January 1, 2013

Football New Year's Resolutions

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the first time in three years, the start of the new year has been met with much optimism surrounding the Ohio State football program. But as head coach Urban Meyer would be the first to point out, there's always room for improvement. With that in mind, here are some New Year's resolutions that would suit the Buckeyes well heading into 2103.

Quarterback Braxton Miller: to stay healthy
With an offense that will return nine starters, a down Big Ten, and an even downer non-conference schedule, 12 more consecutive wins before a conference championship game not only seems possible, but perhaps even likely for Meyer's second squad in Columbus. The No. 1 thing that could throw a wrench into the Buckeyes' plans for Indianapolis- and eventually Pasadena? An injury to their star quarterback.

Miller, the Big Ten's reigning Offensive Player of the Year, temporarily exited a number of games in 2012 due to reasons ranging from cramping to an unspecified upper body injury. And while backup Kenny Guiton performed admirably in his absences, the fact remains that Ohio State's hopes and dreams for 2013 start and end with Miller, who has already spent time this offseason refining his passing game with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr.

Wide receiver Corey Brown: to treat every play like it's a punt return
Midway through the 2012, Meyer sarcastically mentioned that it would be okay if Brown made a player miss while he had the ball in his hands every once in a while. And he wasn't. Despite leading the Buckeyes with 60 receptions- double that of OSU's second-leading receiver, Devin Smith- Brown only led the Buckeyes in receiving yardage by 51 yards, arguably an alarming number in Meyer's big play, high paced, offense.

The one place where Brown did routinely make moves was on punt returns, where he returned two for scores this season, including a 76-yard return against Nebraska and a 68-yard touchdown against Wisconsin. If the senior-to-be, who only caught three touchdowns this season, can manage to make the same kind of moves on offense that he did on special teams, then he may not have to worry about holding off any underclassmen for the role of OSU's top receiver.

Defensive lineman Adolphus Washington: to dominate and lead
While most expected Noah Spence to be the impact defensive lineman in the Buckeyes' vaunted 2012 recruiting class, the player who showed the most promise was Washington. That's not a knock on Spence, who showed plenty of potential, but rather it speaks volumes to the play of Washington, who gained 60 pounds between high school and college and possesses the ability to play inside or outside on the defensive line.

But continuing on his course to success will only be half the battle for Washington this season. With the departure of his four starting defensive lineman, Meyer has admitted that he's worried about not only experience, but leadership on that unit. To steal a phrase from Meyer, Washington already speaks like a man, and if he continues to play like one, he could be the Buckeyes' identity on defense for at least the next two years.

Ohio State linebackers: for somebody to step up
We know All-Big Ten performer Ryan Shazier will start at one outside linebacker spot. Who will start at the other one and middle linebacker position, however, is anybody's guess.

Outside of their play on special teams, Camren Williams, Joshua Perry, David Perkins, Jamal Marcus, and Luke Roberts were each underwhelming during their freshman campaigns. So much so, in fact, that Meyer preferred moving Zach Boren from fullback to linebacker to trusting any of his true freshmen in the base defense. With a year on campus under each of their belts, the Buckeyes will need for at least two of them to step up to fill the voids left by Boren and fellow departed senior Etienne Sabino.

Head coach Urban Meyer: to continue to honor the contract
You know the story by now: when Meyer accepted the Ohio State job in November 2011, he wasn't allowed to do so until he signed a contract with his daughter Nicki- written on pink notebook paper- promising to take care of himself and maintain his relationship with his family. By all accounts, Meyer did just that in 2012, and the result was the second undefeated season of his 11-year head coaching career.

As Meyer continues onto year two on the job in Columbus, it's imperative that he continues to abide by the contract that he agreed to with his family. While Meyer's obsessiveness is a big reason for his success, it also helped lead to a 8-5 season at Florida in 2010, which was followed by the two-time national champion coach taking a year off from coaching. As longer as Meyer doesn't over-exhaust himself, the OSU football program should be in good shape not just in 2013, but for years to come.



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