Thursday, January 12, 2012

THE MEYER EFFECT: FIVE BUCKEYES BOUND TO MAKE THE LEAP IN 2012


Jordan Hall
The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — The amount of impact that head coach Urban Meyer will have on the Ohio State Buckeyes is no secret. 

Now, we've seen the spread offense struggle to adapt to the confines of Big Ten play (Michigan and Illinois, most notably), yet Meyer isn't shying away from shipping his wide-open system to Columbus. Meyer, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a mighty impressive staff, has customized the spread offense around his personnel at previous stops in his coaching career. Meyer has stated that he still plans to play smash-mouth football while trying to attack the defensive edges.

"If you threaten the perimeter of a defense, that opens everything else up," Meyer said in December. "If you can't threaten the perimeter of a defense, in my opinion, and it's a very strong opinion, and you'll see us threaten the perimeter, you have no offense."

In his first season at Bowling Green, he used multi-talented quarterback Josh Harris and speedy wide receiver Robert Redd to stretch the field. One stop later, Meyer built an offense in Utah that turned quarterback Alex Smith into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. And in Gainesville, Meyer famously produced a dynamic offense with Tim Tebow under center.

So, it's apparent Meyer knows how to utilize the talent available. So, which Buckeyes should we expect to shine when the 2012 season rolls around?

Braxton Miller, QB

It's obvious that Meyer knows how to tutor quarterbacks. In every one of his previous stops, he's produced stellar quarterback play that features dual-threat capabilities. And Miller might be the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback in the country with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III headed to the NFL. Miller accumulated 1,874 total yards and 20 TDs as a true freshman.

By kicking former offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Bollman to the curb, the offense has no where to go but up when it comes to creativity. Hell, it took Bollman more than half the season to realize Miller's potential. Now with Meyer in control, Buckeye Nation can expect to see Miller blossom as the offensive commander.

Jordan Hall, RB

Back in August when fall camp was getting underway, then-receivers coach Stan Drayton called Hall "one of the most talented players in college football." I was blown away by the amount of confidence the assistant coach had in Hall. But I soon bought into the running backs' efforts. Drayton has since moved to running backs coach where he served under Meyer during his tenure at Florida. 

After missing the first two games of 2011 due to suspension, Hall put together a few nice performances against Miami (FL) and Colorado. The junior tailback, though, had two things working against him throughout the rest of the season: Bollman and Dan "Boom" Herron.

At 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Hall's running style doesn't exactly scream Big Ten football. He's a tough runner, but his true talents should be deployed on the perimeter. And with Herron's return from a six-game suspension, Hall's touches dwindled as he was pushed down the depth chart. 

With Herron out of the picture, Hall must battle some supremely talented competition in the backfield such as Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and incoming freshmen Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball. I like Hall's chances, though. He'll be a senior and could fit right into a similar role Meyer carved out in Florida for Percy Harvin and Jeffrey Demps.

TE Jake Stoneburner

Unquestionably, Stoneburner was the most under utilized player in recent Ohio State memory. Heading into his junior season, Stoneburner was seen as the first option in the passing game. His combination of size, speed and jumping ability made him a nightmare in coverage and through the first two games of the year Stoneburner had 8 catches for 93 yards and 4 TDs.

So what happened? Stoneburner and quarterback Joe Bauserman had a clear chemistry and when Miller took over under center, Stoneburner was squeezed out of the gameplan. If there's one thing Meyer has to implement to his young signal caller this offseason is to keep Stoneburner involved in the offense.

Meyer developed two very good tight ends at Florida in Cornelius Ingram and Aaron Hernandez. With the lack of talent at receiver, I'd expect Stoneburner to finally get his due with Meyer running the play-calling duties.

OL Marcus Hall

If there's one attribute that Meyer brings to the table that can't be measured, it's the pure fire he carries to the football field. Meyer is a no nonsense type of personality who will not hesitate to scream or bark in a player's face.

It's evident that Hall has the talent to be an impact player for the Buckeye offense, but he seems to need somebody to light a match to get his gears going. Hall was the starting right guard at the beginning of the year only to see his job fade away due to inconsistent play and suspension. Ohio State is set to lose three starters from its offensive line in '12 as the careers of tackles Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts and center Mike Brewster come to an end.

Meyer needs Hall to step into the shoes that he's capable of and become a dominant lineman. I believe Meyer has got the matches to do it.

LB Ryan Shazier

Shazier was destined for stardom whether Meyer made his way to Columbus or not. But as the new head coach comes in, the old head coach shifts to his more familiar role with the linebackers.

Luke Fickell, who coached the Ohio State linebackers from 2004 to 2011, takes over a group that will feature the remarkably gifted Shazier. Fickell has coached past Buckeye linebackers like A.J. Hawk and James Laurnaitis, and there's no doubting that Shazier may very well end up in that class of talent.

With Andrew Sweat out of the picture, that puts more pressure on Shazier to step into the role of workhorse. As a true freshman, Shazier showed he has the smarts to properly call a defense, so I expect the youngster to make a huge leap forward in 2012.