Meyer sees progress in spring drills

If you have a question, the best way to get an answer is ask the man in charge.

At the Ohio State football spring kickoff luncheon Wednesday, head coach Urban Meyer got one of those positive queries that all coaches are more than happy to answer. It was, “Who are Ohio State’s most improved players in spring practice?”

Meyer named five: receiver/H-back Dontre Wilson, tight end Nick Vannett, linebackers Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, and cornerback Doran Grant. Meyer called the speedy Wilson OSU’s “best playmaker on offense right now.” Wilson, seemingly used more as a decoy more than anything else last season, is expected to be a main contributor to the Buckeye offense this fall, what with last year’s leading rusher, Carlos Hyde, and top receiver, Corey “Philly” Brown, both having departed.

Meyer stated that he “wouldn’t trade either of my top two tight ends for anyone in America,” adding that his “confidence” in Vannett had “been reinforced” in the last week, with Vannett on his own for now after first-stringer Jeff Heuerman had to undergo surgery for a sprained left foot on Monday and will miss the rest of spring drills.

The Buckeyes have completed 10 of their allotted 15 spring practice sessions going into No. 11 today with the annual Scarlet and Gray spring game set for 1:30 p.m. next Saturday in Ohio Stadium. Of course, the OSU offense wasn’t the problem last season. Still, Meyer is looking to put a more-varied Buckeye offense on the field this fall, “We had a heck of an offense a year ago,” he said. “But we had the best running back in America and the best offensive line, so that’s what we were. This year, we’re working on trying to be a little bit better balanced.”

To which offensive line coach Ed Warinner added, “We have to find alternative ways to move the football outside of just letting the big boys up front go eat and give the ball to Carlos and go. We have to diversify.”

Some of that diversity will come from Wilson as well as freshman Curtis Samuel, who has been working at running back and H-back. “Curtis’ name has surfaced,” said Meyer. “He’s got speed, toughness and athleticism, and that’s what we look for.”

Last season, defense was the Buckeyes’ ultimate pitfall – not on the line, but at linebacker and in the secondary. Nevertheless, the optimistic Meyer thinks the worrisome linebacker position last year is now “becoming a strength,” due in large part to the improvement of holdovers Perry and Curtis Grant, while at corner, another returning starter in senior Doran Grant has “all the talent in the world,” said Meyer. “I expect him to make All-Big Ten.”

Meyer too said he’d “be disappointed if we don’t have the best or one of the best defensive lines in college football,” while noting that redshirt freshman Gareon Conley “is a name to remember. He’s shown flashes of being a cornerback like we expect to have around here.”

New secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash’s plan is “to structure our defensive scheme to challenge the receivers and challenge every throw every single play.”

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at shemmelgarn@newsandsentinel.com