COLUMBUS — With 16 new starters next season, Urban Meyer says Ohio State’s spring football game on Saturday might be the most important one he’s had at OSU.
“The value is greater this year probably than any other time in our four years here to see how these young players respond,” Meyer said on Monday.
After coming straight from the practice field, he also did a little work for the marketing department when he tried to pump up the crowd for Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium.
“I’m hoping we get 100,000 people. That’s an appeal to our fans to come out,” Meyer said.
“I want to see (quarterback) Joe Burrow perform in front of 100,000 people in the stadium. I want to see (running back) Mike Weber perform in front of 100,000 people. They’ve never done it,” he said, mentioning two of the most prominent redshirt freshmen on the Buckeyes’ roster.
Burrow will go into the spring game as the No.2 quarterback behind starter J.T. Barrett. Stephen Collier is the No. 3 QB this spring.
Barrett will play but probably not much. “How much is to be determined,” Meyer said. The defense will not be allowed to hit Barrett, but Burrow and Collier will be “live” and open to contact at least some of the time.
Meyer said the battle to be the No. 1 running back between Weber and senior Bri’onte Dunn remains undecided.
“Bri’onte and Mike are still fighting it out and the young guy (Antonio Williams) has done a decent job, but he’s not on the same level as Mike and Bri’onte. But no one has separated themselves.”
He said Burrow “is getting close to being game ready.”
“He’s doing pretty well. I don’t think he is quite the athlete J.T. is right now but he is becoming a much better runner. His release is night and day from what it was.”
Some other thoughts from Meyer:
—Junior wide receiver James Clark, who has battled injuries and hasn’t caught a pass in his career, was singled out as one of the most improved players on the team this spring.
“James is really coming on and it’s about time, too,” Meyer said. “He’s a highly recruited guy with a lot of ability and a good person too. He has really taken this opportunity.”
—The NCAA issued rulings disallowing satellite camps and allowing unlimited texting to recruits by universities last week and Meyer is not a fan of either decision, especially the unlimited texting.
He called it “the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard.”
The satellite camps allowed football coaches to hold camps outside their home area and was vigorously opposed by schools in the South.
Meyer’s biggest objection, though, wasn’t to the loss of a potential recruiting tool for himself. The camps ruling also said smaller schools’ coaches could not attend camps at places like Ohio State.
“The biggest thing I didn’t realize was that part of it was that the MAC schools can’t come here now. Probably hundreds of scholarships (at MAC-level schools) have come out of here to young players. Not many guys can play at Ohio State. I wish they would revisit that part of it,” he said.
—Meyer offered some insight into how he handles players after they have had issues off the field.
“There are guys who have had issues and they’ve grown,” he said. “Sometime they’re 17 or 18-year-old issues. Sometimes they’re character flaws. If we think it’s a character flaw, then eventually we have to move them on. We try to change guys. They’re on probationary status.
“It (an incident) is always going to be there. It’s not just that you forget it. And this university doesn’t forget it either. You have to keep straight,” he said.
—He said OSU opened practice on Monday with a moment of silence and a prayer for former defensive lineman Will Smith, a key player on the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship team.
Smith, who went on to an outstanding career with the New Orleans Saints, was murdered in what apparently was a road rage incident in the Lower Garden District in New Orleans on Saturday night.