Speaking to the media for the first and likely only time this week, Urban Meyer did not rule out “drastic changes” being made between now and the next time his Ohio State football team takes the field.
“This bye week is going to give us an opportunity to evaluate some schemes,” Meyer said Tuesday on the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference. “There are things we do very well and things that we don’t.”
Through eight weeks, Ohio State has the No. 8 scoring offense in the country, but the Buckeyes are just 44th in points allowed.
The offense leans heavily toward the pass over the run, ranking second in the former and 69th in the latter.
Being able to at least lean on one facet or the other would mark an improvement for the defense, but in terms of yards the “Silver Bullets” are 57th against the run, 90th against the pass and 70th overall.
A week off before playing host to Nebraska at noon on Nov. 3 affords the coaches extra time to evaluate not only who should be playing but what they should be asked to do.
“You can’t really have the scheme conversation during the year, during the season, because you only have two days of practice then you go play a game,” Meyer said. “This gives us a chance to evaluate and if we want to work on things, work on them obviously this week and next week.”
Meyer and his coordinators spent all day Monday going over potential changes in the wake of a 49-20 loss at Purdue last week.
Those talks were probably intensified by the fact the Boilermakers did not merely expose new Ohio State weaknesses so much as exploit multiple issues being openly discussed by fans, media, coaches and players for weeks.
“It’s glaringly obvious what the issue are,” Meyer said. “Red zone on offense, the ability to run the ball when you have to run it and then on defense it’s those damn big plays.”
Ohio State is 116th in the country in red zone scoring (and nearly as bad defensively, tied for No. 105).
The Buckeyes allowed Purdue 14 plays that went for 15 yards or more, including touchdown runs of 40 and 42 yards and a 43-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter when the Boilermakers blew open a 21-6 game.
Meyer said the locker room was “strong” after the game but he had not talked to his players since, having given them two days off.
He was still developing his message for the team but, “The one thing you never do is start blaming. We don’t do that here. We’ve got to come together and fix it. This is not the first game we’ve lost. We’ve got to somehow regroup and get going.”
The Purdue game also took a physical toll on the Buckeyes, costing them one of their top receivers.
Junior Austin Mack is out for at least the regular season after having foot surgery Monday.
“That’s a big loss,” said Meyer, who added, “There’s a chance he’ll be back for the bowl game.”
The Indiana native is third on the team in catches this season with 26 for 331 yards and a touchdown.
Asked for a comment on a FootballScoop.com report of “friction” at Ohio State between Meyer and his superiors recently, including director of athletics Gene Smith, Meyer responded, “Yeah, there is no tension. I probably talk and work with Gene darn near on a daily basis. There’s zero tension there.”
The site, relying on anonymous “industry sources” also reported “Within the football program itself, it has been said there is a tension that hasn’t been present in previous years.”
Meyer seemed to think that was a mischaracterization.
“Well, I mean there are things that need to be fixed,” Meyer said. “I wouldn’t call it tension. I would call it day to day going to work and working on your weaknesses and getting them fixed. So no there’s no tension. Urgency I’d call it.”