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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With three weeks to go before the start of his second season as Ohio State's head coach, Urban Meyer met with the media to provide an update on the Buckeyes as they approach the midway point of preseason fall camp. Speaking for nearly 20 minutes, the two-time national champion coach touched on a number of topics, including the improvement of his quarterback and development of a talented freshman class.
A better Braxton
Despite being the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, all eyes will be on the growth of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, who only completed 58.3 percent of his passes in 2012. For his part, Meyer has witnessed a change in his star player, who shined in an intense team scrimmage on Saturday."=
"Mechanically, he's much further ahead," Meyer said. "I was very impressed. There were some timed throws in the scrimmage that there's no way that they would've occurred unless they threw in the summer."
Asked about Miller's development as a person, Meyer could hardly contain himself. The OSU head coach gave credit to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman for helping the junior signal-caller get closer to his unimaginable potential.
"I've got to be careful because I just glow, but I love Braxton Miller," Meyer said. "Him and Tom Herman have something really special going right now. You can see it on the field.
"I don't want to give him an A yet, but he's pushing A-work ... if he does, that's a special player."
With the Buckeyes' bowl ban from 2012 having expired and Ohio State opening up as the second-ranked team in the country, expectations in Columbus are nearly as high as they've ever been. Despite inarguably having more to play for, Meyer said that he hasn't noticed a change in his team's approach this offseason.
"I don't feel it," Meyer said. "Our goal is to compete for championships in November. The cool thing was last year, after they told us we could, it was the same goal we had a year ago ... I really don't feel a different pulse. I think that's a credit to last year."
The second-year Buckeyes head coach insisted that his program follows a certain approach, that helps avoid gaffes from occurring when they're least expected.
"We really are one-game at a time. I've always been a one-game at a time coach. I've been on staffs where all of a sudden you're looking at something other than the next game and you wake up the next morning with a loss," Meyer said. "That's my mindset, and a lot of times a team's mindset is that of a head coach."
As is the case most years -- although perhaps now more than ever with Meyer in town -- there are plenty of eyes in Columbus fixated on the city's newest Buckeyes. Ranked second in the country according to Rivals.com, Ohio State's 2013 class was filled with several potential stars, which reminds Meyer of a particular class that helped him win two national championships at Florida.
"The '06 team did that at Florida. The '06 team injected a bunch of youth and playmakers into that 2006 team," Meyer said. "I see very similar qualities ... I feel that same way, certainly on offense."
Grabbing most of the attention in the Buckeyes' 2013 class is four-star running back Dontre Wilson The speedster from DeSoto, Texas lost his black stripe on Saturday, and is expected by many -- including Meyer -- to be a key contributor in 2013.
"He has a unique skill set where he's extremely dynamic. We all know what that means in the game of football," Meyer said. "He's an incredible athlete."
Make or break
With one week of fall camp in the books, the Buckeyes are now hitting the bulk of their two-a-days, with nine practices scheduled for the next six days. Never one to mince words, Meyer didn't understate the importance of the coming week.
"The 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes will be determined by this week coming up," Meyer said.
After spending the past week at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Ohio State will now shift practices to the Ackerman Fields, in order to create a true sense of training camp. As Meyer explained, it's better for his team to hit its low point now, rather than later.
"I would like to kind of go away, because that's hard to do," Meyer said. "You need to feel bad before you feel good and appreciate what you've got."
Dealing with distractions
With so much hype surrounding this year's Ohio State squad, Meyer knows that there's even more of an opportunity for distractions to derail his team from success. After all, he's seen it happen before, when he was an assistant coach in Columbus 25 years ago.
"I was here in '87 and at the start of the season we were preseason No. 2 in America," Meyer said. "Our staff got let go and it wasn't really a positive year ... it's not because of bad coaches, it's because of bad players, it's because of distractions."
Since that time, Meyer believes that he's put together a proven plan to avoid such problems. And given the age of the players he deals with, the Buckeyes head coach said that you can't understate the importance of keeping their eyes on the prize.
"You just try to create a culture -- as much time as you can, you spend it on Xs and Os," he said. "Our clientele is 18-21-year-olds. If you recall, they kind of get distracted. We just gotta make sure that they stay focused."
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