Ohio State tight ends coach Tim Hinton was addressing about 75 reporters in the team meeting room this week and offered an explanation for how his star, Jeff Heuerman, has evolved into such a well-rounded player.
Hinton cracked, “I think it’s all great coaching.”
Just then, Heuerman stuck his head through the door and, with a wide smile, bellowed, “I don’t know about all of that.”
The room erupted in laughter as Hinton fired back, “Whatever you do, don’t coach a guy like that.”
The rapport between the two has made Hinton’s job easier. He has to convince his tight ends to embrace their roles as blockers and be content with offensive scraps.
The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Heuerman has a modest 15 catches in eight games this season, but he consistently earns “champion” grades from the coaches because of his work in the trenches.
“If you look at his physical stature, he’s a big, strong guy. Literally, he’s got the highest vertical jump and the highest bench press (on the team),” Hinton said.
“He’s really, really, really good. I mean, really good at what he does. He’s got a really good knack for it. He understands leverage. Like every great football player, he’s very ‘football intelligent.’ “
As for those less-than-robust reception totals, Hinton said: “I just saw Jeff in the hallway, and he looked at me and said, ‘Coach, we just have a lot of good dudes on this team.’ That was his quote. ‘We’ve got a lot of guys that can go.’ “
Heuerman said: “We’ve got a handful of guys who could start for any team in the country. The ball gets dispersed however it does, and I’m happy doing my job whether it’s blocking or catching. We’re 20-0 (under coach Urban Meyer), so it’s working out pretty good.”
Heuerman, though, wasn’t sure it would work at first. Like many players recruited by previous coach Jim Tressel, he went through an adjustment period with Hinton and the rest of the staff. But any doubts about them have been erased.
“As Coach Meyer says, after your immediate family, a coach-player relationship is one of the closest you’ll have in life. Coach Hinton and I have a great relationship. He’s an outstanding coach. What I’ve accomplished, I owe a lot to him,” he said.
“I’ve learned to trust him a whole lot. That’s a big thing. Last year, everything was new, and I wouldn’t say I 100 percent trusted him. But I trust him in everything now.”
Help wanted: The Buckeyes are considered the leaders for the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the nation, Raekwon McMillan of Georgia. And Meyer probably can promise the 6-2, 242-pound senior instant playing time.
The linebackers have shown flashes, but some recruiting misses have led to a lack of quality depth.
“We’re not at the Ohio State expectation level at the linebacker position,” Meyer said. “After this past week, I think most other positions played at a very high level, so the linebacker position’s one we’re keeping our finger on hard because we need to improve the level of play and the number of ‘backers we have in the program.”
As for McMillan, he’s already been to OSU a handful of times and made an official visit for the Penn State game. He also has scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Clemson.
Star in the making: Hybrid back Dontre Wilson, a 5-10, 180-pound speedster, flashed his play-making ability against Penn State, but Meyer sees a day when the freshman from Texas is an every-down threat.
“The thing that I like about Dontre that you all see is incredible passion for the game,” Meyer said. “He’s an energizer, and he’ll (play) more and more and more.
“He’s pretty lethal with the ball in his hand. But wait until you see him next year. We’ll get him big and strong. He’s gained 15 pounds since he’s been here. He’s a great practice player. On Friday walkthroughs, he’s going full speed. He’s one of those guys that you’ve gotta have around.”
Bad memories: The last time the Buckeyes visited Purdue, they were tagged with a 26-23 overtime defeat. But the game should have ended in regulation.
Trailing 20-14, Braxton Miller completed a 13-yard TD pass to Jordan Hall with 55 seconds left, but the Boilermakers blocked kicker Drew Basil’s PAT kick.
“There was a bare spot on that part of the field, and I had to move the ball to the right side about six inches,” Basil said this week. “That’s where they blocked the kick. Maybe in hindsight it was a bad decision.”
Basil has otherwise been automatic on PATs. His current streak of 88 in a row is a school record.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3), noon, Big Ten Network, 1410