Meyer Headlines Spring Kick-Off Event at WHAC
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer was only too happy to appear at the Buckeye Football Spring Kick-Off event Tuesday, even if didn’t always seem like it to Lynn Bruce.
The daughter of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce—who happens to be Meyer’s mentor—finally got a hold of him after numerous recruiting trips, and the finishing pieces came together for Coach Meyer’s Spring Kick-Off Benefiting the Earle & Jean Bruce Alzheimer’s Research Fund.
Coach Bruce is one of many who has lost a family member to Alzheimer’s, and the same goes for former OSU head coach John Cooper, who lost his mother-in-law.
Both coaches were in attendance Tuesday for the event, and Ohio State historian Jack Park had the honor of introducing Bruce to the crowd of nearly 1,000 people inside the team’s practice facility on campus.
Park started off by sharing the 99-year history of OSU football in the Big Ten, which included a brief look at the “Graveyard of Coaches” from 1944-50.
“You were here. You know better. You know what the hell this crowd is like,” Bruce said, half-jokingly, as he introduced Meyer, the 24th head coach in OSU history.
“They don’t take anything but winning and then some. So you’re going to get your opportunity, buddy.”
Meyer takes of the OSU football program after what he calls “arguably the 10 best years in the history of the program.”
Meyer also referred to former OSU head coach Jim Tressel as a “dear friend” during Tuesday’s event in Columbus.
“This is an exciting time,” Bruce added.
“If I watch coaches who come in and are intense and tough and they want the team to be good that first year … I think every kid will be tougher from what they’ve done here, getting up at 5 a.m. and the discipline of working out hard for a great strength coach and this staff. If they put it all together, we’ll have a great season.
“If there is any man I would have wanted more to do this job for Ohio State, I don’t know who that would be.”
Meyer took center stage at the podium to rousing applause from the crowd, many of whom had taken the time out of their day just to hear what Ohio State’s new football coach had to say.
He quickly turned the attention to his coaching staff, starting with defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
“We only lost one senior (Andrew Sweat), but we have two seniors coming back in Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein,” Fickell said.
“We’ve had an unbelievable history here the last 10 years with the leadership of the linebacker position. That’s something we have to do a great job of, being the quarterback of the defense and controlling that side of the ball.”
Fickell also pointed out that Sabino played for Chris Spielman’s late father, Charles “Sonny” Spielman, who was a coach at Dr. Krop High School in Miami when Sabino and Travis Howard were playing there.
While the Buckeyes are thin on talent at linebacker this spring, they certainly seem to have an abundance up front on the defensive line. That doesn’t even include incoming freshmen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington—or fifth-year senior Nathan Williams.
“I have a lot of great players and my job will be to not screw it up,” Vrabel said with a big grin Tuesday.
“We’re going to play physical, play square and play with violent hands. We’re going to make it difficult for other teams to attack us downhill.”
One of Vrabel’s inherited new players was in attendance for the event Tuesday, and Meyer was quick to point out the leadership qualities senior John Simon brings to the table.
“Donald Duck could be the strength coach if John Simon was the only guy in the weight room,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the players will elect the team’s captains this season, but he has a veto vote and assured Simon he will be a captain again as a senior in 2012.
“He takes a consistent approach day in and day out,” Vrabel said of Simon.
“He’s a great help to me in the room. You only have to tell him one time and he spreads it out to everybody else in the room. That’s a great asset to have a veteran player who wants to continue to get better.”
Vrabel moves over to coach the defensive line after one season as the linebacker’s coach under Luke Fickell, who served as interim head coach last season. Vrabel played defensive line at Ohio State in the mid-1990’s under John Cooper and Jim Heacock, but also played linebacker in the NFL.
Meyer wasn’t convinced the NFL Pro Bowler would be a great fit for his new staff…until he got a chance to see Vrabel first-hand on the recruiting trail.
“He went on a two-week mission to go out and show me he could recruit,” Meyer said.
“I’d have to say with all due respect to the other coaches on the staff, if he is not the best he is one of the best recruiters on the staff. That’s the kind of future this young guy has in college football.”
Meyer also talked about the importance of hiring an offensive line coach like Ed Warinner, and even joked that he gave Warinner a promotion by bringing him to Ohio State from Notre Dame, which is place Meyer knows quite well from his own days as an assistant.
Ohio State’s first-year head coach called the hiring of Warriner the most important assistant on the staff and the “second-most important hire” behind new strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti, who Meyer brought over from Florida during the off-season.
Warinner said the offensive line is the heart and soul of any good football team, and then introduced the crowd to a pair of starters in Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort. Linsley was asked about his favorite days under the new staff, and immediately pointed out the day Kirk Barton was retained as a graduate assistant for the 2012 season.
All of the coaches talked about their excitement to be at Ohio State and their love for Ohio, but receivers coach Zach Smith really brought it all home. The grandson of Earle and Jean Bruce admitted the wideouts an average group last season, but he quickly turned the attention to Ohio State as a program.
“This place is legit,” Smith said.
“We’re passionate about being here. Almost all of us grew up here rooting for Ohio State and, obviously, I did since birth. These guys are all being sincere about how much this place means to them.”
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