Wednesday, March 28, 2012

URBAN MEYER'S FIRST PRACTICE AT OSU UPBEAT, FAST ON WEDNESDAY

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, speaks with quarterback Braxton Miller during spring practice Wednesday in Columbus. (Photo/AP Jay LePrete)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State had it's first football practice Wednesday afternoon under new head coach Urban Meyer, and it was apparent early on that there was a major fundamental change afoot.

Meyer, a two-time national championship winning coach at Florida, had the tempo at practice at an all-time high. The practices were more vocal, faster and a bit more youthful.

Although, the attitude was upbeat and hype, Meyer stated that things right now must be learned on the run. 

"I think it's installation on offense and identifying play-makers. In that order," Meyer said Wednesday, when asked what his top priorities are going into spring. "We're in a sprint for that. We're in a journey for the other stuff."

Meyer stated during his post practice press conference Wednesday that he was pleased with the enthusiasm, but being that it was the first day out, the pep in everyone's step wasn't a big surprise to the new Buckeyes' boss.

"Every players gets excited about day one," Meyer said. "How about day 13, 14 and 15? Obviously we're not there yet, but I was very pleased with practice."

Meyer did point out that the issues he noticed going into spring are still causes for concern.

"The same issues that were concerns going in are still there," Meyer said. "Offensive skill guys making plays — I didn't see a whole lot of it — and depth on the offensive line isn't very good."

"But there were some positives. It was a good first day."

Although Meyer had his hand in a lot of what was going on Wednesday, the Buckeyes head coach spent most of his time with the quarterbacks, most notably starter Braxton Miller.

It is quite apparent that Meyer's hand in coaching is taking hold for the sophomore signal caller, as his passes Wednesday looked crisp, precise and a spin on the ball that wasn't seen a year ago.

During one play in 7-on-7 drills, Miller dropped back and fired a bullet over the middle to wide receiver Devin Smith, causing Meyer to pump his fist in excitement.

Meyer is installing a new spread offense, which has a lot of quick hitting passes and shotgun read options. Miller looked quite natural running the offense Wednesday, something very encouraging to the coach after the first day on the practice field.

STARTERS ... There hasn't been an official depth chart given as of yet, but on Wednesday the first unit was as follows ...

Offense: QB Braxton Miller, RB Jordan Hall, FB Zach Boren WRs Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Chris Fields, TE Jake Stoneburner, LT Jack Mewhort, LG Andrew Norwell, C Corey Linsley, RG Marcus Hall, RT Reid Fragel.

Defense: DE John Simon, DTs Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel, DE Adam Bellamy, MLB Curtis Grant, OLBs Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier, CBs Travis Howard and Bradley Roby, S CJ Barnett and Christian Bryant.

GRANT MANNING THE MIDDLE ... Curtis Grant was considered one of the best linebackers in the country coming into his freshman season in 2011, but fell down the depth chart after failing to develop they way many had anticipated.

However, Grant has flourished this off-season and appears to have the leg up on the competition at the middle linebacker spot coming into the spring.

Meyer said the Buckeyes need to Grant to be the man many were picturing him to be last season.

"He over analyzed every thing last season, didn't play very fast," Meyer said. "He was, I wouldn't say depressed, but he wasn't enjoying football.

"He's had an excellent off-season and he's a guy who has to develop."

FRAGEL CHANGES FROM TE TO OT NICELY ... Reid Fragel definitely isn't a Urban Meyer type of tight end, but is an ideal offensive tackle for the new coaches offense.

So, the 6-foot-8 Fragel switched positions this off-season, bulked up to 300 pounds and is now the Buckeyes' starting right tackle at this point in the spring.

Meyer has been impressed with the senior's transition.

"He's gained 20-some pounds and his body fat actually went down, which is borderline incredible." Meyer said. "He's done everything we've asked from him."

TALKIN' ABOUT PRACTICE ... The Buckeyes will have 14 more practice sessions this spring, wrapping up on April 21 with the annual Scarlet and Gray Spring Game at Ohio Stadium.

— You can follow Lee Hudnell on Twitter @LeeHudnell_TBT