On the heels of its second week of fall camp, the Ohio State football team held its annual media day, giving members of the press an opportunity to meet with the Buckeyes players and coaches. After Urban Meyer provided an update on the status of his squad—including where star quarterback Braxton Miller's health stands—members of the OSU roster flooded the practice field inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for their first interviews of the preseason.
What follows is an eyewitness look at the top takeaways from the Buckeyes' meeting with the media. Ohio State returns to the practice field on Monday with its second two-a-day session of the preseason.
As has been the case for the better part of the past four offseasons, all eyes were on Miller on Sunday, and for good reason. After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of the Buckeyes' spring session, the two-time Big Ten MVP has been limited thus far in fall camp, hardly participating in an Aug. 6 practice that was open to the media.
And while some may have expected Miller to be further along with three weeks to go until the start of the season, that doesn't appear to be the case. As Meyer explained on Sunday, his starting quarterback was held out of a Saturday scrimmage, although he still views Miller's recovery as "on schedule."
"I anticipated this," Meyer said. "I've dealt with guys with arm issues before, and we're being very cautious. He could have practiced yesterday but we're in it for the long haul, so he's right on schedule."
That's not to say, however, that Miller is yet at full strength. In fact, his head coach even admitted that if Ohio State's opener against Navy was today, the Buckeyes game plan would need to be adjusted.
"If the game was tomorrow, because of where he's at, we would be very cautious with Braxton," Meyer admitted. "But we have three weeks."
Nice jacket, Braxton pic.twitter.com/iEikZ3VNuj— Patrick Maks (@maksimuspatrick) August 10, 2014
As for Miller himself, the senior signal-caller stuck to the company line that he'll be good to go when Ohio State takes the field on Aug. 30. Miller insisted that his limited reps have been the result of proactive—and not reactive—behavior from the Buckeyes coaching staff.
"Right now, I feel pretty good. I feel great," stated Miller. "[Saturday] I took a day off to be where I need to be. I'm doing rehab, icing it and taking ibuprofen. I'll be fine."
But no matter how sure of his health Miller seems to be, expect for his activity to continue to be monitored by the media between now and the start of the season.
Given the limited media availability that freshmen are typically given throughout the season, first-year players are often the stars of the show at each OSU media day. This year was no exception, with even Meyer heaping praise on one particular newcomer in running back Curtis Samuel.
"I gotta be careful because I do this, but I love that kid, and man, oh man, does he go hard," Meyer said. "He is talented, and he will play this year."
Hours later, Meyer's actions backed up his words when he announced that Samuel was one of the first Ohio State freshmen to have his black stripe removed—a ritual signaling that he had "officially" joined the Buckeyes roster.
Congrats to Curtis Samuel and Raekwon McMillan for being the first 2 freshmen to get their black stripes removed! pic.twitter.com/OZg6314sZ9— Urban Meyer (@OSUCoachMeyer) August 10, 2014
Asked what's led to his sudden success at the college level, the 5'11", 190-pounder pointed to the jump-start he got as an early enrollee in the spring. As the Buckeyes look to replace Big Ten Running Back of the Year Carlos Hyde, Samuel appears to be a lock to help carry the load—and sooner rather than later.
"I'm just working hard on the field and in the weight room," said Samuel, who also played wide receiver in high school. "I got my mind right before I got here to play running back. I just got my body ready to take a lot of pounding."
While replacing Hyde's production remains one of Ohio State's top priorities, the Buckeyes backfield endured a blow last week when presumed starter Ezekiel Elliott underwent wrist surgery following an injury suffered in camp. Like Miller, Elliott will ease back into action but is expected to be full-go for Ohio State's opener against Navy.
"[He] should be practicing later this week," Meyer said of Elliott. "He will probably not have contact until the following week but projected to play in the first game, was doing great and he's fine."
Speaking about his surgery, Elliott explained that he had a pin inserted into his wrist that he'll be able to play with throughout the season. He doesn't expect it to hinder him either, as he looks to pick up from what was already a promising fall camp for the sophomore tailback.
"I've had a pretty good camp, and I had a pretty good spring," Elliott said. "I had a little bit of momentum. This injury set me back a little bit, but I'm going to keep on pushing."
Unsurprisingly, the Ohio State defense received its fair share of attention at media day, as the Buckeyes look to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 campaign. By season's end, Ohio State ranked 57th in the country in yards surrendered per game (400.3) and 118th (out of 125 teams) in opponent passing yards per game (286.3).
Enter new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who was brought in from Arkansas to overhaul the Buckeyes defensive scheme. But as second-year linebacker Darron Lee explained, if Ohio State sees a drastic improvement this fall, it will be thanks to the Buckeyes' newfound attitude that stems from last season's struggles.
"The chip's too big for our shoulder. We carry it on our back," Lee said emphatically. "We're very serious as a whole defense. Every single unit. We know what is clear, and we know what we have to get done."
From a scheme standpoint, Ash said that he expects the Buckeyes to play more base defense than they have in the recent past. A lot of that has to do with the versatility of a player like Lee, who has the ability to contribute in both run support and pass coverage.
"A lot of it comes down to what your personnel is, what you're asking those guys to do," Ash explained. "With us right now and what we're asking our guys to do, Darron Lee and [redshirt freshman linebacker] Chris Worley are perfect. I mean, they're the typical guy that we want. If we could go out and recruit more guys like that to play that position—that's what we need to do."
Nothing But Navy
The most memorable moment from this year's media day came from Meyer's press conference when the third-year Buckeyes head coach was asked about the ruling in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, which will increase the amount of money that schools are allowed to allocate to players. Pleading ignorance, Meyer insisted that his focus is on Ohio State's upcoming opponents and nothing else.
"I apologize, I probably should know more about the whole situation. I don't," Meyer said. "I gotta get a team ready to play a very good Navy team and very good Virginia Tech team. I know I probably should be more up to speed on that, but I'm not."
Only that wouldn't bring an end to questions about the topic, as Meyer was asked twice more about the ruling. The two-time national champion head coach never backed down from his stance, however, leading to this humorous exchange with The Columbus Dispatch sports editor Ray Stein.
Stein: "The idea in general of stipends to players?"
Meyer: "Beat Navy."
Stein: "Idea about stipends for your players?"
Suffice it to say, the Midshipmen have Meyer's full attention.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.com.