In effort to provide WFNY readers with increased coverage of the Urban Meyer era of Ohio State football, we have the pleasure of providing you all with the first of many columns from Patrick Maks, Ohio State journalism student and proprietor bylines over at The Lantern. He’ll be on location for us through the spring ball season and beyond, providing insight on Meyer, the Buckeyes and more. Do enjoy.
Two weeks into spring ball, it’s clear that Urban Meyer, who’s likely already a college football hall-of-famer, is unquestionably the best possible human being in the universe to be running the show at Ohio State right now. Beyond winning two national championships and coaching Jesus himself, Meyer brings a radically different approach to the game compared to what OSU fans has seen over the better part of the last decade under former coach Jim Tressel.
The more I watch Meyer, the more I realize that he’s some sort of a cross between an evil-genius and God-like figure in Columbus; the man is so intense he may or may not breathe fire. Also obvious is that Meyer’s level of intensity is contagious throughout the entire program—from the support staff to the players.
Everything, and I mean everything, is a competition in Meyer’s world.
Throughout the spring, the Buckeyes have had, so far, four “winner-loser” days where practice resembles D-Day. Along with a somewhat subjective point system keeping track of who “wins” various drills, winner-loser days mean practice is ended with some sort of situational scrimmage between the offense and defense.
Winners trot off the field for celebratory Gatorades while losers– players and coaches alike–sprint gassers from sideline to sideline.
And before this past Wednesday, OSU’s defense looked like world-beaters.
In some ways, they still do. Defensive tackles John Simon and Jonathan “Big Hank” Hankins are monsters on the line and arguably the two best players anchoring the defense. Linebackers Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier, who both came on strong towards the end of last season, have incredible lateral speed, making it hard for even the fastest of OSU’s backs to run east and west. The way the defensive backs have taken the hammer to OSU’s wide receivers so far has also been impressive; redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby has made a living this spring roasting anyone who crosses his face.
Bold projection time: Roby will leave Columbus with a number of awards in tow before it’s all said and done. The same could be said for safety C.J. Barnett, who’s been a vocal presence on the field. The play of guys like Roby, Barnett, Simon and Hankins is why a) the defense will carry this team, at least for a little while and b) the defense had not lost a scrimmage yet.
That all changed Wednesday afternoon, however, in what Meyer dubbed the best practice of the spring. Meyer saw his offense go from what he called a “clown show” to finally resembling some semblance of an attacking unit.
And it just so happened, for the first time this spring, the offense won a winner-loser situation.
Though Simon and Hankins had made a mockery of the offensive line for the past two weeks (and did so at times Wednesday), quarterback Braxton Miller and an offense that’s been trying to adjust to an entirely new scheme didn’t look half-bad. Miller, at times, looked great both in and outside of the pocket. Perhaps what Meyer was most pleased with, though, was the sophomore quarterback’s ability to make nothing into something when Miller turned a broken play into a 75-yard touchdown to running back Carlos Hyde.
Meyer gushed over Hyde’s practice Wednesday and said the bruising back, in addition to being a play-maker, “is drinking the kool-aid.” Hyde could ultimately be the go-to running back this fall while the lighting-quick Jordan Hall could be used as more of a Percy Harvin-type player. That triple threat between Miller, Hyde and Hall, besides being deadly on the ground, may allow Meyer’s passing game to finally blossom.
Really, folks, if OSU’s offense keeps taking it one day at a time in terms of progression, this could be a sight to see in the coming year. But what strikes me the most about this spring has nothing to do with X’s and O’s and more about the culture Meyer has tirelessly worked to install since he took over in January.
Besides the corporate, cut-throat feel Meyer inevitably brings, it seems the former Florida coach is a believer in the idea that “perfect practice makes perfect.”
It’s extremely cliché, but it’s extremely true.
Meyer brings a game-day feel to even the most mundane routines. And his players are buying into the system. Competition is the lifeblood of everything Meyer does. By making almost every facet a competition this spring, players are forced to take a kill-or-be-killed-type attitude or risk falling behind. For Meyer, it eliminates the weaker links on the team. And even though that sounds awful, that’s just the way it is under him.
It’s nothing personal—the best players play. In Meyer’s world, if you’re not up to snuff, then you’re a liability. He’s moving at 110 mph and doesn’t have the time to catch stragglers up to speed. It’s an absolutely ruthless approach, but it’s the only one Meyer knows in order to produce the results he’s promised when he came to Columbus.
Meyer is about winning championships and he doesn’t sugarcoat it. Though he’s made it clear that players’ off-the-field conduct is important, and it should be in light of the mess OSU football has been the last year, Meyer doesn’t make a hollow, PR-fueled sermon to try and promote that fact. While Meyer is inevitably charged with being a molder of men, he also seems to be a realist who knows, at the end of the day, success in the college football world (sadly) is based on conference championships and national title rings.
But he doesn’t dance around that fact. What you see with Meyer is what you get.
And based off of this spring, OSU fans must love what they see from the 47-year-old.
Photo: Thomas Bradley / Lantern Campus editor