Campfire Tales

By Kyle Rowland on August 24, 2012 at 10:00a

His first camp nearing an end and game week looming, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer knows what lies ahead: expectations. And they aren’t always attainable.

Camp Meyer has been a rousing success.

That thought is reinforced for the Buckeyes this season. An Associated Press national championship is possible but not likely due to Ohio State’s one-year postseason ban. Before they even take a snap, an entire program – from the coaches on down to the secretaries – is aware that they can’t even play for the grandest prize in the sport.

Meyer has already coached with rabid fans breathing down his neck, even after winning two national championships. Plus, he grew up in Ohio idolizing Woody Hayes and Archie Griffin, and then served an apprenticeship under the revered Earle Bruce. If anyone knows about the rigors of coaching at a big-time program – and Ohio State – it is Meyer.

But he has never begun a season with no championship in sight. For 10 seasons, Meyer has started camp with a clear goal in mind and that has been to win the conference championship. An unblemished record won’t even earn the Buckeyes the right to play in the Big Ten title game, let alone win it. 

"That is probably my biggest concern," Meyer said. "Without a target at the end of the season, how will they react? I am still trying to measure this team.

"After our last game against our rival, you simply shake their hands, give them a hug and say, 'see you in January.' That is going to be hard to do."

Despite the lack of hardware at the end of the tunnel, don’t be mistaken: Ohio State still has plenty to play for. There’s a group of seniors who have been through the ultimate high and lows, yet stuck it out. For one season, Nov. 24 in Ohio Stadium may be more anticipated than Jan. 1 in Pasadena, and in major college football winning breeds future success.

It’s a formula Meyer is all too familiar with.

"You've got to go win," he said. "Momentum is such a key in recruiting and your program. If you lose it, it's hard to get it back. You don't have four years to go build a program. You've got to go win some games right away. Year 2 is kind of a definitive year."

New coaching staff, new system, no problem. At least that’s how the fanbase sees it, and with good reason, even if Ohio State slogged through a 6-7 season one year ago. The pieces are in place for immediate success.

One week until the Simon Show begins.

That new coaching staff happens to be among the best in the country, with the head guy already having two national championships – one in particular – bolded and highlighted on his resume. A power-spread offense has been installed and the quarterback making the calls is in the perfect mold for a Meyer signal-caller.

On defense, Meyer is equipped with an outstanding assembly talent on the line. Among them is John Simon, someone who has received admiration and praise from Meyer since he was hired in November. The captain is just one of the many seniors who have led Ohio State through the worst patch in the program’s history.

"This is a tremendous senior class," Simon said. "It might seem cliché, but if you go through workouts with these guys, you’re not going to let them down. We are playing for each other. As a senior class, we really want to set the foundation for Coach Meyer's program.”

That foundation begins up front. It’s something every football coach preaches, and Meyer is no different.

“If you want to have a bad football team, have a bad D-line,” he said. “You can be average in some other spots and kind of hide them. But it’s over if you have a bad defensive line. You have no chance.”

The SEC’s six consecutive national championships – two won by Meyer’s Florida Gators – have largely been won on the backs of stout defensive line play. Derrick Harvey, Jarvis Moss, Glenn Dorsey, Ricky Jean-Francois, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley all greatly impacted their teams’ run to the national championship.

In Meyer’s first year at Ohio State – and likely beyond – the defensive line will not be an area of concern, as the Buckeyes are stockpiled with talent. Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Michael Bennett, Garrett Goebel, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington will assure Ohio State puts fear in opposing quarterbacks and running backs. And that doesn’t even include Nathan Williams, who’s expected to come back healthy from microfracture surgery.

“If we get Nathan Williams back, I would say (the line could be great),” Meyer said. “If he doesn’t, I think we’ll still be good, but I just think Nathan brings that much sting to you and experience.”

Said Goebel: “We've got a lot of depth, a lot of good freshmen who have all the physical skills and are playing well right now. They've just got to learn the defense a little more and take that next step. It should be a good year.”

Behind the line are an enigmatic linebacker corps and a secondary that still hasn’t proven in a season that they can produce the numbers of yesteryear. The defensive line, again, can help alleviate some of the pressure presented to both units.

Slimmer, but even better on the field.

"I feel like if our front starts the game out well and we play well it'll help out the back end and help guys in the secondary,” Hankins said. “But it always starts in the trenches with the offensive and defensive line. That's the way the game goes."

Junior safety C.J. Barnett knows the value of his teammates on the line, and he’s not afraid to discuss it. To ignore the D-Line’s importance would be uninformed. 

“The fight in the trenches is where defense starts,” Barnett said. “With Johnny Simon and Big Hank in there, it makes the job easier for everybody else.”

An objective in fall camp was to finally get the offense up to speed. Nearing game week, it’s finally happened, being most evident in a scrimmage last weekend when Braxton Miller threw for 350 yards. Miller has taken to the up-tempo, spread system. In turn, it has also helped the defense stay conditioned.

Meyer has preached the importance of the offense catching opponents off guard in the second half due to superior conditions and the Silver Bullets wearing down opposing offenses. On both sides of the ball, the expectation is to be fresh late in the fourth quarter. 

“Even our big guys have to run around constantly,” Simon said. “They’re not getting breaks and not subbing in, so we're definitely going to be one of the best conditioned defensive lines, best conditioned defenses in the country. That'll help us.”

As the clock to mark the beginning of the season winds down, Meyer can be reassured by his team’s unwavering work ethic and desire to achieve something great. When he arrived in Columbus, Meyer inherited a ragtag group that he felt was two steps behind.

