Not even a day after beating the enemy in maize and blue to finish the season at 12-0, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had turned his attention to what he feels might a greater enemy.
“That’s my concern here,” Meyer said on Monday. “And we have to make sure it doesn’t take place.”
Meyer didn’t encounter an empty office in the mornings that followed Ohio State’s win over Michigan, but he did run into an itinerary devoid of real football activities. Assistant coaches were on the road recruiting, the 2012 senior class has played its last game at Ohio State and the Buckeyes won’t hit the field again until next August. On Meyer’s plate were activities and issues he’s been both pondering and sweating since well before the 2012 season even began.
Meyer likes control, and both the reasons Ohio State’s 2012 season is over and the fact that he won’t really be coaching again until spring, fall out of his control. Ohio State likes that Meyer has been “here” before — he won a national championship in his second season at Florida — and that he both remembers and has learned from every detail of previous journeys.
“I’ve probably had seven meetings with my strength coach already,” Meyer said.
On Monday at 6 a.m., players who didn’t play in the Michigan game were in for a conditioning workout. On Monday at 2 p.m., the entire 2012 team was in for an exit meeting. Per NCAA rules, Meyer’s contact with them over the next four months will be limited. The postseason ban not only ended the 2012 season last weekend but costs the Buckeyes 15 bowl practices.
“Recruiting is concern No. 1,” Meyer said. “Concern No. 2 is the fundamental development of our players that takes place during bowl weeks and we don’t have it.”
He shouldn’t fear the 2013 schedule. Vanderbilt dropped Ohio State a month ago and was replaced by San Diego St. That means the Buckeyes host Buffalo, San Diego St. and Florida A&M in non-conference games and visit Cal, which will have a new coach. The Big Ten schedule rotation has Michigan State and Nebraska off the schedule, replaced by Iowa and a visit to Northwestern, which actually shapes up as the season’s toughest road game besides the one at Michigan.
Yes, another undefeated season is plausible. Is it possible?
There’s a lot of leadership that will depart from a senior class that Meyer said had “complete selflessness … arguably the best I’ve ever seen.”
The defense will have big holes to fill, but Braxton Miller is back, and so are almost of the skill players surrounding him. There’s no doubt Meyer will bring in another star-studded recruiting class, and the one he signed last February will be better after a year in the program.
The stakes will be high — so, too, will be his expectations. Maybe Meyer can push his team based on lingering ill feelings from the 2012 season ending too soon. Maybe he’ll draw from head-scratching snubs like sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier not making first-team All-Big Ten when that was announced.
“We need an angry team next year,” Meyer said. “If we have to manufacture that, we will. If something was taken from you, we’re going to use that. We’re going to use a lot of things, but we’re going to try to push that to get an angry team.
“A team that doesn’t have an edge … it happens all the time and it leads to losses. That’s what you really have to watch.”
Meyer said that Miller has a long way to go to reach what is a very high ceiling. He graded the passing game for 2012 “a C or a C-minus, but still nowhere near what we want. Not even in the same hemisphere as what’s expected.”
Meyer said if Miller focuses on his fundamentals and cleans up several areas, it’s “comical” how good he can be become.
The head coach and the quarterback are any program’s ceiling, and there’s no doubt the excitement and optimism surrounding Ohio State’s future are warranted. Twelve games and one season in, Urban Meyer is undefeated.
“The standards have been set,” he said.
And he’ll keep pushing his players to hit another level.