OHIO STATE head football coach Urban Meyer is continuing with what has been called his "high-tech spread offense," and three players with links to Eastern Ohio appear to be comfortable with his method of coaching.
Former Steubenville Big Red Najee Murray in his first year as a Buckeye said, "It's great (being an Ohio State player). I'm having a nice time, being coached by a great coach and with great players."
Murray, when interviewed during the recent OSU Media Day, also admitted that it's taking a lot of hard work to accomplish the goals that have been set.
The Steubenville High School graduate, now a freshman defensive back, was the leader of the secondary for three Big Red teams, including the 12-2 2009 state semifinalist squad and the 11-1 team in 2011, which advanced to the regional semifinals.
Sophomore wide receiver Evan Spencer, whose father Tim is a former St. Clairsville resident and running backs coach for the Chicago Bears, was asked about some of Meyer's criticisms, and he replied, "I think he was trying to get us to step up and to meet the challenge. I'm glad that he expects a lot from us, and I'm glad to see as a unit, we're taking the challenge on."
Spencer said during the spring, he was trying to translate what he saw on film, and now that the team is in camp, it's more comfortable.
A graduate of Vernon Hills High School in Illinois, Spencer who is 6-2 and weighs 205 pounds, suffered a knee injury a week ago Friday.
Apparently, the old saying, "You can't keep a good man down," is true because after the weekend, he planned to return to practice at camp.
According to the OSU website, he had a fine spring practice but a shoulder injury halted his efforts during the last two weeks of drills.
Spencer's first catch last year as a freshman in the OSU-Akron game is memorable. He made a one-handed grab of a Braxton Miller pass for a 33-yard gain in the first game of the season, and that right-handed grab inside the 5-yard line was considered for a national play of the week.
The former Illinois player has high praise for Miller, noting that the quarterback is "so athletic, he can fit in almost any offense ... This offense (at Ohio State) is perfect for him."
It's not surprising that Spencer knows what he is supposed to do on the football field. After all, his father is the third-leading rusher in Ohio State history with 3,553 yards between 1979-81 and also scored 36 touchdowns, fourth-most in OSU history.
Tim was a member of the Buckeye coaching staff between 1994 and 2003.
"I expect to go out and make plays. That's my job description," said the sophomore wide receiver.
His father was at the Bears' training camp, but his mother, Gilda, and older brother were at Ohio State for the family festivities related to Media Day.
Nick Vannett, a 6-6 tight end who mentioned Meyer's high-tech spread offense, earned All-Ohio recognition while playing for Westerville Central High School football coach John Magistro, the former highly successful Bellaire High coach.
Vannett, who was red-shirted last season as a true freshman, said, "You can't take any team too lightly. You never know who's going to come out and play hard,"
Miller wasn't at Media Day, but his prowess as a quarterback was noted by his teammates and the coach.
Meyer described Miller, a sophomore, and redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton as "caged tigers."
Among his challenges for the two quarterbacks are to throw the football a little bit, and they have improved since their actions in the spring. He also said they are kind of doing what they need to do.
Meyer went on to say the cage will be opened Sept. 1 when the Buckeyes face the Miami RedHawks at the Horseshoe.
The coach emphasized the importance of the 28 practices held during camp before the season opens.
This "will make or break us," he said, explaining those days are about development, and the players won't be getting that much better in the fall.
A spot check of the players at Media Day revealed that many of them consider Wisconsin - and definitely Michigan - to be the toughest opponents during the coming season.
Still, they don't appear to be downplaying any opponent.
Joel Hale, a sophomore defensive tackle who played in nine games, including the Gator Bowl, as a freshman, pointed out all teams in the Big Ten have unbelievably good running games as well as good quarterbacks.
Freshman wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos is the third member of his family to play for Buckeyes. His father, John, was a three-year letterman between 1978 and 1980, and his uncle,
Ernie, also was a team member. As a result, it's not unusual for him to comment, "The game we're all looking forward to is Michigan. ... Other than that, we're taking it one week at a time and focusing on the next opponent."
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