Spring Practice Primer: Meyer Eager to Get Started
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has been the head football coach at Ohio State since November.
During that time, Meyer has put the finishing touches on his first recruiting class, while laying some groundwork for the next one. He put together an entirely new coaching staff, which includes OSU’s interim head coach Luke Fickell, and implemented a brand-new off-season workout program under the instruction of strength coach Mickey Marotti.
Many of the changes were drastic—although well received by leaders like John Simon and Zach Boren this off-season.
Meyer’s plan was to give this Ohio State team a chance to compete in 2012—not for a Big Ten championship or a national title shot, because of the postseason ban—but for the opportunity to regain some confidence and respect that was lost during a 6-7 season a year ago.
After all the talk and hard work in the weight room, Meyer will finally get to wrap a whistle around his neck Wednesday as the Buckeyes hit the practice field today at approximately 4 p.m. for the official start of the 2012 Ohio State football spring drills.
“I am excited to see our presents,” Meyer has said, using the analogy of a gift about to be opened with a first look at his players on the field.
“I don't really know what we have in terms of players, yet. I made a point not to look at film of last year because I wanted everyone to be able to start with a clean slate.”
The spring is about new beginnings, especially for Meyer, who has not been on the sidelines for a college practice that he was running since the spring of 2010. That was Meyer’s last spring at the University of Florida, after he had initially taken a leave of absence following the Gators’ 51–24 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl.
Now Meyer is back, in the place he began his career as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce in the 1980’s. He is a much different guy now than he was then—wide-eyed and in awe of everything at Ohio State.
Meyer is still in awe of Ohio State, but he doesn’t have the same wide-eyed look he did 25 years ago, not with a pair of BCS National Championship rings on his mantle. He got those by pushing his Florida teams to compete every day, in every drill—something Meyer plans to continue at Ohio State this spring.
“There will be a winner and a loser when you leave the practice field,” he said.
“It’s competition. Once again, it’s putting them in environments and situations where I want to see who the fighters are; I want to see who the guys are that will compete.”
Everything the Buckeyes do now is incentive-based. If players want to live off-campus, no problem, as long as they earn it. The same goes for wearing visors on their helmets or even changing their number. Everything is earned through the respect of the coaching staff.
“I’m a big fan of that. I try to do that raising my own children,” Meyer said.
“When you get away from mommy and daddy, it’s a tough world out there. And the people that work in corporations and do a really good job usually have corner offices and trips to Cancun and bonuses. And if not, you don’t. I think a lot of times kids aren’t taught that, so everything we do around here is incentive based.”
That includes the practices. Every drill will have winners and losers and every Wednesday and Saturday during the spring will be “winner/loser” day, with the winning team walking off the practice field to some Gatorade, while the losing squad drinks from a hose on the side of the building.
“That includes the coaching staff,” Meyer said with a serious look on his face.
Having lost six starters from last season, the Buckeyes return 21 seniors and 18 starters this spring. That includes quarterback Braxton Miller and tight end Jake Stoneburner, two of the most critical pieces for Ohio State on offense.
In all, they have 48 lettermen returning off the 2011 team (25 on offense, 20 on defense and three specialists), along with nine new freshmen from the class of 2012. That includes spring enrollees spring Taylor Decker, an offensive tackle from Vandalia Butler, Se'Von Pittman, a defensive end from Canton McKinley and linebacker Luke Roberts our of Lancaster.
All of them will have a chance to compete for a spot in Meyer’s two-deep this spring.
“We had a team meeting at 6 a.m.—it was their last meeting before they get out of here (for spring break)—and I made it clear to them (what is expected during spring),” Meyer said.
“Sometimes, people say, ‘Well, I’m going to work hard and earn a spot in (fall) camp.’ Spots are done by then. By the time we hit training camp, it’s game mode. We’re trying to go beat Miami of Ohio.”
That’s why this spring is so important for Meyer and his players.
“As intense as the off-season conditioning drills have been, the spring drills will be even more intense,” senior fullback Zach Boren said.
“There is no on-off switch. Everybody will be going full-go every play. It’s going to be a physical spring with everybody putting everything on the line.”
Spring Practice Primer
Practice Dates: The Buckeyes will practice on the following dates: March 28, 30 and 31, and April 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18 and 20.
Spring Game: The 2012 LiFE Sports Spring Game will be played April 21 at 1:30 p.m. in Ohio Stadium.
Spring Game Tickets: Tickets for the double header in Ohio Stadium April 21 - the Ohio State men's lacrosse team hosts the Showdown in the Shoe vs. Air Force at 11 a.m. followed by the 2012 Ohio State LiFE Sports Spring Game - are $7 each in advance and $15 on game day (cash only).
Tickets are available online through OhioStateBuckeyes.com, charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000, in person at the Athletics Ticket Office in the Schottenstein Center, at any Ticketmaster location or at central Ohio Donato's restaurants. Ohio State students (with BuckID) and children 6 and under will be admitted free of charge.
Letterwinners Returning: 48
Special Teams: 3
Letterwinners Lost: 24
Special Teams: 2
Starters Returning: 18
Offense: 7 - QB Braxton Miller, FB Zach Boren, WR Corey Brown, WR Chris Fields, OL Jack Mewhort, OL Andrew Norwell, TE Jake Stoneburner
Defense: 9 - DL John Simon, DT Johnathan Hankins, NG Garrett Goebel, DT Adam Bellamy, LB Storm Klein, CB Travis Howard, CB Bradley Roby, DB Christian Bryant, DB C.J. Barnett
Kickers: 2 - K Drew Basil, P Ben Buchanan
Starters Lost: 6
Offense: 4 - OC Michael Brewster, RB Dan Herron, OT Mike Adams, OT J.B. Shugarts
Defense: 2 - DB Tyler Moeller, LB Andrew Sweat
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