Urban Meyer and his coaching staff know that the biggest reason the Ohio State Buckeyes went 12-0 last season was the leadership throughout the team. They also know they need to get that same kind of leadership to compete for a national championship in 2013.
Meyer's coaches, particularly offensive coordinator Tom Herman, were quick to point out that Ohio State's success was due to its outstanding on-field leadership helping the team overcome its limitations.
That's what they hope to get once again even though the Buckeyes lost such heart-and-soul players as John Simon and Zach Boren.
Most of the senior talent this year is on the offensive line, including LT Jack Mewhort, C Corey Linsley and RG Marcus Hall. All had good years protecting Braxton Miller a year ago.
Miller, obviously, will be the focal point of the offense. He has been challenged throughout his short time with Meyer to become a more vocal leader even though he is more laid back than most quarterbacks Herman has worked with.
Defensively, Ohio State has all of its starting experience returning in the back seven, particularly senior safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. As well, third-year players Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby possess a tremendous amount of experience.
Finding this year's leaders is going to be crucial because Ohio State lost the 15 postseason practices given to teams that are bowl eligible.
OSU was banned from the bowl season last year because of NCAA violations and didn't get those practices.
Those missed practices put the Buckeyes in a difficult position even with their talented roster.
That's where leaders can come into play, to help keep a team on track when coaches aren't around, particularly in the summer.
The team that returns is a mostly veteran squad that should know what the coaches expect.
But it takes leaders to help bridge the gap and continue to help the team develop during summer before fall camp opens.
They also need to set the tone for the freshman class, which is expected to have quite a few early contributors.
It's almost ironic that the Buckeyes won the Leaders Division a year ago despite being a flawed football team.
To be able to reach the next level where OSU can compete for a national championship, the Buckeyes need to find a way to create that kind of leadership once again.
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