Drills give Urban Meyer lots to digest

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Five practices into his tenure at Ohio State, coach Urban Meyer is both impressed with some things he's seen and also realizes the Buckeyes have a long way to go.

"You have such high expectations," he said after the defense won an in-practice scrimmage on Wednesday, before adding, "It's not fair to the players to say that."

Ohio State is coming off a 6-7 season which ended with a four-game losing skid. Still, the Buckeyes return nine starters on defense and seven on offense.

After the Buckeyes' first practice last Wednesday, Meyer had pinpointed the two biggest areas of concern this spring.

"I think (it) is installation of the offense, then identifying the playmakers, in that order," he said. "We are in a sprint for that. We are in a journey for the other stuff. The immediacy is installation of the offense and identifying a guy who can take the ball and do something with it."

A week later, those two goals remain unmet.

"I just wish we would make more plays," he said. Almost pleadingly, he added, "Some guys just make some plays."

Asked if the offense was making progress learning the hurry-up attack he helped popularize at Utah and Florida, it is clear that is not the case.

"We're not where we need to be. But I'm not upset. I just wish we would grasp it a little faster," he said. "There's not one position. It's like offensive football, anytime you install, anytime you do something new, nine guys do it right and two guys do it wrong and it just looks like the most disgusting thing you'll ever see. So we've just got to get a little more consistent."

Meyer said the problems need to be resolved slowly but surely.

"We're a lot better today than we were yesterday," he said. "So as long as we keep doing that, it means there's still the bar is being raised."

There are bright spots, such as the inspired spring play of defensive lineman John Simon and quarterback Braxton Miller.

He said he's learned one big thing about his players in the opening week.

"They're really good people," he said. "I don't see (many) defiant attitudes. They're very eager, really good kids."

During a fundraiser on Tuesday, he joked the team would vote on captains but he would have veto power. Then he added that Simon -- a high-intensity quarterback chaser and team leader- would be a captain.

Meyer is picking up the reins of a program that went through a tumultuous year. Jim Tressel stepped down in disgrace last May after admitting he had known players had violated NCAA rules but he did nothing about it. He subsequently received an NCAA show-cause penalty, all but banning him from coaching for the next five years.

After several player suspensions, defections and other embarrassments, the Buckeyes stumbled down the stretch before losing their final three regular-season games and then getting beat by Meyer's former employer, Florida, in the Gator Bowl.

The Buckeyes have been banned from going to a bowl game after the 2012 season in addition to facing scholarship limitations and other sanctions.

Last year's interim coach, Luke Fickell, is now back as a defensive coordinator. Meyer brought in several new coaches and a new attitude to practice this spring.

Asked if ever looks out at the field and wonders if the Buckeyes' situation is better or worse than he might have expected, Meyer said he has moments of each.

"There's times where I'm, we all do, like, `That was pretty good,' " he said. "Then you take a look again and you say, `No, I see the issues.' That happens during practice. I see both."