Urban Meyer Headlines 20th Annual Spring Kick-Off Event
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Beating cancer and curing Alzheimer's disease.
That’s what brought Earle Bruce, Urban Meyer and number of Ohio State assistant coaches and players together on Wednesday for the 20th annual Buckeye Football Spring Kick-off event.
It started in the 1990s with former OSU football coach John Cooper, who lost his mother-in-law to Alzheimer's disease, but the Spring Kick-off fundraiser has been carried on by Lynn Bruce.
Lynn is the daughter of Earle Bruce and his wife Jean, who passed away in December, 2011 at the age of 75 from complications caused by lung disease. This year’s event raised money to support the Earle and Jean Bruce Alzheimer’s Research Fund, along with the Urban and Shelley Meyer Cancer Research Find at the Wexner Medical Center.
“He’s all Buckeye,” Meyer said of Earle Bruce, who hired him as a graduate assistant out of college back in the 1980s.
“He’s the reason, if you watch the way we do things around our program now, it’s what I learned back in 1986 when I came to work for Coach Bruce. One of the great coaches, not only in Ohio State history but college football history.
“What Woody Hayes started, Coach Bruce continued. That’s doing it the right way, graduating your players and a genuine love for the Ohio State University.”
In total, the event is expected to raise over $150,000 for the fight against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were treated to lunch and a history less from Ohio State’s renowned historian Jack Park, who took listeners on a historical tour of the six undefeated teams in school history.
It started back in 1916 with Chic Harley and continued all the way through the 2002 BCS National Championship and, of course, concluded with Meyer’s spotless first season as the head coach in Columbus.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“That’s incredible the way you do that. I’ve watched him a couple times and I’m trying to figure out how he does that without breathing,” Meyer said after listening to Park’s historical breakdown.
“I watched you really close, you don’t breathe when you speak.”
Meyer then joked about Park owing the Ohio State coaches pushups for using the word Michigan to describe that school up north during his 24-minute presentation.
“We can’t control what’s on the outside, but there’s a rule in here that you can’t say that ‘M word’ around here,” Meyer said without cracking a smile.
“The way I count it, you have 260 pushups with strength coach Mickey Marotti before you leave here today.”
That drew a nice chuckle from the crowd of about 600 who attended the event Wednesday afternoon on the indoor practice field at Ohio State’s workout facility.
Meyer talked a little bit about the difficulties a coaching staff can experience when they inherit a group of players who are used to winning a certain way. They have more of a tendency to push back and question the new way of doing things than a group of guys who are just hungry for any type of success.
“During spring practice, a comment was made something to the effect of it looked like a clown show out there,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“I received a lot of heat for that, but if I look back one year ago today, it looked like a clown show. It wasn’t because of bad players. We learned later it was very good players.”
One of those players was quarterback Braxton Miller, who showed up to Wednesday’s event wearing a brand-new look. The junior quarterback was instructed to remove his baseball cap by offensive coordinator Tom Herman so he could show onlookers his new bleach-blonde Mohawk.
“Back in the day when I had hair, I always wanted to dye my hair,” he explained, “so I did it like this.”
The look was part Tyrann Mathieu and part Wesley Snipes from Demolition Man. It seems unlikely Miller will stick with his new look through the fall, but he could be college football’s ‘Golden Boy’ this fall if he decides to keep the blonde hair.
Miller should be orchestrating one of the more dangerous offensive attacks in the country this fall, one that the OSU coaches expect to be much improved over the group that averaged nearly 40 points per game last season.
“We are going from maybe a kindergarten or first-grade level to the high school level,” Herman said Wednesday.
“And hopefully in the fall we are getting into the college level and then the graduate level of this offense.
“What we are planning on doing offensively is being the best fundamental offensive unit in the country,” Herman added.
“We felt like last year we were just trying to get lined up and understand the schemes and what to do.”
That contributed to Meyer’s comments about the offense looking like ‘clown show’ early in spring camp, and even he admits he didn’t have high hopes for the Buckeyes coming out of his first 15 practices as the new football coach at Ohio State.
“We went through spring ball, and in my mind we were a good 8-4, 9-3 season if we really do well, take care of the ball and play good defense,” he admitted.
“I had a lot of concerns about where we were at with this new offense and the way we were trying to do things.”
Those concerns carried over into the fall, and Meyer expected the Buckeyes to lose their first two games in conference play if there wasn’t a drastic change from the four nonconference games.
It all started with an emotional postgame speech from captain John Simon, who Meyer said was “sobbing like a little kid” after Ohio State pulled out a narrow 35-28 win over Cal.
“I thought to myself, could I have been the type of man to walk up in front of that team and give that much emotion? If I would've, it would've been very phony,” Meyer admitted.
“I didn't have the same commitment to our program that John Simon did. He's 22. I'm 48. I'm a professional at what I do for 26 years. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't do that because I haven't given enough to the program.
“I didn't feel that anyone on our coaching staff could've given that same emotion that John Simon did. We weren't giving enough.”
That type of leadership is what ultimately carried Ohio State to wins over Michigan State an Nebraska. Those two victories propelled them to an undefeated season, but most of that group is gone now.
The Buckeyes could actually be a more talented team in 2013 than the one that finished 12-0 a year ago, but they have to find guys to replace the John Simons, Zach Borens and Etienne Sabinos from last year’s group.
“My area of concern is you take a great group of leaders – the best group of leaders that I've ever been around in that senior class – you remove that from our program,” he said.
“And you take this other group that's not as good of leaders, and you're gonna lose or you're gonna fail at certain points in the season. Our biggest concern is the leadership of our team.
“I'm proud to say that I see it heading in the right direction.”
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