Notebook: Audibles, DL Rotation and More Hall

Urban Meyer wants to see more pre-snap adjustments, more defensive linemen and more Jordan Hall as the Buckeyes finish up nonconference play and begin preparations for the Big Ten season. We examine the growth of Braxton Miller, the state of the defensive line rotation and the role of Jordan Hall in this week's notebook.

So far this season, Ohio State fans have had the opportunity to watch quarterback Braxton Miller both carry the team's offense and endure growing pains simultaneously.

While he develops as a passer, his dynamic running ability has been the Buckeyes' most reliable weapon.

Head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman are happy with his progress but anxious to see him get his youthful mistakes out of the way so he can step up to another level of effectiveness, bringing the rest of the Buckeyes with him in all likelihood.

They would also like to see him make things easier for himself at times by recognizing what the opposition is doing and making the necessary adjustment before the snap if there is a better play to be run.

"We try very hard to be honest with our evaluations of players, and I"m not sure he had ever been told he's not good at something," Meyer said. "Now he's being told that over and over again. Probably the best thing is he's a competitor. We had probably the best conversation we've ever had after the game against Cal. I sat with him at his locker. Part of our problem is we're running plays our quarterback should get us out of. Tom Herman can't do it all the time, so the quarterback has got to get us in and out of plays."

Not surprisingly, that became a focus this week as the Buckeyes prepared to play host to UAB, and Meyer came away happy with the early results.

"The good news is, he's all over it," Meyer said.

Miller is a second-year starter at quarterback but in his first year in Meyer's offense. It is an attack that not only depends heavily on the quarterback's legs to give defenses something to think about as they cover potential running lanes but also relies on the signal caller to make myriad decisions before and after the snap. That is new for Miller, who ran a more limited attack last year under interim head coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.

"I don't know if he's ever really done it," Meyer said when asked about Miller changing plays at the line of scrimmage. "I don't know if he was used to saying, ‘Well I don't like this, let's go with this.' We were so far behind in other areas – you saw the passing game, it wasn't real strong – so we just said, ‘OK, Tom Herman get us into the right plays.' Sometimes we have to re-check the defense." 

Herman said he has seen enough unique defensive looks already this season to boggle the mind. Opposing defensive coordinators want to take away Miller's ability to hurt them on the ground without solely playing single-man coverage in the secondary, adding to the difficulty of creating a game plan and adjusting on Saturdays.

To improve that process, he tries to imagine the field the way Miller is seeing it, something that also takes time to develop.

"He's seeing the field better and he communicates with me on the sideline better than maybe I had expected," Herman said. "There was one point in the game where he said, ‘Coach, there were too many guys out there.' That's progress. At least he saw that there were too many guys out there. Now let's communicate who it was. Who did you see? How did it unfold? That part is still a work in progress."

D-Line Reps Limited So Far
A shellacking in a long-ago Sugar Bowl led Mike Vrabel's college defensive line coach to subscribe to the theory more is better when it terms of players used up front. Now that he is in charge of the group at his alma mater, Vrabel has brought his own twist to the rotation.

Vrabel, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year who played his last season at Ohio State under Jim Heacock in 1996, said in the preseason he wanted to find a group of starters upon which he could lean heavily this season. That is contrary to the strategy favored by Heacock, who saw the value in playing as many as eight in any given game to keep them fresh and more effective.

"We have that depth now, it's just that Coach Vrabel I think believes in the NFL system where the best players play and if they're not tired, they're going to stay in," explained senior Nathan Williams, who played about 75 percent of the snaps at end last week against California.

Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell have gone on record as preferring to expand the rotation beyond four, but the current state of the line group has things tipping in favor of Vrabel's keeping things more limited.

"We'd like to rotate but the injury to Michael Bennett and we had a little attrition," he said in reference to Bennett missing the first three games with a groin injury and the exit of a couple of other players who were expected to return at end this fall but transferred or gave up football. "It's all about the D-coordinator and the D-line coach trusting some of those young players because most of them are first-year guys." 

Freshmen Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt have gotten reps in every game so far, but the five-star recruits are getting acclimated to the college game. They join a pool of backups that also includes ends J.T. Moore and Steve Miller along with tackle Joel Hale.

"The other guys have to improve," Meyer sad. "If they were better, they'd play more. I'd much rather have six, seven guys roll through there. You can't have guys playing 80 plays.

"Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence right now are not real strong against the run, but they are good pass rushers. Adolphus Washington is going to be special, but he's not a full-time player yet." 

Ready For More
Even Jordan Hall was surprised at how many carries he received – 17 – last week in his season debut last week.

The senior running back was not declared "in" for the contest against the Golden Bears until the middle of the week, but he ended up taking the majority of the reps while youngsters Brionte Dunn and Rod Smith were relegated to the sidelines.

With another week to continue the healing process from summer foot surgery, Hall is feeling ready to play an even bigger role.

"This might seem funny but I kind of like to run between the tackles and get outside," said the 5-9, 194-pounder said. "I like to look at myself as a physical runner. I'm gonna try to show a little bit more of that this week because I let one person tackle me last week and I really wasn't happy about it."

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