Urban Meyer being introduced in November of 2011
Well, it has been an interesting last year for The Ohio State University, hasn't it? The killer tattoos, firing of the vested one and a small business operation of trinkets for cash. On top of that, even more fire began to billow out of the Horseshoe, as several key players were caught with bogus summer jobs.
To beat it all, when the team tried to make news on the field, it was by way of the negative variety—finishing with its first losing season since 1988 (John Cooper sighting).
Through it all, however, the silver lining was found as OSU perhaps positioned itself for more jewels in its crown for the long haul with the hiring of Urban Meyer. But then, even more waves crashed upon the scarlet and gray shore as the NCAA slapped the wrist of a proud program even harder, taking the Buckeyes' chances of a Big Ten title and more off the table for the guy riding through the gray clouds on a white horse.
All of healing is about to begin, however. Meyer has started inserted a new culture, attitude and way of doing things—especially on the offensive side of the ball already in spring. Despite all of the rumors and negative press heaped upon the program in the early going, there is optimism on the banks of the Olentangy.
But just how much turns to reality remains to be seen, for despite it all, there is no postseason no matter what happens on the field.
So what are the realistic goals for the first installment of the Urban Meyer-led Ohio State Buckeyes? Here are 10 realistic goals for the transition year, by all accounts and measures, of 2012:
Job No. 1 of the new coaching staff is to begin in earnest to implement the Urban Meyer version of the spread offense. Sure, OSU began to move to that anyway in some regards and packages, but the version coming to Columbus will be the Jim Tressel "spread" on steroids and growth hormones.
In other words, peel off the sweater vest and put the leather on.
The offensive line will be more agile, the quarterback the centerpiece of everything and many of the running backs and receivers put in packages and positions to take advantage of one-on-one matchups. And they'll do it all in a frenetic pace.
Already this spring, Meyer has been very candid in regard to his disappointment of his inherited players to pick up the attitude, pace and sets that they'll be using, but it's coming.
This is goal number numero-uno, and look for Braxton Miller and company to get more and more comfortable as the season goes on. Just how comfortable they do get by the end of the year could set the program up for a monster year in 2013.
How many times have we heard it? A freshman quarterback makes more strides than any from his first year starting to his second.
Well, the same rings true for Ohio State 2.0.
The first few years of the Urban Meyer regime in Columbus are going to be predicated on just how well and how fast Braxton Miller can get up to speed on the offense and turn himself into an equal opportunity employer of dimensions.
We've all seen what the kid can do with video game moves to miss would-be defenders on the ground, but to get OSU ready for a monumental run in 2013, he'll have to go from an understudy to teacher to leader under Urban Meyer. This means harnessing his rawer than undercooked hamburger of an arm into filet mignon.
There is no postseason in 2012, so he should get ample hands on learning without the stress of derailing any chance at really big things.
RB Jordan Hall
If anyone has been listening to the biggest concerns that Meyer has been reiterating in the spring, it has been one simple message: Find a playmaker or two on offense.
Look, it's Ohio State, so you know the athletes are on the roster. The biggest issue, however, is finding that one (or two) guy(s) that can create mismatch problems and be THE guy to make a play when it's needed. The problem, at least at first glance, stems from no real threat that appears to be on the roster that can take the ball on the outside and go.
The young wide receiver corps simply did not step up last year, and though the stable of running backs is always going to be talented at Ohio State, the version needed for the spread attack is a different kind of nut to crack.
So who is that guy going to be? Is it senior-to-be Jordan Hall or maybe one of the younger receivers like an Evan Spencer or Corey Brown that has stepped up a bit in the spring? Maybe it fits the mold of one of the freshmen coming in?
No matter which way this goes, someone—anyone—has got to step up to give the offense that electrifying presence. If not, you can bet the coaching staff will be recruiting towards it.
What's to change? After all, it is Ohio State.
True, but despite the 2002 season, Ohio State has been a program that just couldn't quite climb the mountaintop. Despite what the more "superior" teams might say, there was enough talent coming in and out of the Woody Hayes athletic complex to win another national title somewhere in there.
Yet it didn't happen, and a lot of times, it was embarrassing.
Meyer preaches competition, toughness and a winner-take-all attitude. For all the good that Jim Tressel did (and yes, he did a LOT of good), there was just something missing from a competition level on the playing field. Maybe it was the punt being the "most important play in football."
The new man in town, along with his coaching staff, have made it clear that not competing on every play in both practice and games simply will not do. Show any let up at all, and the next guy up will be taking a starting spot or getting more playing time and press clippings. You can take it to the local bank.
Time to buck up, if you will, and improve the culture and competition level.
