Ohio State Football: How Buckeyes Must Improve to Match Unbeaten Season in 2013
There's always room for improvement.
No matter how good of a season Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes had, they should by no means be content. Although their record was perfect, their performances on the field were far from it.
By no means does this signify that what the Buckeyes did during the 2012 season wasn't spectacular or earned on merit, but they weren't the greatest team in the history of college football, or even in the history of the school, for that matter.
The main reason Nick Saban is so successful is that he is able to stress to his players that no matter how well they played, there's something they needed to do better in the next game.
Meyer is a great coach and showed that at Florida he can still motivate his teams even after they've won the national championship. It's quite an accomplishment for the Gators to have won two national titles in three seasons and finish with a record of 13-1 in three of four seasons in the SEC.
Buckeyes players can't pat themselves on the back forever. The returning players will need to shift their focus away from remembering the great games and moments from 2012 toward preparing for the 2013 season.
If Ohio State is to finish with an undefeated record for the second straight season, they'll need to work on these three areas.
Cut Out the Dumb Penalties
The Buckeyes finished 103rd in terms of penalty yards a game. They gave the opposing team 64.5 yards a game.
The numbers averaged out to seven penalties a game, so the Buckeyes weren't just picking up small five-yard offenses. It seemed that with every game, you could count on an Ohio State player picking up at least one personal foul penalty, handing the opponent 15 yards on a silver platter.
A team worthy of the championship isn't going to get penalized as much as Ohio State did last year. Its talent gap isn't large enough to make up for getting flagged seven times a game. It keeps lower-level teams in the game and makes the task of beating the best teams even greater.
Ohio State finished with the 36th-best defense in the nation, giving up about 360 yards a game. That's not bad, but it will need to improve a little bit next season.
The area of the defense that Meyer should focus on is wrapping up the ball-carrier.
There were plenty of times when a Buckeye defender would go for the highlight-reel hit and simply carom off the guy with the football. Big hits are always fun to watch—when the player being tackled isn't seriously hurt—but the tackler always runs the risk of the consequences when the hits don't work out.
Most of the time last year, the missed tackle wouldn't result in a big play, but it would give the opponents another few yards. After a while, those yards start to add up.
Continue Involving an Improved Carlos Hyde in the Offense
As a junior, running back Carlos Hyde is eligible for the NFL draft. Most Buckeyes fans would be surprised if he were to forgo his final year of eligibility, but it's not as if Chris Wells had a banner year his junior year before declaring for the draft.
Should Hyde return, Meyer needs to shift some of the offensive focus off sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller is without question the best playmaker on the team, but the more Meyer uses him, the more the quarterback is open to getting hurt.
Meyer, to his credit, recognized this during the season. If Ohio State wants to compete with the best, the Buckeyes will need to have a more balanced offense.
That's where Hyde comes in.
He's the kind of running back that can grind up the yards and take a lot of time off the clock. He can alleviate some of the offensive pressure off Miller while setting the tone for the Buckeyes.
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