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Four downs: Keys for Ohio State-UCF

9/7/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Areas of importance for Ohio State as the level of competition gets taken up a notch or two with Central Florida visiting the Horseshoe on Saturday (ESPN2, noon).

FIRST DOWN

Catching crew: The season-high in receptions from a year ago might be in jeopardy before Ohio State even gets to its third game this season.

The emphasis throughout spring practice, offseason workouts and training camp is already paying dividends, and quarterback Braxton Miller seems to have confidence in every target the Buckeyes put on the field in the opener last week. With some help from backup Kenny Guiton, Ohio State completed at least two passes to six different players.

Corey "Philly" Brown led the way with seven grabs, putting him halfway to the total of 14 that paced the Buckeyes' anemic passing game last year. It established the junior as a legitimate weapon for Miller and coach Urban Meyer in the early stages of the schedule.

SECOND DOWN

Get after it: The stats sheet didn't reflect much of an impact for the defensive line, but that's not really how position coach Mike Vrabel measures it anyway.

"I don’t think it’s just about sacks," he said. "I think it’s about production."

The Buckeyes supplied the latter in completely shutting down any attempt Miami (Ohio) made to run the ball a week ago, and it at least deserved credit for an assist in one of the interceptions, with John Simon forcing an ill-advised throw.

But the quick-firing spread offense largely kept Ohio State from racking up many sacks with that talented, athletic crew up front. Against a more balanced UCF offense, the Buckeyes would benefit from production that also shows up statistically.

THIRD DOWN

Thick Hyde: Just putting a hand on Carlos Hyde isn't going to be enough for a defender. Even wrapping up on the junior running back might not be enough if he's got some momentum with him.

Hyde showed the coaching staff he was serious about remaining an integral part of the offense even when projected starter Jordan Hall returns from injury, routinely shedding tackles on his way to 82 yards in the opener.

Meyer estimated that about 70 percent of those yards came after contact against Miami, and with the Knights throwing better athletes at Hyde this week, it will be even more critical for him to absorb some punishment and keep his legs churning.

FOURTH DOWN

Home base: Curtis Grant felt the squeeze of the nickel package last week.

The sophomore linebacker was forced to the sideline with the Buckeyes leaning so much on extra defensive backs to stop Miami, with Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino getting playing time ahead of Grant to contribute at the second level over him.

This week, the Buckeyes are expected to play more often out of their base personnel group, which will allow the former highly-touted recruit to show off the progress he's made after a season spent mostly toiling on special teams. Those strides are going to be critical at the middle linebacker spot down the line, particularly given the lack of depth behind the first group -- and UCF has a rushing attack that should afford plenty of chances to shine.