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Meyer sends message to defense

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just a few feet away from the podium in the Ohio State meeting room is a sign that establishes the blueprint in big, easy-to-read letters.

The item at the top of Urban Meyer's "Plan to Win" has nothing to do with scoring a bunch of points or racking up enormous piles of yardage with the rushing game. In fact, even though the Buckeyes coach is well known for his version of the spread offense, the top priority doesn't have anything to do with the unit that occupies most of his time.

Up there at No. 1, clear as can be, is a mandate for the other side of the ball: "Play great defense." And while Ohio State is undefeated, it has been winning lately without checking off the first thing on its list -- which prompted Meyer to make a somewhat rare appearance in front of the entire unit and the defensive staff on Sunday as he chips in to make sure everybody has his priorities in line and improvements are made.

"I'm not happy at all with what's been going on on defense," Meyer said in the wake of beating Indiana 52-49. "Players, coaches -- I think we can all get better. It's a team effort, though. I mean, we've got good coaches, good players, and we're going to move forward and get better.

"Instead of just complaining and whining, making noise, we've got to put a plan together."

The overall plan won't change just because the Buckeyes have still been able to keep a perfect record thanks to a high-scoring offense. But they have had to adopt another plan in an effort to cut out the big plays that have been plaguing the defense.

In the short term, Ohio State might be able to keep thriving with an attack that can rush for 353 yards and score six touchdowns, as it did against Indiana. But in the long run, as they work back into contention for national championships, the Buckeyes are more interested in restoring their reputation as one of the toughest defensive units in the country than hanging their hat on an explosive offense.

For now that means putting together a new plan specific to the defense, one that starts with four to six seconds of relentless effort, cutting down on missed tackles, improving leverage on the football -- and was delivered at least in part by Meyer personally.

"It was just shocking, because everybody knows what we're capable of doing and him just coming in there showed that we didn't do so great on Saturday," cornerback Travis Howard said. "We definitely need to make some changes, go out this week starting in practice on Tuesday and prepare ourselves, practice like the Silver Bullets.

"I feel like just challenging us is a big thing. He put a lot of [emphasis] on it by telling us we didn't uphold our end of the bargain. Him being over there, just pushing us every day, it's going to make us that much better."

How much Meyer might stay around the defense remains to be determined, though either way he isn't likely going to meddle with the schemes much beyond offering a few opinions.

He stressed that Ohio State had good defensive coaches and acknowledged injuries, inexperience and perhaps even travel logistics had played a part in the rough outing at Indiana. But Meyer also wouldn't allow for any excuses to be made on behalf of the defense, and since there's no room to compromise with the "Plan to Win," he instead is going to be part of the solution.

"We're going to demand relentless pursuit and effort, and if you don't [give it], then I'll be involved in that," Meyer said. "Calling defenses, I'll give my ideas, but it would be a mistake for me to come in [for that] because we have very good coaches. I think my [role] is going to be of leadership, toughness and the four- to six-second demand that we have on this team, not just defense.

"I'm not a big believer in you scream and yell and throw Gatorade bottles against the wall. Sometimes you have to do that, but you just have to fix what the problem is."

No matter how that message was delivered, Meyer again made sure to lay it out as clearly as the sign in the hanging in the meeting room.