By Jim Naveau
The Lima News, Ohio
Distributed by MCT
The unofficial motto for OSU’s offense, though, could have been “Getting Braxton some help.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller was the only consistent big-play threat Ohio State had last season.
He passed for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns and was even more dangerous as a runner. He was Ohio State’s leading rusher with 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“He was by far our best player. And when I say by far I mean it wasn't even the same hemisphere as far as who the next player was that could go make a play and help us win,” Meyer said as he looked forward to Saturday’s opener against Buffalo at his first weekly press conference of the season on Monday.
Those comments echo what OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said after spring practice when he described himself as “afraid” to call pass plays at times last season.
“It sent shivers down my spine at times last year,” he said.
If things play out as Meyer and Herman expect with improvements in Miller’s game and a stronger supporting cast around him, the shivering could be done by Ohio State's opponents.
Meyer said veteran receivers Corey Brown and Evan Spencer have showed they can make big plays in preseason practice and says senior running back Jordan Hall “looks better than he ever has.”
Asked if Miller could lead the team in rushing again this season, Meyer said, “I don’t see that happening this year. If it does, that means something's not going well.”
The unknown — and highly anticipated — quantities in the offensive upgrade equation will be freshmen like running back/wide receiver Dontre Wilson and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Wilson's speed has been a hot topic of conversation among his teammates since the day he arrived. Miller referred to him as “that bolt of lightning” and said, “I feel like he better be starting this year.”
Wilson will return the first kickoff Ohio State receives, Meyer said and he is one of four freshmen the OSU coach said will definitely play, along with defensive lineman Joey Bosa, punter Cameron Johnston and Elliott.
Herman said Ohio State will “sprinkle some Dontre Wilson in there” on Saturday.
“He’s going to touch the ball. We'd be foolish not to have him touch the ball. The package will be small to start the year off and let him become an expert at the few things we are asking him to do,” Herman said.
Ohio State's offense will be without No. 1 running back Carlos Hyde, who has been suspended for three games for an incident in a Columbus club and also will be without running back Rod Smith, out for one game for an unspecified violation of team rules.
The running back depth chart starts with Hall, followed by sophomore Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball, who missed all of his freshman season last fall with a foot injury.
Meyer said Elliott will carry the ball and Wilson also line up at tailback on some plays.
“Jordan Hall is the best running back on our team right now, so he will have to lose that spot,” the OSU coach said. “I’m talking next week, the week after, whatever.”
Even though the entire defensive line from last year's 12-0 team has to be replaced, Meyer says finding two other linebackers to go with Ryan Shazier is his biggest concern.
The most pleasant surprise has been finding depth in the backups behind the four returning starters on the offensive line.
“The area we are still trying to solidify is linebacker,” he said. The two offensive linemen who have made big moves this summer are Pat Elflein and Jacoby Boren.
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