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Last updated: 08/15/2012 2:11 AM

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Meyer: 'This will make or break us'

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS — There are only 17 days between now and the start of the 2012 season.

After what must seem like the longest offseason of his life—in many ways, it was—Urban Meyer will walk down the tunnel at Ohio Stadium and lead the Buckeyes into battle against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 1.

More than 10 days into fall camp and Meyer still doesn’t know exactly how good—or bad—his team can and will be in year No. 1 in Columbus, but he may be close to finding out.

Urban Meyer
Photo by Jim Davidson
Urban Meyer

“This will be the hardest week of training camp,” said Meyer, who held his first two-a-day practice of the fall last Friday.

“This will make or break us this week.”

Because of the switch to semesters at Ohio State, the Buckeyes could only practice one time a day for most of last week as players finished up their final exams. It wasn’t an ideal situation for Meyer, who was anxious to get going with the business of fall camp, but it was an even bigger adjustment for the players.

“It’s more of a change for them,” said Meyer, who was at Florida for six years before taking last season off from coaching.

“This is all I’ve ever known. There’s no challenge for the freshmen because they don’t know any better. It’s a challenge for the guys who have done it before, but I haven’t seen any resistance. We’re ready to go.”

Meyer knew his players would be amped to get back on the practice field this fall, like a racehorse smelling the dirt track from the starting gate. What he didn’t want was a bunch of players who thought they could make up for hard work with a lot of enthusiasm.

He’s certainly looking for that enthusiasm now, however, as the Buckeyes enter the ‘dog days’ of August, with the worst week of camp still ahead of them.

“I’m up for some ‘Rah Rah’ now,” he said Sunday during Ohio State fall media day.

“You’ve trained for three months in the weight room, screamed at lifting weights, stretching and running gassers. Now you get to go do something you love, in shorts and a t-shirt.

“I want to see them do it now. It was a good day yesterday as far as guys flying around.”

Meyer surprised his players by going easy on them early in camp, at least by Meyer’s standards, and Mickey Marotti’s. Then came Friday’s first two-a-day. With final exams in the rearview mirror, Meyer kicked his player’s butts in the morning session on Friday.

“It’s a challenge,” freshman defensive end Noah Spence said shaking his head.

“You have to wake up and realize that you’re going to get yourself killed every day, but if you love the game, you’re going to do it. I love it, so I’m going to keep coming back.”

Many of Spence’s teammates opted to sleep on the inflatable beds in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after practice, but Meyer had them back out there in the afternoon and again on Saturday for the first live scrimmage of the fall.

John Simon
Photo by Jim Davidson
John Simon

“Yesterday was big for the young guys,” senior John Simon said on Sunday.

“Coach really wanted to see how they would handle a game-like atmosphere and see who he could count on this coming season. I think they went out there and performed. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but there were a lot of positives out there.”

Meyer places an inordinate amount of importance on these practices because the season goes by quick. It’s really two full practices of intense learning and training each week and then a glorified walkthrough.

The Buckeyes need to lay the proper foundation over the next 17 days if they are going to have a chance for success during the 2012 season.

“(It’s) 28 or 29 practices for training camp and then you have 12 times two for the rest of the season,” Meyer said.

“That’s 24 practices. That’s maintenance and game planning practices. You’re not going to get that much better throughout the fall. 24 practices once the season starts and 28 before the first game. That’s a lot of practices.”

It’s starting to make sense why Meyer believes the next week or two will ‘make or break’ his team.

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