SvoNotebook: Talking Lines, Recruiting, More

The Ohio State defensive line wasn't happy with its play last week and wants to make amends. Plus we talk blocking, personnel, Penn State recruiting and have our usual facts and figures in this week's notebook.

It was the quote of the press conference – nay, the quote of the year, really.

When a reporter tried to ask Mike Vrabel on Monday about the dominance in the trenches Iowa had in the first half of last week's game, the Ohio State defensive line coach cut off the question.

"Call what it was," the always blunt Vrabel said. "Beat the snot out of us, I agree."

Except he didn't say snot, to steal a line from "A Christmas Story". (Hey, this is a family website, but in case you're still lost, the word Vrabel did use rhymed with spit.)

So yes, the fact that Iowa was able to consistently matriculate the ball down the field in the run game in the first half was something that caught the attention of the Buckeye front.

"I would say the same thing (as Vrabel)," said junior lineman Michael Bennett, who also noted he wasn't allowed to cuss so he couldn't quite mimic his position coach's words. "There's no way around it. After watching the film, they beat the crap out of us. I think we came out in the second half with a chip on our shoulder like we need. We can't start a game like that again."

In the end, the Iowa performance wasn't a total disaster – OSU remained the only team in the nation to now allow a run of 20 yards – but the consistency with which Iowa was able to pick off 3 to 6 yards a pop to set up advantageous second and third down distances was concerning.

"I think they had four that were uncontested, were around the edge, we had no edge," Vrabel said. "One was to the boundary. Two was to the field. Easy yardage. Then there was some yardage that was pushed and washed, contacted 2 yards and they pushed the line, throw the line over to pile, block the linebackers, just soft. And we don't do a good job of playing physical with our hands, getting off blocks, shedding off blocks, walking away from blocks.

"When you do this against a good offensive line, they're going to continue to push you and move the pile. We had a punch of plays that were for 2 or 3 yards. I think the 5 or 6 yard ones are bothersome. And you've got to fix the ones be that are uncontested where they hand the ball and run around the edge and we're going to do that."

Bennett pointed to a lack of speed and aggression on the day for the Buckeyes, who are lacking some of the size that last year's defensive line used to its advantage. One end, Noah Spence, is built like a pass rusher at 252 pounds. Bennett is listed at 285, much smaller than last year's 3-technique tackle, Johnathan Hankins.

In other words, this line needs to use its quickness, technique and aggression to stop opposing rushing attacks, something Bennett expects to see return vs. a Penn State team that averages just 3.8 yards per carry.

"From the D-line's point of view, the D-line did not win that game," Bennett said. "Iowa's O-line beat the D-line. It's good there's a ‘W' in the win column because now we can go out against Penn State and really get after them because we've experienced that loss."

On The Block
When Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer worked as a wide receivers coach at places like Colorado State and Notre Dame, the grueling blocking drills the coach devised were so difficult, they were known as "Vietnam."

In other words, he surely had to appreciate the blocking display his non-offensive linemen put together on Carlos Hyde's highlight-reel, game-winning touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Iowa game.

Ohio State ran its inverted veer option play, with Hyde taking the sweep to the right side of the field. There, two of the Buckeyes' eligible receivers on that side of the ball – tight end Jeff Heuerman and wideout Corey Brown – blocked a pair of Iowa linebackers in James Morris and Christian Kirksey, respectively. Meanwhile, wideout Devin Smith shoved safety John Lowdermilk to the ground.

Then, after Hyde was stunned by a hit by safety Tanner Miller and then righted himself, Brown made one final huge block, knocking Morris to the ground so that Hyde could leap over the Iowa LB.

That is par for the course, though, for the Buckeyes wideouts and tight ends this year, something that offensive line coach Ed Warinner was happy to see.

"I think that's one of the reasons we continue to get better is the progress we're making across the board," Warinner said. "The job description of a wide receiver at Ohio State is not to catch passes, it's to block first and then catch passes second. That's a good thing. Those guys blocked their butts off out there. Philly Brown, Evan Spencer, and we flex out, our tight end is obviously blocking out there, Devin, Chris Fields. If you go in the game the expectation is whatever we ask you to do you'll do it well.

"And because we're becoming balanced in terms of inside run and outside run, that's making us more of a threat to people. And we've started to do a better job of that this season, perimeter run, and you can only perimeter run if your wide receivers can execute out there. And they're doing a very good job at that. That's helped our perimeter run tremendously.

