Initially open but later closed off to the media, the Ohio State football team held its second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday with two weeks to go until its season opener against Navy. And while reporters weren't there to witness it, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer met with the media afterwards to provide an update on his team in advance of its final week of fall camp.
Braxton Miller's health, the development of Ohio State's defense and a somewhat solidified offensive line dominated the conversation as the Buckeyes still face several questions heading into the 2014 campaign. But their head coach likes where they stand heading into his third season in Columbus, as Ohio State chases a spot in the first ever College Football Playoff.
After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery in February, Miller was supposed to be back at full strength in time for fall camp, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Instead, the two-time reigning Big Ten MVP has been severely limited in practice, even sitting out his team's first scrimmage on Aug. 9.
Miller managed to take part in the Buckeyes' second scrimmage although it was clear he was far from full-go. Meyer still maintains that he'll be ready to go when Ohio State takes the field for its season opener against Navy—he's just not there quite yet.
"Limited throws is where he's at," Meyer said. "From what [the training staff] tells me, he's right on schedule. But you'd like to have him do a bit more."
On Monday, Miller stood by during the Buckeyes' opening practice of a two-a-day session but was expected to take part in OSU's afternoon practice. More than anything from a physical standpoint, Meyer said that he can see something in his star player's demeanor that lets him know that when push comes to shove, he'll be good to go.
"I know he'll be ready. I've known Braxton for three years," Meyer said. "It's almost like looking at your son, and you can see in his face if he's concerned. And he's not. I trust that he'll be ready."
But ultimately, Meyer did concede that Miller's limited availability has hindered the Buckeyes to a certain degree this offseason.
"I'd like to be able to run the first team out there and go," Meyer admitted. "And we're not able to do that."
Looking Like A Line
Replacing four multiyear starters from a season ago, no position group on the Buckeyes roster faces more questions than Ohio State's offensive line. But with two weeks to go until the start of the season, Meyer likes what he's seen, with three players having already locked up starting spots for the coming campaign.
"Darryl Baldwin is the starting right tackle," Meyer announced on Saturday. "Darryl Baldwin is one of the most improved players on the team. You have [right guard] Pat Elflein, Darryl Baldwin and [left tackle] Taylor Decker are the three starters."
That leaves holes at left guard and center, where Meyer has plenty of options at each. The third-year OSU head coach mentioned Jacoby Boren, Joel Hale, Chase Farris, Billy Price, Antonio Underwood and Chad Lindsay as all potential starters but admitted that he's concerned that he doesn't have two from the group just yet.
"The good news is we have a couple of names in there," Meyer said. "The bad thing is that it's not solidified yet."
It was just eight months ago that the Buckeyes defense found itself under fire after finishing the 2013 season by surrendering a combined 1,014 yards and 74 points in its final two games—both Ohio State losses. Enter new Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who was brought in from Arkansas to help overhaul OSU's defensive scheme.
So far, it's been so good, according to Meyer, who says that his defense's new philosophy is unique in that it places a premium on stopping the pass rather than the run.
"The biggest issue is the ability to think from the back end forward, which probably hasn't really been done here or many places," Meyer said. "College football has always been run the ball, stop the run. And when you're facing some really good throwing teams or you have a Sammy Watkins, you have to be able to get more than one hand on him. We have the ability to do that now. ... So far, it's exactly how I wanted to see it look."
In particular, Meyer has been pleased with his safeties, as Ohio State breaks in two new starters following the departures of C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. But a youthful group of highly touted prospects has taken advantage of the opportunity, both on the first team as well as the second.
"Safety is strong," Meyer said. "You've got Cam Burrows, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell and then Erick Smith right on his toes. [Ron] Tanner would be the fifth."
Dog Days Of Summer
Two weeks in and with two weeks to go in fall camp, it's not uncommon for a team to begin dealing with injuries at this time of year—and Ohio State is no different. Held out of the Buckeyes' scrimmage on Saturday were cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore as well as wide receiver Devin Smith, each of whom are expected to contribute significantly this season.
Nevertheless, Meyer maintains that his team remains on track despite a few minor setbacks.
"We're two weeks out. We're going through the camp blues or the dog days or whatever you call it," Meyer said. "That's what's going on right now."
Meyer was, however, quick to note that the Buckeyes have only endured two season-ending injuries—freshmen Kyle Berger and Dylan Thompson—to this point. But that doesn't mean that the minor health issues haven't hampered Ohio State as its battle with the Midshipmen approaches.
"The good thing is that there's been minimal season-ending injuries," Meyer said. "The bad thing is that there's been no consistency due to nagging injuries."
A New No. 2
While a promotion to Ohio State's second team may not be big news otherwise, it was on Saturday when Meyer announced that J.T. Barrett had passed Cardale Jones as the Buckeyes' top backup quarterback. That could be viewed as a surprise to some after Jones appeared to have a firm grasp on OSU's top understudy spot entering fall camp.
"J.T. Barrett's moved slightly ahead of Cardale in the quarterback derby," Meyer revealed "That's because of his opportunities."
Given Miller's injury history—he's yet to make it through an entire college football season fully healthy—Ohio State's backup quarterback spot is an important one, as Kenny Guiton proved a season ago. Asked what the redshirt freshman has done to seize his moment, Meyer pointed to a new sense of maturity that's apparent in both Barrett's game and mindset
"Just functionality, completing passes and understanding everything," Meyer pointed to as areas where Barrett's made strides. "He's grown up a little bit. He kind of always used to be a quiet guy. Now, he's starting to act like a quarterback."
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.
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