Urban Meyer says Ohio St. secondary has to be up to the challenge

by - Senior Writer -

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Urban Meyer knows that Ohio St.’s pass defense will be front and center during Friday night’s Orange Bowl against Clemson, and he hopes his young players will be up to the challenge of covering the Tigers’ dynamic receivers.

The Tigers and Buckeyes square off Friday night, and the Buckeyes will be without top pass rusher Noah Spence, who has been suspended three games. The Buckeyes will also be short-handed in the secondary – junior corner Bradley Roby isn’t expected to play.

The redshirt junior sustained a bone bruise in his knee against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game played on Dec. 7. Armani Reeves is expected to start in Roby’s place. Vonn Bell is also expected to get his first start at the nickel position for the Buckeyes. Tyvis Brown, who had been playing the nickel, will get his first start at safety.

Meyer held a press conference Thursday morning at the media hotel and said that the Buckeyes’ pass defense has been a concern, and the coaching has not only changed personnel, but added some tweeks to their scheme.

“We've practiced really hard. Our pass defense has been a major issue at Ohio State, not near the standard we expect,” Meyer said. “Whenever that happens, you look at personnel. You look at scheme. That's both been evaluated. And then at this time of year, it's just go work as hard as you can, and so we have Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell will be starting at positions they've never started before at. So that's personnel. We've made some adjustments to scheme.”

Meyer said that he might not be as concerned if the Buckeyes were playing a lesser opponent, but Clemson’s success in the passing game takes the challenge to another level.

“We do what we do, and that's go out and work as hard as you possibly can. So I'm expecting -- the issue is going to be the team you're playing, and they're very good at what they do. It's not just covering, but it's getting them on the ground because their skilled positions at Clemson are as good as anybody in America,” he said. “I'm anticipating that our guys play very hard.”

Meyer is familiar with the Clemson program.

“Well, Clemson and Ohio State have great relationships through the coaching staffs with Chad (Morris) and with Tom Herman. The two offensive coordinators are very close,” he said. “Dabo and I have become very close the last five years. There's a great relationship. We actually studied together in the off-season, offensive football. We share very similar approaches to the game and a mutual respect.

I mean, we're going to go as hard as we possibly can to try to beat each other, but this is a game of mutual respect. We actually have some cut-ups of them during the season we'd watch, and real impressed with some of the things they do.”

Meyer’s program would have likely played for the National Championship if they had beaten Michigan St. in the Big Ten title game, and he was asked if it would be difficult to get his team over that disappointment.

His answer was simple.

“I don't believe so. If it was against an opponent that maybe didn't have the flash and the talent that Clemson has,” Meyer said. “That's a very good question, and it's true. We've dealt with that before at the Sugar Bowl, and when I was in Florida, we just missed playing for a National Championship, lost the title game, and they came back and responded very well. Once again, because of the quality of Bowl. I credit that to the Sugar Bowl. So our players understand that this is -- and the way they're treated, that this is big time football. So I don't feel that. Obviously, the final results will be tomorrow night.”

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