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Buckeyes turning running backs into tacklers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — What's brewing with the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes ...

BUCKEYES BUZZ: Urban Meyer threw in some small jokes about coaching offensive players to make tackles during his weekly news conference.

But on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference on Tuesday, he made it clear that a shortage of bodies on special teams meant pressing offensive players into service as tacklers. And that he's very concerned about it.

"We have (lots of) guys out for the year (so) you're going pretty far down," he said. "So we've taken offensive players and we've put them on coverage units, which is common — one or two, but not five."

He singled out three running backs — Warren Ball, Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Hall — who are being asked to come down on kickoffs and punts and make defensive stops. Some played bits and pieces of defense when they were in high school, some played a lot on the other side of the ball. But most have gotten almost all of their snaps in college practices on offense. So it takes some time to adapt.

"We spent a lot of work on Sunday and today we're going to continue to work," Meyer said.

Some come around to defensive fundamentals faster than others.

"A guy like Ezekiel just kind of jumped right in and did it," Meyer said. "Open-field tackling is a lot different than one where you just go and clean a guy up. So that's what we're working on. And it depends on the athlete. Ezekiel Elliott seems to pick it up just fine. Warren Ball, we're working on real hard."

ALL DRESSED IN WHITE: Yes, Ohio State will break out a "rivalry" uniform for its annual grudge match with Michigan.

No, it's not meant as a remembrance or homage to any team, player or game.

And, no, you'll be hard pressed to find much scarlet or gray in the players' ensemble.

The team made it official on Tuesday when it announced it will wear a fifth Nike rivalry uniform when it plays at Michigan on Nov. 30.

Initially, an email released by the team spokesman said the all-white uniform would honor the Nov. 25, 1950, "Snow Bowl" game played in Ohio Stadium against Michigan. In blizzard conditions with 40 mph winds, the two teams combined to punt 45 times with all the game's points — a field goal and TD for Michigan; one field goal for Ohio State — the result of blocked punts.

But team spokesman Jerry Emig later rescinded that information. In a series of postings on Twitter, Emig said the Buckeyes were not honoring the Snow Bowl, but instead Ohio State was wearing white uniforms to "stay cutting edge and to take care of its players, who like wearing an alternate."

The uniform look features white jerseys with large scarlet numbers on the front and on the shoulder pads. Names across the back are in all black. The white pants include scarlet, black and white piping along the sides. Seven Buckeye leaves ring the back of the collar and a "Block O" is on the front of the collar. The Buckeyes will also wear chrome helmets with a wide scarlet, white and black stripe that they wore for this year's Wisconsin game.

The Buckeyes are 5-0 when wearing alternate, rivalry-style uniforms.

Oh, and not coincidentally, the jerseys, gloves and related clothing styled along the lines of the white uniform, are available for sale at an official Ohio State merchandiser near you.

FURTHERMORE: In an Associated Press story yesterday, it was pointed out that Ohio State has not played a team ranked among the first 15 teams in the AP's Top 25 in the last two seasons. There were three ranked opponents last year for the Buckeyes: No. 20 Michigan State, No. 21 Nebraska and No. 20 Michigan. This year, the Buckeyes have played No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 16 Northwestern.

It should be pointed out that Ohio State did not play any top 15 teams in the AP poll through the regular season in 1979 and 2007. In both years, the Buckeyes ended up losing in the bowl game, to No. 3 Southern California in 1979 and to No. 2 LSU in 2007.

The 1968 and 1975 teams each got to 10-0 while beating three top-15 treams.

OUTLAND OPPORTUNITY: Meyer was asked if OL Jack Mewhort would be a fitting recipient for the Outland Trophy, given each year to the nation's top interior lineman.

"He's one of my all-time favorite players I've been around," Meyer said. "He's playing at an extremely high level, but that's just part of it. He got hurt last week so we had to take him out of the game and our offense just started sputtering. It's not just the fact that he's a heckuva player, it's just the leadership value he brings and the esprit de corps that he is a part of."

 

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