Miami (Ohio)-Ohio St. Preview
On the day he was introduced as Ohio State’s 24th head coach
last November, Urban Meyer outlined a relatively simple list of
expectations for his players, his staff and himself.
”I want a bunch of coaches that coach like their hair’s on
fire, and I want a football team that goes four to six seconds of
relentless effort,” he said. ”You do that, you have a chance to
win in every game you play.”
Meyer, winner of two national championships at Florida, returned
from a one-year coaching hiatus as an ESPN analyst to take over an
Ohio State program mired in NCAA sanctions and beaten down by a
year of negative headlines.
So far, he’s injected some fresh thinking, a new offensive
philosophy and renewed intensity into a program which had been
consistently good in a decade under Jim Tressel, before he was
bumped off his pedestal for covering up a scheme involving several
top players trading memorabilia for tattoos and money.
Among several other NCAA penalties, the No. 18 Buckeyes are
banned from going to a bowl after this season. So, with Meyer
preaching he wants an ”angry” team, they’ve taken it to heart by
vowing to run the table and obliterate all the bad publicity from a
year of suspensions, violations and sanctions.
”Our goal’s to go 12-0,” running back Carlos Hyde said. ”Even
though we can’t go to a bowl game, we still have to play. So we’re
just going to get out there and have a chip on our shoulders since
we can’t go to a bowl game – to let the world know who the Buckeyes
are this year.”
They can start doing so Saturday when they open the season by
hosting Miami of Ohio.
Meyer took over an Ohio State team coming off a dreadful 6-7
season that included a four-game losing skid entering this season.
Luke Fickell, the interim coach then, was retained as a defensive
The attitude was bad, someone was suspended for a violation
almost every week and it seemed everyone was waiting for the NCAA
to hand down the penalties that came just before the Buckeyes lost
to Meyer’s former employer, Florida, in the Gator Bowl.
”There was a lot of (NCAA and disciplinary) stuff going on last
year. You can’t really point out what it was,” cornerback Bradley
Roby said. ”There was so much stuff going on, I feel like it
really affected everybody.”
Meyer has told his players to forget 2011 and concentrate on
turning around the program. But he doesn’t have three multiyear
starters on the offensive line, the top running back and best
linebacker from a team whose seven losses were the most for an Ohio
State team since 1897.
He has, though, instilled a lot of energy and optimism.
”Expectations always are high,” said the focal point of
Meyer’s vaunted spread attack, second-year quarterback Braxton
Miller. ”When I was in high school looking at Ohio State, I was
like, `Man, they aren’t ever going to lose. They’re always going to
be good.’ That’s the expectations of the fans.”
Miller and the new offense are a radical change from the days of
Tressel, who once famously called the punt ”the most important
play in football.” Meyer would prefer not to punt at all.
His Buckeyes will play uptempo, throw the ball a lot to a lot of
different receivers, and should prevent fans from leaving their
seats for a bathroom break for fear they’ll miss a 70-yard pass
play – or maybe a turnover.
Jordan Hall would have been the H back in the offense, the guy
around whom most plays revolve. But he’s out for the first couple
of games after cutting a tendon while walking barefoot outside his
apartment this summer. In his stead, Hyde, freshman Bri’onte Dunn
(who sidestepped legal problems this summer) and Rod Smith also
figure to be playmakers.
Much depends on wideouts Evan Spencer, Verlon Reed, Devin Smith,
Michael Thomas and converted tight end Jake Stoneburner. If one or
more of them proves to be a threat to take a short pass the
distance, it’ll make things considerably easier on Miller.
The line needs rebuilding, with first-year players dotting the
On defense, the brutes up front will be a strength, with Meyer
gushing about the play of John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garrett
Goebel and – when he returns from microfracture surgery – Nathan
The linebacker position is thin but talented, with a lot riding
on the improvement of Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant. Cornerbacks
Roby and Travis Howard and safeties Christian Bryant, C.J. Barnett
and Orhian Johnson anchor the secondary.
”I feel that everybody has bought into coach Meyer,” said
Shazier, a promising sophomore who sports a shaved head. ”With
everybody adjusting to it, I think we’re going to have a really
Meyer, who twice quit the Florida job due to stress, health and
family considerations, swears that he’s feeling reinvigorated and
taking steps to make sure he doesn’t burn out again.
His first Ohio State schedule won’t cause him any heartburn. The
Buckeyes play their first four games at home against the likes of
Miami of Ohio, Central Florida, California and UAB, and in a down
year for the Big Ten almost every conference game is winnable. The
toughest will be at Michigan State on Sept. 29, Nebraska at home a
week later, and the 1-2 punch to close the regular season, at
two-time defending champ Wisconsin and home against archrival
Then … the season ends. With no bowl game, Meyer and his team
will have to be content with whatever they can accomplish in 12
Meyer has no idea how everyone, including himself, will handle
the abrupt end of the season.
”We’ve never not played for a championship in November,” he
said. ”Ten years as a head coach, every November we were playing
for a championship. Do we have to create our own championship? I
don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”
The first challenge for Meyer’s defense will come in the form of
RedHawks senior Zac Dysert, who’s third among active quarterbacks
with 8,530 passing yards behind Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and USC’s
Matt Barkley. Dysert threw for 3,513 yards with 23 touchdowns and
11 interceptions last year.
He closed the season with passing performances of 364, 413 and
372 yards, but Miami of Ohio dropped all three games to finish 4-8
as it regressed from a 10-4 effort in 2010. Dysert, sacked 46 times
last season – second most in the nation – will try to stay upright
long enough to get the ball to Nick Harwell, who was fifth in the
FBS with 1,425 receiving yards and fourth with 129.5 per game.
Ohio State has won each of the four matchups, all played at
Columbus. The teams haven’t met since 2005.