After almost nine months of nothing but intense competition between the Scarlet and Gray, the Buckeyes will be able to impose their will on a real life opponent.

“We aim to be the best in the country,” Bennett said.

Miami (Ohio) is just step one in a 12-step process.


Comments Show All Comments

chitown buckeye's picture

Anyone else excited?

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Boxley's picture

One more week, I can't maaaaaake it!!!!1

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

avail31678's picture

I'm sorry - I'm normally not a spelling/grammar freak...but I just DON'T get this sentence:
There’s a group of seniors who have been through the ultimate high and lows, yet stuck it out, Nov. 24 in Ohio Stadium may be more anticipated than Jan. 1 in Pasadena for one season and in major college football, winning breads future success.
Good read, otherwise.  VERY excited!

Kyle Rowland's picture

Sentence before I mention that OSU has plenty to play for. Seniors, Michigan game and program's future are three of those things. Took one of the commas out. Hope that clears up any confusion. 

avail31678's picture

Yes - got it now.  One of the commas should be a period.  'Preciate the clarification!

SLVRBLLTS's picture

Regardless of the grammar jibber jabber...
What I disagree with is the point Kyle made in general. The last saturday in November, in my eyes, is more anticipated than Jan. 1 in Pasadena EVERY season. Simon said it in that ESPN documentary: "you can go 11-1 and lose to Michigan and it's still considered a failure."
Besides the National Championship, I care more about beating Michigan than the Pac-10/12/whatever champion.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

thorvath22's picture

The next game should be the most important.

Buckeyes2014's picture

8 Days.....


Dougger's picture

nice summation of all the stuff that's been going on this summer. it's good to know that our strongest facet may be the most important one. 
Can anybody else think of better player names in the country than Jonathan Hankins and Adolphus Washington? People have to think immediately those guys must be freaks just based off their names AmIRight? BUCKEYEEEEE FOOOTBALLLL

I like football

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I will be in Columbus next week and attending the game in person!  I am thoroughly pumped to witness the first game under Urban Meyer and company!  I'm guessing the atmosphere is going to be quite electric!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Buckeyejason's picture

If you aren't aiming to be best the best team in the shouldn't even step foot on the field. That should be every teams mental approach.


DJ Byrnes's picture

lmao your headline game has been on pt lately lenin, touche 

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

buckeye76BHop's picture

That new coaching staff happens to be among the best in the country, with the head guy already having two national championships bolded and highlighted on his resume – one in particular.

Great article...My favorite part^^^^I'm so glad to see more 11W authors pointing this out.  I've been saying it before Spring Practice started.  These coaches (provided they "all" stay) will be better than his coaches in FL...I'm pretty confident that you can take that to the bank.  Not to mention every single one besides Drayton and Withers are from Ohio or have ties...gotta love it.  Personally those two I can see leaving for other coaching opportunities in the future. Hopefully it won't be before 6 years are up.  I can see this staff doing some very special things... 

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

cinserious's picture

actually Drayton is from Cleveland and has Buckeye blood running through him. I remember last year's hiring of him (as WR coach) how exciting it was to be back home and closer to his folks in Cle. And now Withers officially has Ohio ties that will bind him for life. The first coach I see leaving might be Tom Herman after people see how many points we put up on the baord every week. We win a couple NC's before he bolts though.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Yep you're right...looked that up...too bad I can't edit it.  I can still see those two leaving first if better situations arise (was really my main point).  Either way these coaches will keep the guys motivated by being uncomfortable all year if the situation arises, just like training camp, and I can see them finishing real well without a possibility of a trophy at the end.  These seniors deserved better and everyone (including the coaches and younger players) are aware of this. 

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

cinserious's picture

Now on the other hand, if you want to have a BADASS football team...

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

buckeyedude's picture

When you look at guys like John Simon and Big Hank, and the fact that they are team leaders, I don't worry too much about these guys not being motivated.
The goal is to always run the table obviously.  It will be interesting to see if they can stay motivated if, God forbid, they drop one or two games.  



chitown buckeye's picture

I think these Seniors will have an even more lasting legacy then any Big Ten championship would give them. I believe most Buckeye fans will remember these guys as guys who stood by the new coaching staff, stood by Ohio State and stopped what in all honesty could have been a spiral out of control downslide of OSU Football. I think we will look back on this season 10 years from now and really appreciate what these Seniors did for our beloved Bucks! Honestly, being successful in these next 12 games will have a greater impact on our future and solidify that OSU is not going anywhere much more than any Big Ten Title or Bowl victory would mean to these guys. 

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Scott's picture

This kid knows how many weeks until kickoff.

Class of 2008

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Man, that is a picture for the ages.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Hoody Wayes's picture

I was thinking about this abbreviated season, the other night. Through the filter of my own - scant - organized football experience, I can imagine saying, "We get Michigan for our bowl game? In the Shoe? Can'wait."
And if they're 12-0/#1, we get a chance to reset history by doing theM like they did us, in 1969.
Beyond any doubt, Meyer has what it takes to get these guys to play like all their dreams, are on the line.

schooey's picture

I don't think that the bowl ban should be that big of a deal. I mean that I don't think it will hurt their motivation one bit. Maybe I just don't get it. If anything, a 12-0 team that does not get to play in the playoffs ruins the entire validity of finding a true number one, the reason for the playoffs in the first place. And the NCAA just continues to look as petty, useless, corrupt and inept as they always have.