COLUMBUS: Urban Meyer has an affinity for special teams, an appreciation for what a strong kicking and return game can mean, and a special place in his heart for those who dive wholeheartedly into being on one of those squads.
“We probably practice special teams more than anybody else in the country,” senior running back Jordan Hall said. “Coach Meyer puts good players on special teams, so special teams is an important part of our team.”
And for those players who don’t embrace that approach …
“Coach Meyer makes sure they know when they first come in, in recruiting, and that’s always good to see the young guys figure it out early,” senior receiver Chris Fields said, “because sometimes being a young guy it’s kind of hard to figure out the system and to adapt to what Coach Meyer asks.”
In Meyer’s first season at OSU last year, Fields figured it out.
“Just being consistent doing the little things, and being on special teams, has really eased my focus,” Fields said.
Part of that focus must include special-teams participation, for newcomers and so-called star players alike.
“Our plan to win includes a strong kicking game,” Meyer said. “I have had guys on my staff … who were very opinionated and wanted to protect their guys [from playing on special teams]. But as long as everybody [understands], and I am perfectly clear about it, ‘This is the way it is,’ there has been very little [push-back], and our staff is very aligned with that.”
Last year, Fields and running back Rod Smith played their way onto special-teams units, which in turn earned them playing time on offense.
“You don’t need your uncle calling, you don’t need anybody calling,” Meyer said. “You just need to go get on a special team, then all of a sudden you find yourself playing.”
The reverse apparently is true, too. Sophomore Bri’onte Dunn (GlenOak) was thought to be the second- or third-team running back last week going into the opener against Buffalo. But he wasn’t one of the four backs who played, because he didn’t jump at trying to make a special team.
“That has to happen,” Meyer said, if Dunn intends to play.
So during special-teams practice this week, coordinator Kerry Coombs expects a queue of candidates.
“The head coach is very clear … if you don’t perform in those areas, you’re not going to play,” said Coombs, also cornerbacks coach. “So the competition to get on special-teams units is high. Adding more healthy bodies to that mix is helpful to our team.
“We need kids who can run down the field and take a load off some of the starters, and Saturday, unfortunately, we had a couple guys who had to catch a touchdown pass and then go cover a kickoff. We try to avoid that if we can. At the same time, [special teams] will be our priority, and if you can’t cover the kickoff, then you can’t catch the touchdown pass.”
Earning their way back
Bradley Roby, returning from his one-game suspension, was listed as a co-starter with Armani Reeves on the depth chart released Tuesday. Meyer said Roby, an all-Big Ten player in 2012, would have to beat out Reeves in practice to earn the start.
C.J. Barnett, who missed the opener because of a sprained ankle, is listed as a co-starter with Corey Brown.
Running back Rod Smith, who like Roby is returning from a one-game suspension, is not listed on the depth chart. Jordan Hall is the starter, with Dunn and Warren Ball sharing second-team status. Ball got two carries against Buffalo. Dunn didn’t take a snap.
Ex-MVP Jacoby dies
George Jacoby was watching the Ohio State victory on Saturday when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at age 81 in Cincinnati.
For the two-time OSU captain and 1953 team Most Valuable Player, it was fitting timing.
“On Saturday, he left us in the middle of the Buckeye game to go watch it with Woody,” Jacoby’s son Jeff said Tuesday.
When Woody Hayes was starting his long Ohio State tenure, Jacoby helped set the foundation. The Toledo native was a first-team all-Big Ten tackle in 1952 and ’53 and served as captain both years.
He spent the last 52 years of his life in Cincinnati with his wife of 62 years, Nina.
“He was absolutely the ultimate Buckeye,” Jeff Jacoby said. “He was absolutely as loyal and true a Buckeye as there ever was.
“We’re going to have him cremated in scarlet and gray. He’ll have on a scarlet Ohio State golf shirt and a pair of gray slacks with the Buckeye logo on them. That’s about as good as it gets.”
Jacoby was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Giants in 1954. But NFL salaries were meager then, and he and Nina had Jeff to support. When the Giants wanted him to stay on their taxi (practice) squad, he decided to end his playing career.
The Jacobys lived in Toledo until 1961 before moving to Cincinnati. Jacoby was an accountant and controller for several companies.