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COLUMBUS, Ohio - With his official debut as Ohio State's head coach a mere five days away, Urban Meyer met with the media on Monday to hold his first game week press conference since taking over the Buckeyes program in November 2011. Speaking for more than 30 minutes Meyer touched on topics ranging from the state of his team to how excited he is to be coaching his hometown team.
The first opponent that Meyer will face as the Buckeyes' head coach will be one that he's familiar with in the Mid-American Conference's Miami (OH). Having spent two years in the MAC as the head coach at Bowling Green from 2001-02, in addition to having faced the RedHawks while at Florida in 2010, Meyer holds a 1-1 career record against the team that he'll be facing in his Ohio State debut.
"I know Miami very well," Meyer said. "I have a great deal of respect for them as a university. Like I said, I know them very well. I know the history and tradition."
Under second-year head coach Don Treadwell, Miami is hoping to bounce back from the 4-8 season that it endured in 2011. Meyer said that the RedHawks appear to be on the right track, especially the tandem of senior quarterback Zac Dysert and wide receiver Nick Harwell spearheading Miami's spread offense attack.
"They're more of a drop back pass. With that quarterback, tremendous player. And that receiver is really good," Meyer said. "Those two kids can play anywhere in America."
The great state of Ohio
Although focused on Miami, the historical aspect of Saturday's game hasn't been lost on Meyer. Having grown up as a fan of the Buckeyes, the Ashtabula, Ohio native is not sure what he'll feel when he takes the field as Ohio State's 24th head coach.
"Obviously to say I'm excited about Saturday, it would be a very shallow statement, because I think everybody knows that," Meyer said. "I'm honored to be here, honored to be the coach of the Ohio State University football team and to come back home and coach in the great state of Ohio."
The new Buckeyes head coach joked that he'll use his game notes to keep him focused on the task at hand and to prevent him from participating in Ohio State traditions such as singing "Hang on Sloopy."
"I have to do that because I'll be coming out of my shoes a little bit," Meyer said. "It's going to be an emotional time. Very much so."
A comfortable quarterback
One of the biggest questions that will be answered on Saturday will be how well acclimated quarterback Braxton Miller has become with Meyer's spread offense. The Ohio State coach said that the improvement that his quarterback has made throughout his first fall camp in his system has been vast.
"Braxton has come a million miles. I think he's very I think he's fairly comfortable," Meyer said. "Our goal is to make him not an athlete playing quarterback but a quarterback that's very athletic."
Meyer said that the uptempo nature of his offense has played a large role in Miller's development, and has gone a long way towards developing his leadership skills as well.
"When we first got him there wasn't a whole lot of urgency. I think the no huddle uptempo makes the quarterback you have to be urgent," Meyer said. "He's becoming a pro at what he does."
It's not just Miller who made improvements in the three weeks that consisted of Meyer's first fall camp while in charge in Columbus. Meyer mentioned running back Carlos Hyde and wide receiver Corey Brown as players who have made gains on the offensive side of the ball, as well as center Corey Linsley.
"I would have to say Corey Linsley would be on offense, the guy that's made the biggest jump, gone from nobody to the apex of our offense," Meyer said. "That's the center, which in any offense, but particularly this one, the way we do things, that center's got to be a grown man."
On the defensive ball, Meyer likes what he's seen from nose guard and captain Garrett Goebel and Travis Howard, who is now listed as the sole starter at the cornerback spot opposite Bradley Roby.
"I see him much improved. I really like coaching him right now," Meyer said of Howard. "He's a lot of fun to be around."
A man with a plan
Meyer has a plan in place that he is hopeful will result in his debut game as Buckeyes' coach being a successful one. As a part of it, OSU players will take part in 'Bloody Tuesday,' which Meyer referred to as the hardest part of a preparation week.
"It's awful. Inside drills, run emphasis. Just bad stuff. It's all the hard blitzes, all the hard looks," Meyer said of his Tuesday practices. "By Wednesday we try to give them more confidence."
The OSU coaching staff's plan to win doesn't just take place during the week, but on Saturday as well. In order for the Buckeyes to end a week victoriously, Meyer stressed the importance of four core values: playing great defense, scoring in the red zone, winning the turnover battle, and having a strong kicking game. The OSU coach said that these values are so important that a violation of them will cost a player playing time, regardless of his status on the team.
"You'll see it. If Carlos Hyde is having a hell of a day, if the ball comes away from his body one time, he's out, out of the game," Meyer said. "If the quarterback is not taking care of the ball, he comes out of the game. The kids know that."
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