Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Freshman focus: Blowout gives sneak peek
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Finally, Urban Meyer once again had the opportunity every coach wants.
The outcome was well in hand thanks to another prolific offensive performance and continued improvements from the defense, and the Ohio State coach could at last pull his veterans and get a look at their backups -- and his talented freshmen.
Meyer obviously would have wanted a few more chances this season to get meaningful reps for his first signing class with the Buckeyes and put some teaching points on film, but it was obviously better late than never as he trotted out a bunch of new faces on the offensive line, a young tailback and a handful of defenders needing some work in a 52-22 destruction of Illinois.
"I was disappointed we didn't get one or two of those earlier in the year," Meyer said. " ... But I'm glad to see it, because there's no way you can simulate that in practice.
"It's priceless to be able to do that."
The Buckeyes have tried duplicate the experience with some spirited scrimmages for the younger players on Sundays as the season has progressed, though Meyer didn't put them through one after the win over the Illini heading into a bye week. Perhaps that was thanks in part to the opportunity the rout provided the night before, which revealed or confirmed some of the promise the freshman class has moving forward, starting with these three Buckeyes.
Bri'onte Dunn had 13 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown against Illinois.
Stats sheet: 13 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown
What it means: Running with reckless abandon and maybe some pent-up energy, Dunn made the most of his first chance to carry the football since the second game of the season with some violent rushing attempts that kept the Buckeyes rolling on offense even without doing anything fancy. Carlos Hyde isn't going anywhere at the top of the depth chart, and Rod Smith did a few more impressive things in the win, but Dunn showed that he's got the physical ability to make things happen in the backfield when he gets up to speed with the mental side of the game.
He said it: "That Bri'onte Dunn, he's a little looser with the ball, but I thought he ran very hard." -- Meyer
Stats sheet: 3 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a sack
What it means: Like his classmate Noah Spence, the Buckeyes are slowly adding more responsibility to the plate of the skilled pass-rushing threat. Both of them started off with impressive outings in the season opener that made it seem like they could provide instant help up front before hitting a wall and struggling through the middle portion of the schedule, but Washington showed he's turning the corner as well with his productive appearance for a defense that can use another physical, aggressive presence.
He said it: "Adolphus Washington is starting to knock that baby look off his face and really start playing. It's good to see." -- Meyer
Stats sheet: Came off the bench in the fourth quarter to replace Reid Fragel and helped spark a rushing attack that didn't slow down even with the reserves on the field.
What it means: Decker spent the majority of training camp seemingly locked in a tight battle with Fragel for a starting job before the veteran used his experience to help pull away and cement a spot in the starting lineup. That's somewhat easy to forget about now given how well Fragel has played with the first unit, but the Buckeyes clearly have a high opinion of Decker -- and even just that handful of reps could be invaluable down the road as he gets to work trying to fill the void the senior will leave after this season.
He said it: "Taylor Decker earned his right to get in there." -- Meyer