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Meyer laments missing practices

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The bowl experience will be missed, no question.

And obviously not having had the chance to compete for a national title will sting when that game finally rolls around and Ohio State is watching it play out on television.

But Urban Meyer had plenty of time to come to terms with the postseason ban and what it meant for the Buckeyes in his first year leading the program, and he didn't waste any time or energy worrying about that on the way to an undefeated record.

In the back of his mind all along, though, was something Meyer seemed to have a much harder time accepting. For somebody so accustomed to an annual bowl routine that includes 15 practices that can be quite beneficial for developing younger players, missing that launching pad for another potential run at perfection didn't go down quite as smoothly.

"Terrible," Meyer said two days after polishing off the year with a win over rival Michigan. "That's a major concern. Concern No. 1 is recruiting. Concern No. 2 is the fundamental development of our players that takes place during bowl weeks. We won't have them."

That loss wasn't a surprise for the Buckeyes, of course, so Meyer had already been planning well before it arrived for a quieter month of December for his coaching staff in terms of hands-on work with the roster.

The typical offseason program of strength and conditioning started right away, with players who didn't contribute in the win over the Wolverines reporting for their first workout roughly 38 hours after the celebration at Ohio Stadium ended. And while the work in the weight room doesn't figure to have changed much due to Ohio State's circumstances, while the rest of the bowl-eligible teams were doing football-specific drills in advance of their final game of the season, Meyer was counting on his guys to do the same types of activities without his instruction to help set the table for spring practice and beyond.

"We'll lose all that for the bowl practices, we'll lose them," Meyer said in November. "Fifteen, minimum of 15 practices, that's not right. That's hard for us to recoup that. But you can't just say those are gone. Somehow you've got to recoup them.

"See? It's so hard, the coaching staff is not allowed to throw with these guys until spring practice. So it all falls on the players."

The throwing, in particular, had most of Meyer's attention as he started transitioning from his successful debut season into planning for an encore.

The Buckeyes were dramatically more dangerous on offense with Meyer, averaging nearly 13 more points and throwing for 54 more yards per game in Braxton Miller's second season at quarterback. But they still finished just No. 101 in the country in passing offense, and there seems to be little doubt about what Meyer would have preferred doing this month when the coaching staff wasn't out on the road.

"That was probably the most unprepared group I've ever been around, as far as to throw the ball from here to there and to know how to get there to catch it. It was awful," Meyer said. "Those areas have improved, but we're still not very good at that.

"Pass game, I'd grade a C to C-minus. I guess that's up a little bit from what it was the year before, but still nowhere near what we want. Not even in the same hemisphere as far as what's expected, so that has to change -- and change fast."

For the first time since starting his head coaching career at Bowling Green, those improvements around the bowl season have to be done without him around to lend a hand. And Meyer is clearly not planning to have to deal with this problem again.