Urban Meyer eager to get going
CHICAGO - Twelve Big Ten football coaches spent Thursday talking up the hard-to-measure strides their players have supposedly made with no TV cameras around, discussing differing philosophies on what's essentially become a free-agent market involving Penn State players and fretting over things like offensive line depth.
Only one was Urban Meyer.
There's good reason for that.
The reluctant star of the show as Big Ten Media Days kicked off seemed comfortable in his role. The new guy amongst Big Ten coaches is the only guy with the kind of national championship bling his peers are chasing, and after a year as a broadcaster he's back, doing the only job he swears could have brought him back to coaching at Ohio State.
He returns refreshed, anxious and competitive as ever.
Meyer knows the whole star power thing come with the territory, and he said a year spent visiting different coaching staffs and reassessing his own priorities left him less concerned than ever about anything going on outside his own locker room.
"I learned from visiting these great programs that you can run a different offense, defense, whatever you want," Meyer said. "But if everybody is aligned with the CEO, that's when you have a chance to be a great program."
There's no doubt around Columbus and the Ohio State program that Meyer is the CEO. Despite not being hired until late November and being hit with a one-year bowl ban in January, he brought in a highly-regarded recruiting class. He got his wishes -- and an SEC-type budget -- in building his coaching staff, even convincing last year's coach, Luke Fickell, to stay.
Now, Meyer has a grasp on his roster, on his future recruiting boards and on his grand vision for the Buckeyes. He's going to keep asking more of his players, and he's going to keep his office door open for them.
"We've come to know that he loves us, that he's a father figure, that we're all in this together for this program," Ohio State senior fullback Zach Boren said. "We feel like we can talk to him about anything. The other day in the weight room he talked to me about my girlfriend."
That's a sign Meyer and his players have come a long way since their first official team meeting in January.
"Everyone kind of sat up in their chairs," Boren said of that meeting. "Everyone perked up. Everyone knew he meant business. He commanded attention.
"It was almost like meeting a celebrity for the first time."
Meyer started then in selling his new players on working harder than ever, on sticking closer together than ever, on all the things coaches insist eventually help good teams become great ones. Again, his rings say he's been where everyone in college football wants to go. He's selling the thought of getting back there with help from all involved.
"I think humility (is important)," Meyer said. "Also, understanding that we're a product of those around us, that it's never about the head football coach. It's about a bunch of players, which is most important, and also about a bunch of coaches."
Said Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon: "Buying in is not hard when you have a track record like he does. We all knew what he had accomplished, what he was about. He laid out what he wanted from us, and guys were ready to go."
Meyer hasn't been shy about what he sees as question marks -- the passing game, offensive line depth -- and challenges that include the loss of three scholarships, his lack of familiarity with Ohio State's opponents and the kind of summer incidents every coach hopes to avoid, from Jordan Hall suffering a foot injury outside his apartment to three players having run-ins with police.
"The issues that happened this summer, I'm very disappointed with those," Meyer said. "However, as I continue to grow, I'm not going to worry about things I can't control. We’re worried about tomorrow, not yesterday. Mistakes were made, you handle it and move on.
"Your players need to follow the lead of the coach. If he’s always worried about, 'Woe is me, why did this happen', you're not going forward. I’ve been there. you get so angry and upset. The guys who are moving forward are moving forward fast."
NCAA rules limit Meyer from watching summer workouts, but he said the reports he's getting are good. He's met with his freshmen, with his hand-picked leadership committee and with the full team in the little time he's permitted. He's enjoying a new perspective -- and, in turn, a little downtime.
"I've tried to lay off," Meyer said. "I want a fresh team, a fresh coaching staff. When we get to that first practice, I want it to be a good one."
And when camp starts, that laying off stuff will be a thing of the past.
"Full speed ahead," he said. "Hit the accelerator, we're going."
The Buckeyes will report to camp next week. Meyer has his whistle and what's become his signature white pullover ready.
"I'm more than ready," he said. It's been a dream come true."