September 7, 2012

Buckeyes prepare for different animal in UCF

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - After demolishing the Mid-American Conference's Miami (OH) 56-10 in its season opener, the Ohio State football team immediately turned its attention towards its next opponent. And might be the toughest it faces before the start of the Big Ten season.

Central Florida is coming to town on Saturday and despite going 5-7 a season ago, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer believes that the Knights are a good football team. Speaking during his weekly press conference on Monday, Meyer made it clear that head coach George O'Leary's team has caught his attention.

"Whole different animal coming in here this week. I know this team, I know this coach, I know this coaching staff, and we have great respect for everything they've done," Meyer said. "I look forward to playing a very talented team in Central Florida who we have great respect for."

Although they endured a losing season just a year ago, the Knights are just two years removed from an 11-3 season, which included a Conference USA championship and an AutoZone Liberty Bowl win over Georgia. In its season opener against Akron, UCF showed signs of returning to its 2010 form, thrashing the Zips by a score of 56-14.

"On offense, they pounded Akron," Meyer said. "They ran power downhill at them with a big effort at quarterback that also threw the ball very well."

That quarterback is third-year sophomore Blake Bortles, who completed 13-of-16 pass attempts against Akron for 168 yards and three touchdowns. The performance caught the attention of Meyer, who also admitted to be worried about what the 6-foot-4 and mobile Bortles didn't do in the Knights' opener.

"He's a big athlete," Meyer said of Bortles. "The guys that can't pull it down and run are the guys that better be great throwers. The guys that pull it down and run and extend drives and keep 'em alive, those are the guys that usually beat you. He can do that."

While Bortles only attempted two runs against the Zips, Meyer said that he expects him to use his legs more against the Buckeyes, especially with the expected absence of starting running back Latavius Murray, who suffered a shoulder injury against Akron.

"They didn't show much of the spread quarterback run stuff last week 'cause they didn't have to, but we're in a little dilemma," Meyer said. "We're preparing as if they're going to run some of that this week."

After facing Miami's spread offense, which only attempted 20 runs a week ago, the Buckeyes will spend much more time in their base defense on Saturday. Despite Murray's absence, Meyer remains concerned about the Knights' rushing attack, which will now be led by former Miami Hurricane Storm Johnson.

"Miami, they're going to make their first downs throwing the ball. This team's going to run the power directly at you and get their first downs," Meyer said. "So, much different team and very talented team."

On the defensive side of the ball, Meyer is most worried about defensive tackle Jose Jose. The 340-pounder presents a stark contrast from the smaller defensive line of the RedHawks, which the OSU offensive line still gave up three sacks to last week.

"Some big guys in the middle that we'll have to adjust to. Miami was a little bit smaller than them," OSU right tackle Reid Fragel said. "They're bigger and faster than Miami was, so it that sense it'll be more physical, more of a challenge for us."

Meyer said that facing a defensive line as large as the Knights' could present his team with the first opportunity to showcase its uptempo, no-huddle offense.

"We got our hands full in just trying to move people at the line of scrimmage," Meyer said. "We have to get no-huddle and wear them out."

Whether the OSU coach's approach will be effective or not remains to be seen, but if Meyer has made one thing clear this week, it's that he's not taking the Knights lightly.

"They have very good players," Meyer said. "It's what you'd imagine out of Central Florida."


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