When introduced in November of last year, Meyer was quick to point out two things that build championship programs:
- Recruit really good players
- Hire really good assistants
All indications point to the recruiting to be on the right track, and it sure looks to be—at least on the surface—that some coaching talent has come to Ohio State as well. From Everett Withers to Tom Herman to Ed Warinner, there are known names and talent in the coaching profession. The kind of talent that could give birth to multiple championships.
That's not always enough, though. You can have all of the great minds in the world, but if they are all working towards their own agendas rowing out of sync, then the ship will ultimately lose the race. Urban Meyer has brought great guys in, but this first year, they'll all need to come together with the same ideas, philosophies and attitude to have the players go all in.
Ohio State paid them, they came and now, the coaching staff must become a team before the team on the field is built into something special.
Ohio State fans, let me introduce you to the new man in charge of getting the guys that will be strapping on the Scarlet and Gray on into game shape. He goes by the name of Mickey Marotti, and he is the guy that Urban Meyer wanted perhaps more than any other on his staff.
Marotti is a well-known name when talking about a college football chiseling guy. He too believes in competition in every drill a team does, and he uses some unorthodox methods to get his guys in the best shape that they can possibly be.
Oh, and he works them to death as well.
Many OSU players have taken to Twitter and other media outlets to let the world know that the workouts that the team is going through these days is not in the same ballpark as last year. The team is coming together, but most importantly—at least if you believe the hype—they are working harder than they ever have.
Getting the entire team in shape to play the style that the new coaching staff wants on both sides of the ball is yet another goal to put into the tool chest of ramping up the program, and if Mickey Marotti has anything to do with it, the finished product is well on its way.
I know, I know, there is no postseason even available to the scarlet and depressed. True, but let's not overlook one carrot that is still out there.
Ohio State may not be eligible to go to Indy this year, but that doesn't mean that it can't still win the Leaders Division by way of having the best record. Wisconsin seems to be the newest king of this block, and it'll certainly be good yet again with its latest free-agent quarterback signing, but the Buckeyes have enough talent on the roster to win the race for the best record in the division.
The Badgers are starting to feel pretty good about their place in the pecking order of the league, and rightfully so, but nothing would introduce the Urban Meyer era more than to beat the Badgers and the rest of the division to announce huge expectations for the following year and beyond.
It's not as far-fetched as it may seem.
Now about the two coaches getting along in the recruiting battles....
This year's Ohio State team may be exempt from playing after Thanksgiving, but it is not exempt from achieving victories, and ultimately, a lofty ranking at the end of the year.
Last year was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination on a lot of fronts, but even then, there were glimpses of the amount of talent that the team rolled out. It beat Wisconsin, played a great half of football against Nebraska and nearly beat the maize and blue enemy on the road.
Bottom line, the team has had some great recruiting classes the last few years, and if all of the talent that appears on paper can be harnessed, put in the right spots and set free to execute, there could be a lot of wins in 2012 and a top-10 ranking to end Meyer's first year.
To go with the continued theme, it would go a long way towards laying a foundation of things to come.
Ahh, the players. It's no secret that generally, the team with the better players will win more often than not. Coaching can take an average team and make them good, but they'll never be great. On the other hand, a team with superior talent can be molded into a great team.
Yes, recruiting is indeed the lifeblood of a college football program, and Meyer is no slouch in that area.
Ohio State will always do well bringing in the storm troopers. After all, the program is the football university in a football populous state, meaning that most kids from Ohio want to go there. What Meyer will do, however, is lock those kids down and cherry-pick others from the rest of the fertile nation.
The former SEC guy knows how to recruit, has a history of excelling and is more than likely going to land even better players than the program is used to by taking advantage of his ties in Florida and other talent-rich states to mesh with the Ohio kids.
He already took a class that was ranked on the fringe of the top 25 and raced across the finish line in the top five last year with barely any time to work. And you can bet there's more coming.
The momentum needs to continue this year, and if early indications are worth anything, things look to be just fine in that department.
Was there any doubt that pulling out the light-saber and taking it to Darth Vader was going to be left off the big board?
Yeah, this is about to get real fun.
The two head coaches have already been playing footsies in the media and referring to each other in general geographical terms, but things will get real intense as the season begins, as the conference season heats up and then ultimately, as another annual grudge match occurs in "The Game."
Brady Hoke is cooking with all the burners it appears, and he has one of the most highlight-friendly guys taking snaps again next year, so things won't be easy. In fact, if you talk to any of the Michigan faithful, they are already calling for a national title under Hoke, building a statue of both him and the shoelace wonder and making room in the trophy case.
Ohio State had enough talent last year to win, has a lot of it coming back and will have all the confidence and grit that Urban Meyer exudes as it waits in the weeds for the program that it loves to hate to come to the Horseshoe on November 24.
This may be goal No. 10 for effect here, but you can bet it's at the top of the heap—as it is every year—to usher in a new era of Urban warfare.
Let the excitement build....