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By Matt McCoy
The development of Braxton Miller this year has been obvious. Miller, always a dynamic runner, has become a dead-eye passer, leading the Big Ten in completion percentage, pass efficiency and touchdown passes. He's becoming a polished quarterback, something he was far from when the Buckeyes visited Illinois two years ago.
Starting as a true freshman in 2011, Miller earned his first Big 10 win, when Ohio State won at Illinois 17-7. On that October afternoon, Miller completed all of one pass, a 17 yard TD in the fourth quarter.
"I remember. It was to Jake (Stoneburner)," Miller said as he and the Buckeyes prepare to return to Illinois this Saturday. "I don't think I was ready (to start) at that time but I did what I had to do."
Miller credits his development to the arrival of Urban Meyer as head coach and Tom Herman as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. He became the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore but still had a long way to go as a quarterback. Miller believes he's made enormous strides this year.
"Day in and day out you have to prepare for things," Miller said. "That's what I didn't do last year. I really didn't understand the preparation (it takes) to be a quarterback. Learning from Coach Meyer and Coach Herman...that's where they really put their emphasis."
Miller's improve preparation and knowledge of the offense has allowed the coaching staff to go significantly deeper into the Buckeye offensive playbook.
"It's not even close. If there's a percentage (the playbook) was probably operating at about 50 percent a year ago," Meyer said. "It's almost 100 now."
To listen to Braxton Miller talk with reporters Wednesday night click here:
All Is Forgiven
The dust-up caused by Evan Spencer's comments is over. So said Urban Meyer Wednesday night when he met with reporters.
Meyer said Tuesday that Spencer would not speak with the media "for a long, long time" after saying Monday that Ohio State would "wipe the field" with Alabama or other top college football teams.
Spencer said he was having fun with reporters and was not being disrespectful but the comments made headlines nationally. Meyer wasn't happy with what Spencer said but the junior receiver is not in the coaches dog house.
"He's a great kid but I just don't like that stuff. I don't think anybody does," Meyer said. "It's over...he's a good kid."
Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier was named a semi-finalist for the Lott IMPACT award, given to the nation's top impact player on defense. That means Shazier is in contention for at least three major awards. He's already been named a semi-finalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards.
"It's just amazing and it's a humbling experience to be up for these awards," Shazier said. "My goal at the beginning of the year was to be one of the best at my position and have the team be the best as a team. To see all of us succeeding right now is just amazing."
Shazier leads Ohio State in tackles, tackles for loss and is second in sacks.
"Good players on good teams get a lot of recognition and I think he would be the first one to tell you that," Coach Urban Meyer said. "And he is playing at a very high level. He is very deserving of being involved in national awards."
The Failing Illini
While Ohio State trys to extend its winning streak to a school record tying 22, Illinois hopes to pull off a monumental upset and end a Big Ten losing streak that has reached 19. Nonetheless, Meyer said there are reasons to be concerned about the Illini attack.
"They coulda, woulda, shoulda (won) a couple games," Meyer said. "They're real close to winning. (They went to) overtime at Penn State and this past one (Indiana) could have gone either way. They're much better on offense...that's where I see night and day improvement."
Illinois has not beaten Ohio State in Champaign since 1993, a span of eight games.
To listen to Coach Meyer's comments to reporters Wednesday night click here:
By Matt McCoy
I blogged earlier that Buckeye wide out Evan Spencer kind of got a raw deal. His comment, that the Buckeyes would "wipe the field" against Alabama and other top teams was light hearted and not intended to be inflammatory, even though that's the way it was portrayed.
Spencer did clarify the remarks on Twitter, issuing an apology and explaining he was having fun and did not mean to disrespect anyone. Nonetheless, the junior receiver has been put on the media bench by Urban Meyer.
On Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference, Meyer was asked for his thoughts on Spencer's comment and made it clear, he was not happy.
"I'm very disappointed. I can't stand that," Meyer said. "I know Evan well enough and I talked to him briefly. He was kind of smiling when he said it but no, I can't stand it. He's certainly not the spokesman for our team. Evan won't talk to the media for a long, long time because you don't do that. That's not good sportsmanship. He's a young man who made a minor mistake but we just don't do that."
To listen to all of Coach Meyer's comments on the teleconference click here:
Basketball Buckeyes win foul fest
It took Aaron Craft seven games before he had taken 18 free throws in Big Ten play last year. He equaled that total in one game Tuesday night.
Ohio State beat Ohio University 79-69 in a game dominated by the officials, who have put an emphasis on eliminating hand checking and physical contact this year.
The Buckeyes had their share of fouls, committing 21 of them, but it was the Bobcats who were really affected. Five different players fouled out and Ohio State made a school record tying 38 free throws. Craft finished with 18 points and set career highs in free throws made with 14 and free throws attempted with 18.
"With the way they were calling it...we just wanted to be as aggressive as possible," Craft said. "We really just wanted to get in the lane and see what happened. Fortunately enough we were able to get to the free throw line. That's definitely what won it for us down the stretch."
The only thing more ugly than the game was the sound of Thad Matta's voice. A combination of a bad cold, questionable officiating and typical game night yelling, left him sounding a little like deep throat after the game. Congrats to coach for making it through the presser.
