For football-crazed Urban Meyer, each week of the offseason is a long one. But as the Ohio State head coach learned a year ago, no week feels longer in the college football calendar year than the last before the start of fall camp.
If you want to look at where the Buckeyes' 2013 season went wrong, this time a year ago would be a start.
Before Ohio State had its 24-game winning streak snapped by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes endured their worst weekend of the offseason, with three players—including two stars—finding themselves in legal trouble on the eve of fall camp.
It was the week of Big Ten media days, and Meyer, Braxton Miller, Jack Mewhort and Bradley Roby were preparing to head to Chicago to meet with the press.
On the afternoon of July 22, an OSU press release cast an ominous cloud over the Buckeyes contingent when the team announced it had handed out discipline to four Ohio State players—including Roby.
Incoming freshman offensive lineman Tim Gardner was dismissed from his scholarship following an arrest for obstruction of official business.
Roby, a preseason Thorpe Award watch list member, had been involved in an altercation at a bar in Bloomington, Indiana, and ultimately served a one-game suspension after having his misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct dropped.
However, bigger questions loomed when it came to running back Carlos Hyde, who found himself being investigated by Columbus police after allegedly striking a woman at a local nightclub.
Despite an initial report that he had been dismissed from the Ohio State roster, Hyde was never charged for the incident after video evidence proved to be inconclusive.
Meyer still opted to suspend the senior running back for three games for what he deemed "conduct not representative of this football program or university."
While Hyde would go on to be named the Big Ten's Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year after a stellar season, Roby never regained his old form.
The fourth-year cornerback endured an up-and-down final season in Columbus, which concluded with him sitting out the Orange Bowl due to a knee injury, of which some fans questioned the legitimacy.
Whether Roby's off-field issues were ultimately to blame for his inconsistent 2013 season is somewhat beside the point.
One bad weekend stalled the momentum of a program with arguably the most in college football at the time and left the Buckeyes walking on eggshells heading into their 2013 campaign.
Despite Roby's struggles headlining a shaky pass defense that ranked 110th (out of 123 teams) nationally in passing yardage allowed, Ohio State managed to maintain its balance all the way up until the conference championship game.
Alas, the pressure on the Buckeyes proved to be too much to handle and that ominous cloud never seemed to leave, raising questions of what could have been had two of their supposed leaders just stayed out of the headlines for one last weekend in the offseason.
“Oh man," Meyer said when asked about the offseason earlier this month. "We all know that this time of year is a nightmare for teams."
A few days later, Meyer's prophecy proved to be correct when redshirt freshman Tracy Sprinkle was arrested and charged with possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and rioting/failure to disperse after an incident in Lorain, Ohio.
Sprinkle was subsequently dismissed from the Buckeyes roster pending the outcome of his legal matter.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, that's the only legal issue that they've had to deal with this offseason, and its impact on the upcoming year should be minimal.
As Meyer explained at last year's aforementioned media day in Chicago, off-field issues are something that every program has to deal with—although that doesn't make it any easier to do so.
"I think you always can do more. I mean, that's something you wake up every day with," Meyer said. "In the last 12 months we've had three legal issues, and it all happened in three days...to have a couple of knuckleheads make some decisions that reflect the entire program, that's not—I guess it's part of the deal."
As Meyer learned the hard way a year ago, one bad weekend can be all it takes to ruin an otherwise well-behaved offseason.
This is why he'll be holding his breath this weekend, hoping to have little else but football to talk about during next week's annual trip to the Windy City.
All quotes obtained firsthand, unless indicated otherwise.
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