YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Urban Meyer knows the talk about another undefeated season and the possibility of Ohio State returning to the national championship game as early as next January has not only started, but has reached his team’s locker room.
Meyer is doing his best to let such discussion get no further than its starting point.
Speaking before serving as the keynote speaker at a United Way fundraiser Monday night at Youngstown’s Covelli Center, Meyer answered a question about national championship expectations in his second season as Ohio State’s coach like he knew it was coming.
“We’re nowhere near that,” he said. “I’m not worried about it because we’re nowhere near it.
“We’re not there yet. You worry about it because you’re dealing with 18, 19, 20-year-old kids. I’ll tell them when they’re there, but they’re not there yet.”
During his address later in the evening, Meyer talked more about his team’s 12-0 bowl-banned season than he did about the future. But he told the crowd that “college football is momentum,” and that set the stage for one of the stories he told that delighted the crowd of about 500 on Monday night.
Meyer said that in early 2012, just a few months into the job that brought him back to his home state and out of his brief retirement, he was anxious to address the gathered coaches at the annual Ohio High School Football Coaches Association convention. Meyer told of being rushed to meet his scheduled starting time, then encountering a security guard who demanded to see credentials to allow him in a restricted area and didn’t believe he was Ohio State’s coach.
“This year, the same security guard told me, ‘Come on in, Coach,'” he said. “That’s kind of how I evaluate where we are.”
Going from 6-7 to unbeaten — especially in beating Michigan to cap the unbeaten season — and putting together a second star-studded and highly-regarded recruiting class have helped Meyer maintain that aforementioned momentum at Ohio State. Though he reiterated that he’s “worried about 18, 19-year-old kids being told they’re going to be playing in national championship games and all that,” he realizes those are good problems to have.
“I like where we’re at,” he said. “I love where we’re at.
“We expect to have a chance to win every game. We’re working towards that, working on getting better. Our expectation is the same … it’s very good right now in Columbus.”
With everything new a year ago at this time, Meyer said his players and coaches “were tiptoeing.” Now, he said, everything is much faster and smoother. Though he’s not allowed to watch his players work out or coach them until training camp begins in early August, “I thought they’d be a fast, good-looking team and they are.”
On quarterback Braxton Miller, who returns as the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and very much in the discussion of legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates heading into the season, Meyer said “we haven’t seen the ceiling. He can be so much better. I’m anxious to see it like everyone else. The guys around him are much better now.”
Asked specifically about not being able to play in last year’s BCS title game due to the bowl ban, Meyer said “I was there … Alabama is fantastic. We don’t spend much time looking in rear view mirror. We just worry about recruiting.”
Meyer won two national championships at Florida, the first over Ohio State that started the SEC’s current run of dominance. He certainly knows what’s out there, and he’s sticking to his original thought.
That Ohio State isn’t where he wants it to be. Yet.
“I’m certain that, with the way we coach and teach and lead our team, what’s expected … there’s enough for these guys to worry about,” he said. “It’s a hard program. There’s enough to do. We don’t have time for talk about what might happen in November or December.
“We have to get a lot of better. Our first goal is just to go out and work so that on August (31) we can just try to go out and win our 13th game in a row. That’s really where we are.”