At his first game week press luncheon, Urban Meyer left little doubt about how he feels about the Buckeyes’ season opener against Miami (Ohio).
“Obviously to say I’m very excited about Saturday would be a very shallow statement because I think everybody knows that,” Meyer said Monday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. “I’m very honored to be here, I’m honored to be the coach of the Ohio State football team and to come back home and coach in the great state of Ohio.”
He later joked he would need a folder with notes to help him keep his head in the game and not on when the Ohio State Marching Band is playing “Hang On Sloopy.”
“No, but it’s real,” he said with a smile. “I’m going to be coming out of my shoes a little bit. I was 4 or maybe 3-1/2 years old when I first saw the Scarlet and Gray play, so it’s going to be emotional.”
Not long before Meyer took the microphone, the school released a new official depth chart that included a few notable changes from one published in the middle of preseason camp.
Two seniors emerged as game-one starters after entering preseason camp listed as co-starters at their positions: Reid Fragel and Travis Howard.
Fragel will start at right tackle ahead of true freshman Taylor Decker, but both are expected to see time.
Howard will start at cornerback opposite sophomore Bradley Roby, giving the Buckeyes the same top pair at that position as last season. Howard beat out sophomore Doran Grant by impressing the coaching staff with an improved work ethic and attitude during camp.
“I really like coaching him right now because he’s a lot of fun to be around,” Meyer said.
Elsewhere, the defensive line depth chart held some intrigue both for those included and those left off.
Senior Johnny Simon and sophomore Michael Bennett will start at end with senior Garrett Goebel and junior Johnathan Hankins at tackle, but Meyer said there remains a chance Nathan Williams could see the field against the RedHawks even though his name was not on the published depth chart. Williams is a senior returning from major knee surgery that cost him the last 12 games of last season.
“Today is a big day for Nate,” Meyer said. “He’s been up and down as far as he’s trying his heart out. It’s a tough injury. I would hope to have him for a limited basis in the first game, but today is a big day for him because we worked and rested, worked and rested, now we’re in a game week and we’ve go to find out what he can do.”
The defensive line is also home to three of the 10 true freshmen to make the initial game-week depth chart – end Noah Spence and tackles Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt. The others are linebackers David Perkins, Camren Williams and Joshua Perry, offensive linemen Decker and Jacoby Boren, running back Brionte Dunn and wide receiver Michael Thomas.
When asked if he viewed the total of first-year players – there are also five redshirt freshmen including long snapper Bryce Haynes on the depth chart – in line for playing time as unusual, Meyer responded in the negative.
“I haven’t done a study, but that’s probably pretty normal now,” Meyer said. “I kind of think certainly in the last six years at places like Ohio State and Florida you recruit guys to go play. You’re not recruiting them to redshirt.”
In regards to the Buckeyes’ upcoming opponent, Meyer had praise for Miami head coach Don Treadwell, quarterback Zac Dysert and wide receiver Nick Harwell.
“I know Miami very well,” said Meyer, who directed the Bowling Green football program in 2001 and ’02. “I coached in the MAC for two years and have a great deal of respect for their university. I know a great deal about their history and tradition. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
The Buckeyes began preparations for opponents last week. They are scheduled to kick off the season just after noon Saturday from Columbus in a Big Ten Network broadcast.
For more notes from Meyer's press conference, see the Ask the Insiders message board.
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