Urban Meyer was a good sport.
Meyer took questions about his undefeated football team, more negative than positive, for the usual 15 minutes or so Monday. He pushed back at times, but lightly at most.
The Ohio State coach did not look like someone under attack. Just maybe feeling deja vu.
The questions he was hearing from reporters had already been topics of discussions elsewhere in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center before the coach fulfilled the first of his weekly media duties, and he reiterated that more than once.
Asked about the defense, the running game, safeties and even his kicker, Meyer responded each time with some variation of, “Those are all things we’re looking at.”
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So while concrete answers were in short supply, the coach confirmed again there is work to do for his team to play up to its No. 2 national ranking.
Since game-week practices have been closed to the public and the media for most of the 21st Century, there aren’t likely to be any answers before the Buckeyes take on Purdue on Saturday night, but a few inferences can be made.
The best solution is probably the simplest and most elusive: Get healthy.
Meyer and his staff spend just about every hour of every day all year on recruiting. They have successfully put together a roster of four- and five-star recruits rivaled only by Alabama.
Attrition affects every program, though, and some of the best players in Columbus are not available or at least at their best at the moment, especially on defense.
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A week off is in order, but that will have to wait a few more days.
While they can’t do much but wait for time to heal their players’ wounds, the Ohio State coaches are at work trying to refine their schemes. The challenges on each side of the ball are basically diametrically opposed to each other.
While the OSU coaches probably need to do a few more things to help out the players on defense, the offense might benefit from doing less.
“What are we going to hang our hat on as far as the type of plays we’re doing and the formations?” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Saturday. “Because if you’re not careful you start getting a lot of plays.”
He wants to see the Buckeyes develop some go-to plays, like a golfer comfortable a particular club will get him or her out of trouble no matter the lie or where he or she is on the course.
“Sometimes you try to complement so much we’re having a hard time getting our running game where we want — that’s not an excuse. We’ve just got to find that,” Wilson said.
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Meanwhile, co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch admitted the Buckeyes could benefit from mixing up coverages after Minnesota repeatedly had success with run-pass option plays last Saturday.
The Golden Gophers were able to put the Ohio State linebackers in conflict between stopping the run and getting in passing lanes to help defensive backs in man-to-man coverage, and they could keep going to that well because they were confident Ohio State would rather play man coverage than do anything else.
Minnesota did not have as much success throwing the ball down the field as Indiana a week prior, but quarterback Zack Annexstad repeatedly hit intermediate routes to keep the chains moving.
>>READ MORE: 5 takeaways from the Minnesota game
“Very few times do you say the slant loses you a football game, but on the same token it’s frustrating because it extends drives and can lead to points,” Grinch said Saturday. “It’s never OK, either. It’s something we’ve got to look at to continue to mix up coverage and put some pause in the quarterbacks and coordinators.”
For his part, Meyer said he has seen progress even if he seemed as impatient as anyone else with an Ohio State degree waiting for that perfect performance.
“We can play much better — I’m not disagreeing with anything,” Meyer said. “As I made comment to you many times, and this is probably — go back 17 years — you enhance your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
“Every team has weaknesses, and there are some things we have to work on.”
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