Leadership Once Again the Buckeye Key
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout the 2012 season, the Buckeyes had tough games, played down to opponents, or just could not get things going on either side the ball, yet they found a way to be 12-0. OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman summed up what allowed them to claw their way to that unblemished recors.
“We had great leaders, great kids, great chemistry," Herman said Wednesday.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Our senior leadership was off the charts. Guys like John Simon, (Etienne) Sabino, and (Zach) Boren. Those guys had off-the-charts leadership."
This is what the 2013 version of Ohio State is looking to replace. Those seniors embraced their role on that team and they helped keep the rest of the guys focused on winning each game, one at a time.
The OSU assistant coaches don’t seem to think it will be hard to find new leaders with this new group of players. Some leaders have already emerged during spring practice, while others have shown signs. Regardless of where they are at now, with Head Coach Urban Meyer, leaders always seem to be found when they are needed most.
“Coach Meyer is as good as anybody that I’ve ever been around," said cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
“I mean I’m only 51, but I’ve never been around anyone who develops leadership better than Urban Meyer and he has made it a focal point."
Photo by Jim Davidson
Looking at his track record, Coombs is not wrong. Meyer has been successful everywhere he has been and always seems to find guys who aren’t afraid to lead. He also may have coached the ultimate leader in Tim Tebow, a guy who seemed to will Meyer’s Florida Gators to win and win throughout his career in Gainesville.
While Ohio State will have a lot of younger players on the field in the fall, the experienced players are ready to lead this team. Junior quarterback Braxton Miller is expected to be the primary leader on offense because of the nature of his position, but others have stepped up as well.
The men responsible for protecting Miller also will help him lead the offense. Veterans Corey Linsley, Jack Mewhort, and Andrew Norwell have all emerged as leaders over the past year. While they are comfortable being vocal, they also understand the importance of leading by example.
Photo by Dan Harker
“Our center has always been a leader in there, Corey Linsley," said offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
“And he’s a leader because he has a great work ethic. He does everything the right way. He’s real smart, I mean football smart."
Mewhort has probably received the most praise from coach Meyer this spring for his leadership. Warinner was similarly complimentary of what the team’s senior left tackle does and how he leads the way for the other guys.
“With Jack, the thing is that he does everything the way you would want a guy to do it," Warinner said.
“In terms of working out extremely hard, having enthusiasm and energy at workouts, leading by example, being a pro, being on time, you know studying film extra, doing extra stuff outside of what is required."
The coaching staff’s security with Norwell as a leader was evident, as he was named a captain for last weekend’s annual Scarlet and Gray spring game.
“Just because he’s worked really hard to improve his body, his physical attributes, his mentality, his work ethic, his practices habits," Warinner said of Norwell.
The importance of the upperclassmen teaching the players that will one day replace them cannot be overstated. Coaches can only do so much, especially with the restrictions placed on them at the college level, but the younger players can have values instilled in them by seeing how hard the older guys work, even when none of the coaches are watching.
“I think that’s part of the development of our seniors, taking on that role of helping to develop younger players," said assistant coach Everett Withers.
“I think we’re at that level now. Our seniors understand we’re going to need everybody. If we don’t develop some of the younger guys, we’re not going to be very good."
While some leaders will do it with their actions, others prefer the verbal route. One of the guys who used his voice to lead this spring is junior Bradley Roby. The cornerback, who has missed time with a shoulder injury, has made sure his impact is still felt.
“Every time those kids came off the field they went to Bradley," Coombs said of his All-American cornerback.
“All spring long, in every contact environment, they came off the field, they went to Bradley. I’d yell at Bradley and say 'Make sure you talk about this,' so I think we lost absolutely nothing (with his shoulder injury)."
Player-coaching while not able to participate in drills is big for any player, but especially someone who will be vital in Ohio State’s success this season. Not only is he helping the other corners out there, he is staying connected and involved, meaning he too is learning during his injury.
While these guys have stepped into leadership roles, there is still the question about who the other leaders will be. Are leaders born leaders or can they be taught? The Buckeye coaching staff thinks that answer is obvious.
“What a silly thing to think, right?" Coombs asked. “If we can develop all of our skills, why would we think that we couldn’t develop leadership?"
But how do coaches develop leadership if it isn’t innate within particular players? Warinner had the answer for how Ohio State coaches handle it.
“First of all, you have to understand the importance of leadership and then you have to be put in situations where you can lead," Ohio State’s co-offensive coordinator said.
“You just put those guys in those situations and it helps them by giving them examples of how to manage those situations."
Making guys who are not usually leaders step out of their element will force them to take control in situations, and eventually those things will begin to come naturally.
Herman has seen a few players on his offense who have the ability to become important leaders for their team, but they have to go out and make it happen over the next three months.
“I think (Jeff) Heuerman can be," he said of his junior tight end.
“We need to keep working on that. I think Philly Brown can be, but he’s not there yet. Those two are probably the next two in line to make that move."
The Buckeyes have some guys who can help this team fight for wins again this year. What the Buckeyes now need is more of those guys; guys at every position who will take charge and not back down from adversity.
“I think he would tell you that it is a vacuum that is being filled," Coombs said of his head coach.
“I think we have seen some great growth through spring from some kids that are going to be great leaders. I don’t think they’re finished products yet, but that’s why you’ve got the next 12 weeks to develop some of that stuff in those kids."
Meyer talks about how everyone is chasing something. For many of these guys, their chase will be the quest to go down as the next great leaders in Ohio State history.