Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer Still Searching for Leadership

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 15:  Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes salutes the students after Ohio State defeated the California Golden Bears 35-28 at Ohio Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes face a big challenge in replacing the production lost with players  such as John Simon, Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino either graduating or moving on to the NFL.

An even bigger obstacle for Meyer, though, is replacing the leadership they provided.

It took Meyer all but one minute to mention that during his press conference at the Big Ten Media Days, according to a transcript provided by NBC's Columbus affiliate.

This year's team has high expectations, riding off the coattails of what those kids did last year, and it's very simple that if we get tremendous leadership from our coaching staff, but most importantly our players, then we'll have a success—I feel strongly about this group having a successful season.

That statement echoed what Meyer said at the beginning of spring camp regarding who might step up for the Buckeyes.

"We're in the evaluation phase of who can fill those roles," Meyer said via the AP. "Make no doubt about it now, that that was a huge part of a successful season."

So who will Meyer turn to after losing a guy like Simon, who was labeled the "heart and soul" of last year's team?

Per the NBC transcript, Meyer gave that exact label to four-fifths of the offensive line, saying left tackle Jack Mewhort, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Corey Linsley and right guard Marcus Hall provide the team with strong leadership.

That group paved the way for Ohio State's powerful rushing attack, which ranked No. 10 in the country, according to USA Today.

On defense, Meyer mentioned junior linebackers Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier as potential leaders.

Grant entered last season as the Buckeyes' starting middle linebacker, but he lost his job three weeks in after struggling on the field. Meyer noted that Grant came back strong this spring,  showing the leadership required for his position.

Shazier, who was voted the preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year by the media last week, led Ohio State with 115 tackles and 17 tackles for loss during his sophomore season. 

Meyer also named senior safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett as leaders, stating that they will help create what should be one of the best defensive backfields in the country.

Meyer said that he enlisted the services of an "outside group" to teach a 10-week course on leadership to 19 members of the football team, all in hopes of building the dynamic that all of his successful teams have shared.

"It wasn't the style of offense, it wasn't the style of defense, it wasn't the height, weight, size, how high you jump, how fast you run, it's the leadership within the program," Meyer said.

One person Meyer insists on emerging as a leader is quarterback Braxton Miller.

"Our quarterback HAS to become that great leader" - Urban Meyer on Braxton Miller

— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) July 24, 2013

The Buckeyes are looking to take a big step forward, and if Meyer is right, Miller will need to be the one to get them there.


David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.