Although the start of Ohio State’s season is just over a month away, the talk of the Buckeye’s portion of the Big Ten media day focused very little on what happens on the gridiron.
Instead, Urban Meyer began his second campaign as Buckeye’s Head Coach fielding questions that not only questioned the University’s stance on disciplinary issues, but his own personal character.
Despite finishing undefeated, the Buckeyes were barred from postseason play last season, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of fans that saw the team as a National Championship contender. However, it appears the ban had little impact on player’s actions, as the team has run into a brand new set of legal problems.
“When a mistake happens or something happened, you have to react and get it done,” Meyer said in regards to how he handles discipline. “So I’m disappointed. I think furious might be the word that would best describe when I first got the phone call, because, like I said, for 12 months it’s been really, really good.”
Meyer himself came under fire for not only his disciplinary procedures, but also his ongoing issues with his past employer, Florida.
"I don’t really get involved with following stuff because I think people need to get facts before they start just making accusations and those type of things," said Meyer in reference to the criticism. "I’m human and I think that is something that I’m constantly evaluating and making sure we are doing the right thing.”
Meyer was also questioned on his relationship with Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end formally charged with murder.
“I felt awful. It’s a sick feeling," said Meyer, who coached Hernandez from 2007 to 2009. "Your thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victims. Every player situation, every recruit situation, all I know is (it) will always be in the back of my mind. That’s all I can say.”
However, Buckeye players jumped to Meyer's defense, as, at the end of the day, they believe they should be held accountable for their own actions.
“I don’t know that you can really blame a guy going out and making a poor choice on coach Meyer because of free will,” said senior offensive tackle Jack Mewhort. “He did not walk in with us everywhere we go, telling us to do this and that. He has a set of core values in place and we know them and we’re told them every day. We know as players that if we violate them we’re going to be held accountable for our actions.”
However, Meyer wants to make sure that the recent disciplinary issues have little to no effect on the upcoming Buckeyes season, where Ohio State is projected to be a top 5 team.
“I don’t want a disruption for this team,” said Meyer. “The guys work too hard to have a couple of knuckleheads make some decisions that reflect the entire program."
One player that is expected to lead Ohio State to the promised land, starting quarterback and Hesiman hopeful Braxton Miller, is expected to be the heart and soul of the Buckeyes. Although Miller will enter the season as one of the country's elite signal callers, Meyer believes his star quarterback still has room for improvement.
"Our goal is to make him a quarterback that can be a good athlete. Not be a ridiculous athlete that happens to play quarterback," said Meyer, who has coached another explosive Heisman winner, Tim Tebow.
Finally, Meyer pointed out that Ohio State's successes and failures will come down to leadership, going so far as to have players participate in leadership classes.
Will Ohio State be able to overcome their off-the-field issues?
"I learn something every year from teams," said Meyer. "And what I've learned over the last decade is that the common denominator of every great football team isn't the style of the offense, it isn't the speed of the team—those are all contributing factors—it's the leadership of the team. Because every team will get punched right in the mouth. Every team. Something's going to happen...the leaders are the ones who control that."
Will legal issues be the downfall of this Buckeyes team? Comment below with your opinion!