Personnel Report
When the Buckeyes opened the season against Buffalo, it wasn't hard to find Michael Hill on the field. The true freshman was part of the rotation – perhaps not a surprise with the top reserve, Tommy Schutt, out with a foot injury – and held his own.

So where has he been since then?

On the shelf with multiple injuries, as it turns out. The hand injury that cost Hill much of his senior prep campaign has returned, and Hill is also fighting a shoulder injury. As a result, he hasn't seen action in any of the first three Big Ten games.

"Right now, he can't play," Meyer said. "We're trying to get him back as soon as we can."

Failing that, though, Hill would be eligible, it appears, for a medical redshirt that would keep him with four years of eligibility at OSU.

Schutt made his return vs. Iowa, playing sparingly and not recording a tackle, but the Buckeyes still have not returned sophomore Chase Farris to the offensive line. Farris went through camp with the offense but moved to the defense when Schutt was injured before the opener.

"He isn't yet," Warinner said when asked if Farris was back in his room. "We'll see where that goes with some of the injuries they've had over there he's been on the defensive line. We'll see where we go when everything is healthy over there."

A bit of a stir was raised when three-star class of 2014 tight end Mike Gesicki out of New Jersey picked the Nittany Lions a week ago over Ohio State.

Of course, that normally wouldn't be a huge deal, but considering the Nittany Lions are still working over quite punitive sanctions as part of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and cover-up, Gesicki's choice was newsworthy.

Penn State has picked up two more commitments in the meantime, boosting the Nittany Lions' recruiting class to 27th in the nation and fifth in the Big Ten.

Mixed in is good news and bad news. For example, four of the 15 players are four-star players, and none are rated below three stars. On the other hand, no player is ranked among the top 10 prospects at his position by Scout, and the top-rated overall prospect – safety Marcus Allen of Upper Marlboro, Md. – checks in 254th in the nation.

So really, you can spin the Penn State recruiting class however you'd like it, and certainly things are looking up with a solid coaching staff led by Bill O'Brien in place and some of the NCAA sanctions soon to be relieved starting next season.

For his part, Vrabel isn't surprised that O'Brien has been able to have both recruiting success and lead his team to a 12-6 overall record in his two seasons.

"Bill O'Brien was a good friend, he was in New England when I was there," Vrabel said. "He's a good football coach. He's going to do everything he can to keep that program where it's been for the last 50 or 60 years. I don't see that changing."

Facts And Figures
Urban Meyer has been a head coach for 146 games and is 100 games over .500. Starting 7-0 this year and 19-0 at Ohio State has moved him to 123-23 in his career.

The Buckeyes have kept their three Big Ten opponents to a combined 416 yards below the rushing average they entered the game with. OSU is just one of six teams in the FBS to have not allowed a 100-yard rusher, joining Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten.

OSU's 19-game winning streak is tied for the second longest in program history. Meyer ended one of the two 19-game streaks put together by Jim Tressel while serving as head coach of Florida in the 2006 national championship game. The school record remains 22 games from 1967-69.

Since 2005, the teams have played four previous night games, splitting the victories each way. However, the road team has won the last three such games, with Penn State's prime-time win in 2005 serving as the outlier. Ohio State has won its last four night games at home – Marshall in 2010, Wisconsin in 2011 and '13, and Nebraska in 2012.

Braxton Miller has rushed for at least 100 yards in both of his previous starts vs. Penn State, totaling 105 in 2011 and 134 a season ago in Happy Valley.

Four Buckeyes hail from the Keystone State – three starters in Philly Brown, Corey Brown and Noah Spence as well as senior RB/KR Jordan Hall – while just one Nittany Lion is from Ohio. That is freshman walk-on WR Luke Vadas of Hunting Valley.

Four members of Penn State's coaching staff have won national championships – offensive line coach Mac McWhorter (Texas, 2005), assistant head coach Stan Hixon (LSU, 2003), linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden (Colorado, 1990) and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher (Eastern Kentucky, 1982).

The Nittany Lions are 15-9 after open weeks in program history, a mark that dropped when Penn State lost, 44-24, at Indiana after a week off earlier this season.

Penn State hasn't lost two games in a row since dropping the first two games of last season to Ohio and Virginia.

Not only was Penn State guard John Urschel a first-team All-Big Ten choice last year, he boasts a 4.0 grade-point average and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics over the past four years. He is teaching a section of the school's Math 232 (Integral Vector Calculus) this semester.

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