COLUMBUS, Ohio – On the day he was introduced as Ohio State’s 24th head coach last November, Urban Meyer outlined a relatively simple list of expectations for his players, his staff and himself.
I want a bunch of coaches that coach like their hair’s on fire, and I want a football team that goes four to six seconds of relentless effort, he said. You do that, you have a chance to win in every game you play.
So far, Meyer has injected some fresh thinking at Ohio State, a new offensive philosophy and renewed intensity into a program which had been consistently good in a decade under Jim Tressel, before he was bumped off his pedestal for covering up a scheme involving several top players trading memorabilia for tattoos and money.
Among several other NCAA penalties, the Buckeyes are banned from going to a bowl after this season. So, with Meyer preaching he wants an angry team, they’ve taken it to heart by vowing to run the table and obliterate all the bad publicity from a year of suspensions, violations and sanctions.
Our goal’s to go 12-0, running back Carlos Hyde said. Even though we can’t go to a bowl game, we still have to play. So we’re just going to get out there and have a chip on our shoulders since we can’t go to a bowl game – to let the world know who the Buckeyes are this year.
Meyer took over an Ohio State team coming off a dreadful 6-7 season that included a four-game losing skid entering this season. Luke Fickell, the interim coach last season, was retained as a defensive co-coordinator.
The attitude was bad, someone was suspended for a violation almost every week and it seemed everyone was waiting for the NCAA to hand down the penalties that came just before the Buckeyes lost to Meyer’s former employer, Florida, in the Gator Bowl.
There was a lot of (NCAA and disciplinary) stuff going on last year. You can’t really point out what it was, cornerback Bradley Roby said. There was so much stuff going on, I feel like it really affected everybody.
Meyer has told his players to forget 2011 and concentrate on turning around the program.
But he doesn’t have three multiyear starters on the offensive line, the top running back and best linebacker from a team whose seven losses were the most for an Ohio State team since 1897.
He has, though, instilled a lot of energy and optimism.
Expectations always are high, said the focal point of Meyer’s vaunted spread attack, second-year quarterback Braxton Miller. When I was in high school looking at Ohio State, I was like, Man, they aren’t ever going to lose. They’re always going to be good.’ That’s the expectations of the fans.
With no bowl game, Meyer and his team will have to be content with whatever they can accomplish in 12 games.
Meyer has no idea how everyone, including himself, will handle the abrupt end of the season.
We’ve never not played for a championship in November, he said. Ten years as a head coach, every November we were playing for a championship. Do we have to create our own championship? I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.