we normally don’t do. We need to see if we improved our pass defense.”
Meanwhile, Meyer hopes Ohio State’s passing game will put pressure on the other guys, too.
He again expressed confidence in Barrett, who was named the Big Ten’s co-freshman player of the week after a start that had Beamer comparing the second-year player to injured star Braxton Miller. Barrett was 12-of-15 for 226 yards and two touchdowns — his three incompletions coming on a red-zone interception, a drop, and a throwaway. He also ran for 50 yards.
“He had a great game against Navy running and throwing the football so, to me, you have the same guy without some of the experience," Beamer told reporters of the difference between Barrett and Miller. ”Otherwise, I'd say it's exactly the same."
Meyer kept his praise more restrained.
“He's just not the dynamic guy,” he said. “I wouldn't mind, when he decides to run, to really go. But he played pretty well. ... He’s a very cognitive quarterback, a very smart quarterback that gets us in the right plays and makes the right decisions.”
Meyer said that means, “we will keep giving him more and more,” though the offensive line has to play along.
One reason OSU played it so safe last weekend was the shaky play of its new front five. Virginia Tech’s defensive line is the strength of a team bent on a return to national prominence after winning only 15 games over the past two seasons. Previously, the Hokies went eight straight years with double-digit wins.
“This will be one of the top two defensive lines we'll face this year,” Meyer said. “Our offensive line did not play like an Ohio State offensive line Saturday. The standard was set many, many years ago. ... The second half, we played pretty good. But pretty good is not what we expect.
“You play pretty good this week you won't win that game. So we have to get much better fast.”
BAUGH SUSPENDED: Ohio State tight end Marcus Baugh is serving a previously undisclosed two-game suspension.
The reason? “Stuff,” Meyer said.
A red-shirt freshman, Baugh has gotten into trouble since arriving at OSU. He has been cited twice for underage drinking, most recently in January.