To listen to Coach Matta and Aaron Craft following the Buckeye win, click here:
By Matt McCoy
Ever wonder why Jim Tressel made a career of talking a lot but saying nothing...or why may athletes shy away from speaking to the media? What happened to Ohio State receiver Evan Spencer Monday is the answer.
Spencer is a well spoken, upbeat kid. When he's made available to the media, we like it because he has personality and gives answers beyond the generic, run of the mill, "we're taking them one game at a time" variety.
That's why when Spencer met with reporters following Monday's practice, he was a popular guy. He spent about 15 minutes at a table, visiting with groups of reporters answering a variety of questions.
When speaking about Ohio State's place in the race of the national title, the line of questioning turned toward how Spencer felt the Buckeyes stacked up against Alabama, Baylor, Oregon and other top teams.
"Well I guess I'm a little biased but I think we'd wipe the field with both of them but that's just my biased speaking," Spencer said with a smile and a laugh. When asked which team, besides Alabama, he meant by 'both of them,' Spencer said "whoever...whoever."
In the interest of full disclosure, at the time Spencer said it, I was not at his table but I quickly heard about it and my initial reaction was 'what was that kid thinking?' Eventually, I had the audio forwarded to me by a colleague and when I heard it, my reaction did a 180.
Without context or tone, like my first reaction, the "we'd wipe the field with both of them" comment seems inflammatory. It looks that way on Twitter as well and the comment spread quickly in social media. Only minutes later, stories were posted on sports websites nationally, claiming that Spencer was 'calling out' Alabama and Florida State. (It should be noted that the second ranked Seminoles were never mentioned in the conversation.)
If you listen to the audio posted here...
...it's rather obvious that Spencer wasn't beating his chest with with bravado, wasn't claiming that the Buckeyes should be number one, and wasn't calling Alabama, Florida State or any of the top teams, overrated. What it was, however was a kid, admitting his biased and using a fun and light hearted way to say he believed in his team.
Hours later, Spencer went to Twitter to clarify and apologize.
"I did not mean to disrespect any FB team today. I am confident in my team, and as is evident in the video, I was having fun...
..with the media answering their questions. I should have chosen my words more wisely. There was no intent to disrespect any other team"
Spencer referenced the video which defines the tone even more. NBC 4's Jerod Smalley was recording Spencer at the time and posted this link to it on Twitter.
As Spencer said in his clarification, the use of the words "wipe the field" was not a good choice. He should have been more diplomatic. Having said that, I have to admit, it does bother me that his comment was portrayed as disrespectful bulletin board material. I have heard such comments before...this wasn't it.
Buckeye defensive back Bradley Roby took to Twitter to defend Spencer:
"Man the media be so thirsty to twist somebody words around just to make a story....Don't believe everything you hear"
I retweeted Roby's comment and got a response from another member of the media directed to both me and Roby. It said: "I was standing three feet away, I heard him say it."
Sure...technically, yes...he said it...and he's probably learned a lesson...but the next time we are declined an interview or get generic, stale, Tressilian answers from Spencer, Roby or other Buckeye players, don't complain about it. What Spencer dealt with Monday is why.
Urban Meyer Presser
Urban Meyer had his weekly meeting with the media Monday. To listen to his comments click here:
By Matt McCoy
The Buckeyes don't play Saturday, but that doesn't mean "The Chase" for a Big Ten and National Title is on hold.
"The chase is on man, it's real. Our goal is to get to November and be competing for something so absolutely it's on (this weekend)," Meyer said. "You come back five pounds overweight, you act like a jerk over the weekend, you do something wrong, then you're not part of the chase. That person won't be back. That's a bad deal."
Meyer said family time and rest are among the top priorties during the teams weekend off...and not just for the players.
"Coaches the same thing," Meyer said. "It's good for the soul, it's good for your mind to come back refreshed. I've tried (working through the bye weekend) and it doesn't work."
There are several key games that could affect where the Buckeyes end up in the post-season. Ohio State is ranked fourth in the BCS standings. Thursday night No. 3 Oregon visits No. 5 Stanford and No. 6 Baylor hosts Oklahoma. Then Saturday, No. 1 Alabama is home to LSU, a game we will carry on WTVN at 7:30. Meyer said he'll be in front of the TV and will watch them all of those games and evaluate how the Buckeyes stack up.
"I've done that with our staff. Is so and so a better coach than we are? Does so and so have better players than we do and (if so) the question is why," Meyer said. "This is Ohio State. Our expectations are to be the best in the country and obviously we're not there yet or we'd be the best in the country. We're not yet, so we're fighting that right now."
Fickell Interview Story Incorrect
Urban Meyer said the story in the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Luke Fickell interviewed Tuesday for the Florida Atlantic head coaching job was incorrect.
"My wife sent me a text and said did Luke interview (for the job)...He did not interview," Meyer said. "There is absolutely no interviewing going on during this time."
Fickell has been linked to the job because the Florida Atlantic athletic director is Pat Chun, who took the job in July of 2012 after spending 15 years as an athletic administrator at Ohio State.
To listen to Coach Meyer's Wednesday night comments click here: