For the first time in his college coaching career, Urban Meyer is preparing his fourth-ranked Ohio State (13-1) to play a 15th game in one season.
So is No. 2 Oregon (13-1), the Buckeyes’ opponent in Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game in Arlington.
Meyer said Tuesday the wear and tear on players’ bodies, as well as the emotional toll from Ohio State’s 42-35 upset of top-ranked Alabama in last week’s Sugar Bowl, has caused him to alter preparations this week.
“The biggest concern is the health of the players, the wear and tear that we have to be leery of,” Meyer said during a Tuesday news conference at the school’s practice facility. “I’m watching it like I never have before, from the amount of contact we’re having, to keeping guys off their feet. We test their hydration every day. And that’s where this game has changed.
“For a 15-game season, I don’t know if you could do it any other way. You go old-school with it [limiting water breaks in practice] for 15 games, you jog out there with 35 players. So you have to be very cautious.”
Meyer said two offensive contributors who sat out the Sugar Bowl with injuries, H-back Dontre Wilson and tight end Jeff Heuerman, have been upgraded to “probable” for Monday’s title game against Oregon. Wilson, a sophomore from DeSoto, has missed the past six games because of a broken bone in his foot. Wilson, who also returns kicks, is second on the team in all-purpose yards (1,064). He has caught 21 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Planning for Miller
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, the third-teamer who has posted a 2-0 record as a starter following season-ending injuries to Braxton Miller (shoulder) and T.J. Barrett (ankle), said Tuesday that he expects Miller to return to Columbus next season despite mounting speculation that the senior will graduate and transfer to LSU, Florida State or Oregon.
Miller, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate before his August injury, can graduate with immediate eligibility to play at another school in 2015 if he chooses.
Jones answered “yes” when asked if he expected Miller to return to the Buckeyes next season. Asked if the two had discussed the situation, Jones said: “We really don’t talk about that. We understand the situation. And we kind of have a sense of what’s going to happen and how next year’s going to be. But we haven’t talked about it.”
Urbana changing name
Meyer was surprised to learn that Urbana, Ohio, located about an hour from the school campus in Columbus, is dropping the “A” in the town’s name on Monday and simply will be known as “Urban” for that 24-hour stretch.
“You’re kidding. Wow,” Meyer said when told of the temporary name change. “That’s very nice.”
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760