It's clear that Bryant was one of Meyer's favorite players, not just for the hard-hitting, ball-hawking abilities he brought to the secondary but also for the leadership and confidence with which he played.
That's why the performance of fellow senior safety Corey Brown, Bryant's replacement, is so key. And Brown's confidence got a big boost against Penn State when he thwarted the Nittany Lions' opening drive last week with an interception in the end zone.
"I was just sinking back and our defense did a good job of getting home and making him get the ball out quick," Brown said. "He threw it and I happened to be there in the right spot. He didn't put too much air on it, so I knew I was there to get it.
"I definitely want to do anything I can possible to help our defense win and play the best we can."
Brown finished with five tackles in the game, which was an all-around better performance after what had been an up-and-down beginning to his tenure as an OSU starter.
"It was huge," fellow safety C.J. Barnett said of the interception that started it all. "They were going on a drive in our red zone and he made a great play. Yeah, it boosted his confidence. Anytime you get a pick it boosts your confidence, but that's expected from him."
Meyer was happy to see Brown step up and make the play, both for the player's sake and for the team's.
"We were giving ground at alarming pace again, a little bit like the Iowa game started," Meyer said. "And for him to step up, you know, the energy level … you saw a very confident team coming off the field like we can do this, where Iowa wasn't that way at all. They score there, that's a whole different ballgame."
On the whole, Brown has 11 tackles since moving into the starting lineup.
"It feels pretty good," he said. "It's a loss because my brother CB is down, but it's nice that I'm filling the hole and helping our defense getting to where we want to be. I feel like there's always room for improvement. I feel like I get a lot better in all aspects of the game. I never want to settle for less."
November To Remember?
Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel didn't shy away from the importance of the final month of the college football season during his 10 years in charge of the Ohio State program.
"November is for contenders, we always say that," Tressel noted.
And why wouldn't he think that? The Buckeyes won eight Big Ten championships in his decade in charge – meaning they were contenders just about every year – and a big reason was that Tressel lost only four games during the month as the Buckeye mentor.
Current head coach Meyer believes the same thing, but he's just not as vocal about it. Of course, whatever he's doing is working – he has a 124-23 career record and is 20-0 in charge of the Buckeyes, all partly because of a day-to-day approach, not a big picture view.
"If you look around, there's not a bunch of goals," Meyer said. "We don't have a goal board. Go undefeated, win a national championship – we don't put that down. There's too many variables involved.
"My concern ever since I've been a head coach, you might say, ‘Let's win our goals for the year,' but we don't have that conversation. It's always the same: compete for championships in November. Get to November, and then let's go try to find a way to win a championship."
Things have worked just about as well for Meyer, too. Overall in his 11 years at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and OSU, the head coach has a 35-7 mark in November, not to mention four conference titles and two other division crowns.
Ohio State's undefeated start to the season – or heck, the Meyer era – is the kind that brings comparisons out of people.
Where does the rampaging Carlos Hyde fit among the Buckeyes' best at running back? Just how good is this offense in the annals of Ohio State football? Is the defense deserving of being in the discussion of some of the previous Silver Bullet vintages?
So when that happens, one must go to an expert, and Purdue coach Darrell Hazell qualifies in one way. Hazell coached wideouts at OSU from 2004-10, one of the most successful yet tumultuous eras in Buckeye football history, and so he knows a lot about recent OSU gridiron play.
Thus, when asked this week on a teleconference if he could compare the current Buckeye squad to one he coached, he had an answer.
"I would compare it probably closest to the 2006 team offensively when you had Troy Smith at the quarterback position, you had Teddy (Ginn) at one wide-out and you had Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) in the slot and (Brian) Robiskie at one of the X's and (Brian) Hartline coming off the bench and Beanie Wells and (Antonio) Pittman as the running back," he said. "Offensively that's what I would compare it to. I don't think defensively it's the same type of team as that year."
In some ways, it is an apt comparison. That '06 team had perhaps the best offense of the Tressel era, something confirmed when the Buckeyes put up 42 points on a highly rated Michigan defense in the historic 1 vs. 2 showdown. And that defense was ranked among the best in the nation as well for much of the campaign, while this one is a little lower in the rankings.
For comparison's sake, here's a few numbers: The 2006 Buckeyes, who went 12-0 in the regular season, scored 34.6 points per game and gave up 12.8 while gaining 384.5 yards and ceding 280.5. This year's squad is outscoring teams 47.2-19.1 and outgaining opponents 517.2 to 336.1.
Drew Basil didn't have any field-goal attempts – that's not exactly new for the Ohio State kicker in the Meyer era – but his right leg still got a workout last Saturday vs. Penn State.
Taking nine extra points and 10 kickoffs – one after each touchdown plus another to start the second half – will test any leg, and Basil passed with flying colors. The Chillicothe native made all nine PATs and was the point man on a kickoff unit that excelled at pinning the Nittany Lions deep thanks to his directional boots.
Basil's nine extra points also helped him set a school record. His eighth point after on the day pushed his PAT streak to 87 in a row, allowing him to break the record of consecutive made extra points of 86 former held by Tim Williams.
"I really haven't (given it any thought)," the modest Basil said of the record. "The offense is doing great right now, and they're giving me chances. I can't complain about it."
By the end of the game, Basil's streak hit 88, but and eights appear to be wild – his streak is the eighth longest in the nation. He's got a while to go, though, to catch the leader – Aaron Jones of Baylor has made 161 in a row, and like Basil, he's getting a lot of practice on a high-flying Bears outfit.