Meyer Hopes Buckeyes are ‘Angry’ After Last Season
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — Zach Boren doesn’t like to spend much time thinking about last season.
With a brand new coaching staff, and an overhauled roster, the 2012 Buckeyes are focused on moving forward after one of the most turbulent seasons in school history.
The hiring of Urban Meyer has galvanized the players, and the university as a whole, but Ohio State’s new head coach is hoping his team won’t completely forget about the 6-7 season it experienced a year ago.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I saw a quote somewhere that said the last time Ohio State lost seven games was the 1800s,” Meyer said this past week in Chicago.
“And I actually heard a player say that. So I’m hoping it’s a very angry team.”
The year was 1897—just seven years after Ohio State played its first football game against Ohio Wesleyan University. The Buckeyes won that game, but they would lose their first home game, 64-0, against the University of Wooster.
That era was considered to be the low point in OSU football, as the Buckeyes would lose to Michigan, 34-0, in their first trip to Ann Arbor during a 1-7-1 season in 1897. The Buckeyes won six games a year ago, but it felt a lot more like a one-win season, with Braxton Miller’s last-minute touchdown pass to Devin Smith against Wisconsin being one of the few highlights under interim coach Luke Fickell.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I can tell we’re hungry by the kind of off-season we’ve had and how hard we have worked,” Boren said in Chicago.
“We are definitely hungry from last season. I wouldn’t say we are angry yet. You have to go through camp. Camp is when you build your personality as a team.”
Meyer will gladly settle for a hungry team in 2012, his first season with the Buckeyes, but don’t be surprised if he and his staff leave little reminders about the disappointment this group felt after dropping the last four games of the season.
“Every coach's dream is to coach an angry team,” Meyer said candidly.
A team like his 2006 Florida Gators, who wiped the floor with the Buckeyes in the BCS Championship game in Arizona after nearly being left out of the game in favor of an OSU-Michigan rematch.
“It was a very angry team,” Meyer said of his first championship squad at Florida.
“It was a group of kids who struggled for a few years. You come to places like Florida to go get a ring and they never had one. You can stoke that fire real easy. It’s the teams you can’t push you worry about. I still don’t know enough about this team.”
According to Boren, the Buckeyes had become complacent after winning six-straight Big Ten championships under former head coach Jim Tressel. A lot of the players knew only winning. It almost seemed too easy, especially as they cruised past Michigan again and again in their regular season finale.
They tried to flip the switch after losing Tressel, and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the offseason. Fickell tried to push all the right buttons to motivate his team, but the 2011 group just didn’t have enough to close out games.
“That was our big problem,” Boren said.
“We couldn’t close, whether it be games or the season. The only game we really lost was Miami; all the other losses were by less than a touchdown. They were all games we could have won, but we just didn’t close.”
Slogans like “Shock the World”—and even “JT” bracelets—were used to motivate the Buckeyes to play through the adversity, but Meyer is hoping he won’t need any gimmicks to motivate the 2012 Buckeyes.
“If they’re competitive, I don’t worry about that. If we start showing signs of being a non-competitive team, we’ll have to do something motivational,” he said.
“You hear about it all the time—some type of slogan or wristband, which I’ve done. It all depends on what type of team you’ve got.”
According Meyer, indications are that he inherited a “very competitive” team, at least the group that returns from last season. That’s what Boren has seen from his teammates in the first summer of conditioning under Meyer’s strength coach, Mickey Marotti.
“We’ve had guys in there at 5 in the morning, and we’ve had guys in there at 10:30 at night,” Boren said.
“We’ve never had that before. We are out there on the field every day doing drills; we’ve never done that before. Guys are just wanting to get better.”
This group may not have the talent Meyer’s team had in 2006, but many would have said the same about the Gators in 2005, when Meyer took over the program after a 7-4 season under Ron Zook.
This year could set the stage for 2013, when the Buckeyes will be eligible for postseason play. Just don’t tell that to the 2012 seniors.
“I hear about next year – no, no, no. What about this year,” Meyer asked.
“Just look at those guys. We’re giving it everything we can for that group.”
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