Long journey ahead

Meyer says first camp at Ohio State certainly won't be an easy one

Updated: August 3, 2012, 8:05 AM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

Not every training camp is created equal.

Urban Meyer has something of a sliding scale as he plans out the difficulty for the month of practices before opening the season.

And with expectations about his first team at Ohio State starting to swell despite the NCAA sanctions that will keep the program out of the postseason, that means his team had better get some rest before reporting for the first workout on Friday morning.

"The better the team, the harder the training camp," Meyer said last week.

The Buckeyes didn't exactly have it easy during their first spring under Meyer either, but now it's time to get down to serious business. And the benefits of dialing up the intensity are two-fold for Meyer.

The first, naturally, is providing challenges that a talented team should be able to handle. Ohio State may not be fully up and running the way Meyer plans thanks to some depth issues at linebacker, a relative lack of playmaking options on offense and the learning curve that comes with installing the spread attack. But the Buckeyes have enough talent to improve on the six wins they posted last season, perhaps significantly, and Meyer isn't going to drag his feet.

The second benefit -- making sure his team isn't thinking about their chances of building on that victory total.

"If those kids hear that then I've got to beat it out of them the first week of training camp," Meyer said. "I can promise you, after Day 4 they're not going to be talking about being 10-0 (heading into the last two games). They're worrying about getting to Day 5.

"It's going to be a really, really hard training camp."

It will also be one that shines more light on Meyer's first team at Ohio State and its key issues, including this small handful.

Miller time

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Greg Bartram/US PresswireMuch is expected of Ohio State sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
There's no question who is in charge of the new offense.

And as Braxton Miller continues to develop, the more dangerous the Buckeyes can be with the football.

Meyer has not been hesitant to praise his quarterback in the offseason, and last week at Big Ten Media Days it was heaped on and sprinkled with comparisons to decorated players from his past -- guys such as Tim Tebow and Alex Smith.

The big question about Miller will be how much he has developed as a passer, specifically with his accuracy. And while practices won't reveal everything, it's a big opportunity to prove he can handle everything Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman can throw at him.

Pivotal position

The loss of Jordan Hall opened up the starting running back slot, which Carlos Hyde will eagerly fill early in the season.

Identifying a candidate to replace Hall in the pivot position might not be quite so simple given the versatility required to be a factor both as a rusher and receiver, which should provide a battle to watch in August.

Corey "Philly" Brown is at the top of the list heading into the weekend, and Evan Spencer's speed has also given Meyer something to think about. But the Buckeyes might also take a closer look at true freshman Najee Murray on offense given his impressive skills set and the need for help until Hall returns from his foot injury.

Stuck in the middle

The secondary could be the best in the conference.

The defensive line almost certainly is, and might be the best in the nation.

In between those two units is one with a lot more uncertainty, particularly after a season that didn't live up to the standards Ohio State has at linebacker.

The Buckeyes are likely in good shape with a first team featuring Curtis Grant in the middle and Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino on the outside, but there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of depth behind them -- at least on paper.

Help is on the way with three more freshmen jumping in the mix, and if they can have the quick impact early enrollees Luke Roberts and Joshua Perry provided in the spring, the linebackers might not have a problem carrying their share of the load.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter