August 24, 2012

Buckeyes finally focused on an opponent

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

For the first two weeks of fall camp, the Ohio State football team was solely focused on itself. But with the Buckeyes' season opener just less than a week away, there's a new team that they have their sights set on: the Miami (OH) RedHawks.

Ohio State's game planning-process began on Monday when it began scouting and preparing for its Sept. 1 opener with Miami. Urban Meyer said that there won't be any doubt what the Buckeyes mission will be when they take the field with him as their head coach for the first time, a week from Saturday.

"We're trying to win a game now," Meyer said. "It's much different this week than it was last week."

While the Buckeyes offense seems to have gained steam throughout their first fall camp under Meyer, perhaps the biggest adjustment in preparing for an opponent comes for a defense. After spending the offseason practicing against Meyer's complicated spread offense, the Ohio State defense now must prepare to face the offenses that its opponents are going to run- and that includes the RedHawks' pro-style attack.

Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell admitted that there are some difficulties that come along with seeing so much of the same offense throughout fall camp.

"What's difficult I think is on the guys. Maybe, young linebackers in general, where all of a sudden they go into the room, they start doing some scout cards and (start asking), 'What do you mean a quarterback under center?" or 'What do you mean a running back right behind the quarterback?'" Fickell said. "It's our first time going through it, so it's a different experience."

Although the Buckeyes' offense might not prepare their defense for what they'll see on a weekly basis style-wise, it has helped them get ready in other ways. Thanks to the new uptempo, no-huddle offense installed by Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman, this year's team might be the best conditioned OSU team to take the field in sometime.

"Even our big guys have to run around constantly, not getting breaks, not subbing in," defensive end John Simon said. "We're definitely going to be one of the best conditioned defensive lines, best conditioned defenses in the country."

Sophomore cornerback Doran Grant said that he's noticed a difference between the intensity in the Buckeyes' first two weeks of fall camp and their third one.

"It's more like not really teaching now. It's time to play. Game-ready as we say, we trying to get game-ready," Grant said. "We just trying to get ready to be playing."

But despite now having an opponent to focus on, Ohio State fullback Zach Boren stressed the importance of the Buckeyes not losing sight of what they've done to make themselves better in the offseason.

"It's a lot more fun. We're still getting out after it at every practice and like I said, you're either getting better or you're getting worse," Boren said. "I feel like we are getting better as a team right now."

It's not just having a visible opponent and new offense to game plan for that's made the last week of fall camp more fun for Ohio State. After spending nearly nine months without an opponent in a different colored uniform across the field from him, senior linebacker Etienne Sabino is just happy to be getting ready to compete against players who aren't Buckeyes.

"It's exciting, man. I cannot wait to hit somebody else in a different color jersey or doesn't have a silver-colored helmet on," Sabino said. "We're excited to finally play somebody else. September 1st can't come fast enough."


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