With the hardest part of the week over, Urban Meyer is happy with the way his Ohio State football team looks heading into a week eight contest with Purdue.
The first-year head coach said Monday he needed to see some tough guys emerge after the Buckeye defense was shredded for 49 points and 481 yards last week. He saw that the following two days.
“I think our whole team (stepped up),” Meyer said Wednesday night. “We’ve had a very good Tuesday and Wednesday. The shoulder pads come off tomorrow. We’ve got to get them ready.”
Ohio State’s defense won’t be the only entering the Horseshoe on Saturday after a performance it would like to forget.
Purdue gave up 467 yards rushing during a 38-14 loss at home to Wisconsin last week, but Meyer said those numbers could be misleading.
“I wouldn’t say (Purdue was) run over,” Meyer said. “I kept hearing about how good that back (Montee Ball) for Wisconsin was, and I finally saw it on video. He’s really good. He pulled through tackles. I didn’t see a steamrolling that the yardage would indicate. I saw a back – because I hadn’t seen him yet on video – is worth of all that recognition. He’s a dynamic player.”
The seventh-ranked Buckeyes will play host to the Boilermakers with one more regular starter than they had last week at Indiana as defensive end Nathan Williams is set to return from a one-game absence because of a concussion.
Freshman linebacker Joshua Perry will be available, too, but senior linebacker Etienne Sabino (leg) and senior running back Jordan Hall (knee) are out. Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier, who played against the Hoosiers but missed some practice time with an undisclosed injury last week, will be available, as will senior Storm Klein, who left the game in Bloomington with an undisclosed problem.
Meyer said to expect Shazier to start at linebacker along with Zach Boren, a senior who was the Buckeyes’ No. 1 fullback until last week. Ohio State is likely to spend the majority of the game in its nickel defense to match up with Purdue's spread offense.
“I’m glad he’s over there,” Meyer said, “He brings confidence and a toughness. Our players love him. He’s as unselfish a player as we have.”
Boren said another week of practice at linebacker, a position he had not played since high school, has him feeling more comfortable.
“Every day has been a learning process, and I’m just going to do whatever it is to help the team, whether that is rotate in like last week or be the starter,” Boren said.
Meyer did not rule out Boren playing some fullback again in the future, but linebacker appears to be his primary spot as long as Sabino is out with a broken leg suffered two weeks ago. Sabino is not expect back for another week or two at the earliest.
“I’d love to hand (Boren) the ball just to reward him sometime in the red zone, but you saw what I saw,” Meyer said.