An Inconvenient Truth

By Kyle Rowland on January 14, 2013 at 10:00a

During Jim Tressel’s decade-long stint as Ohio State head football coach, press conferences often needed a dose of truth serum. The buttoned-down, mild-mannered Tressel rarely, if ever, revealed pertinent information. 

One gets the truth with Urban Meyer. 

To say the Urban Meyer era has been a reversal would be an understatement. It’s not that Meyer is telling state secrets for all to hear; he’s just more blunt in his assessments. It doesn’t matter if the topic is assistant coaches or players, Meyer will speak the truth. 

The Buckeyes just finished a 12-0 season and earned a No. 3 ranking. But even Meyer believes that perfect record had blemishes, especially after he watched Alabama steamroll Notre Dame up close and personal. Meyer was on the sidelines for the national championship game, and what he saw in Alabama was a team Ohio State should aspire to be.

“The SEC right now, the quantity is far greater than the quantity at the upper-level Midwestern schools,” he said. “It’s up to the Big Ten to change that. There’s one way to do that. Go out and recruit and get some more depth. But to say that there’s not quality football players in the Big Ten, that’s not correct. The quantity is the biggest difference.

“We’ve got to go catch them. Everybody’s trying to catch the best. Some people are probably trying to catch us. There’s nothing else I’d rather do than watch these other programs and kind of figure out how they’re doing it.”

So that’s exactly what Meyer has done. 

The Crimson Tide were so impressive in dismantling the Fighting Irish that he has taken to watching film of Alabama. For six seasons, he was part of the Southeastern Conferences and had a close-up view of college football’s ruling class. Now he’s trying to duplicate that in Columbus.

“Fundamentally, we are not where we need to be,” Meyer said. “Probably the best fundamental team I’ve certainly seen this year won that game. And that’s with leverage, that’s with tackling, blocking – all the things that help you win football games.

“Where are we? I don't like to deal in speculation, but I think we're a very good team that can compete with any team in the country. I said even after the last game, that's where I believe we are. But to say we could roll in there and beat a team like that. If I was going to give you a honest answer, I think right now we have too many holes to fill.”

Veterans like Ryan Shazier are relied on in the offseason.

That’s not to say Meyer believes the past season was void of positive developments. Ohio State’s offense showed vast improvement from the spring to the season and the defense closed out the year in stellar form. Not to mention, it was largely the same team that finished 6-7 the previous year. That‘s why the 2012 team will have two walls dedicated to them and space reserved in the trophy case where Ohio State’s national championship teams are honored. They laid the foundation for all the future success under Meyer.

With a selfless approach, the Buckeyes proved it’s possible to win football games when the perception is there is nothing to play for. In reality, there was everything to play for.

Respect, the fans and upholding a tradition of excellence. All were accomplished.

“We’re very satisfied with where we’re at right now,” Meyer said. “A year ago at this time, we were getting ready to start our 5 a.m. conversations outside after people were late for meetings. We were still trying to finalize our staff, and we had a group of offensive linemen that didn’t really have much confidence and trust in. A year later, we have a lot of positive things. We have to get better in a lot of different areas. However, it’s a whole different approach.”

The biggest spot where the Buckeyes have a weakness is defense. Come August, the unit that improved so greatly over the season’s final six games must replace seven starters, among them John Simon, Johnathan Hankins and Zach Boren.

“What we really have to do is find out who can play defensive line for us,” he said. “We lost some really good players.”

But at Ohio State, it’s about reloading, not rebuilding. And expectations don’t change just because a few names and numbers are different. Make no mistake, Buckeye Nation is in national championship or bust mode.

A 12-0 season wasn’t on the agenda in Year 1. But neither was Braxton Miller’s immediate emergence or an offensive line resurgence. With the offseason in full swing, Meyer is counting on his players to continue the good vibes. Practices were lost due to the postseason ban, meaning Ohio State’s roster must take the initiative to continue working toward its ultimate goal.

In 11 seasons, Meyer has seen every type of team personality take shape. To be a very functional team, it takes self-driven leadership, according to Meyer. That’s where upperclassmen paint the picture.

The chase for the Tide is on. 

“It’ll be interesting to see how it gets done because it’s on the players,” he said.

“Our mantra is going to be truth and our mantra is going to be fundamental improvement. Truth means exactly that. You have a good season and there are a lot of conversations about things that shouldn’t be discussed because it’s not true. For example, ‘Are you guys going to go do this next year?’ No, we’re probably not unless we get a lot better. Like, a lot better.”

Welcoming back a majority of the offense and cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier on defense helps. Keeping continuity among the coaching staff is an even bigger plus. Meyer has been through the coaching carousel before as an assistant and during his time at Florida, his staff was in demand. Ultimately, he lost his offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs. It set in motion his eventual leave of absence.

His return at Ohio State began with several recruiting coups and an A+ on National Signing Day. The second recruiting class looks to be even better. It’s currently ranked third in the country with less than a month until players put ink to their decision.

Meyer’s recruiting philosophy is to attract talented players who will see the field as true freshmen. He isn’t a fan of redshirting because that means you aren’t an impact player. In the current class, it appears the Buckeyes have a who’s who of the 2013 prospects. Combined with what is coming back, it’s easy to see why prognosticators look at the Buckeyes so fondly.

“I’d rather be that then have them say we’re not going to be very good,” Meyer said. “We love to be the favorite all the time. That means we have a good team. The truth is we’re very strong in certain areas. However, there were quite a few that were below-average performances. We have to get those fixed.

“For me to say we have to get (to the national title game) next year, that’s like me talking about we have to go fly to the moon. We’re nowhere near even having that conversation. To have that conversation, we’ve got to win our first game.”

At first glance, the first one looks easy. But that last one still presents many challenges.


Comments Show All Comments

cinserious's picture

Urban is a coach commited to winning (the right way) and knows how to win. I like how he ushered in a new style of offense to CFB and now some pro teams are having success with it. I really like the idea of taking Harbagh's 'diamond' formation and introducing that to the college game. As if we were'nt going to already crush the competition with our offense in '13.
BTW: Spread offenses really grind Saban's gears, so to beat him with it for the NC might send him packin' for the NFl again!

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

3technique's picture

Every great relationship begins with honesty.. With top five classes and a formula for success will soon make TOSU elite! Cannot wait til August!

toad1204's picture

One game at a time for 13 games...  Is it August 31 yet?

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

QBYBuckeye's picture

Isn't it great how we fans can look ahead while we berate players for doing it?  I love being a fan :-) Is it August 31st yet?

New York Buckeye

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

As much as I hate Bama ideologically, when you watch their games (even the occasional losses), you get the sense that they are so well-coached and have a very firm grasp on who they are as a team (what they do well, what their weaknesses are). I applaud Meyer for being able to reflect and shed the ego and pettiness that ultimately dooms coaches and programs. It seems with him, it ultimately comes down to, "who is the best?" and then, later, "how do we get there?" As much as I loved Tressel, I'm not sure that mind-set was in place at all times.

btalbert25's picture

That's why I've always maintained the SEC teams were dominant because of their coaching.  The most fundamentally sound team in America is going to win a lot of games, no matter how great their talent is. In that national title game the playcalling wasn't that creative.  I'd say most plays Notre Dame knew exactly what was coming, they just couldn't stop it.
I had a baseball coach in high school who used to play in the big leagues.  His signs when we were hitting were just holding up a finger.  Take sign, 1 finger up, steal 2 fingers.  He'd literally stand there holing fingers in the air.  He said I don't give a shit if the other team knows what we are doing, they still aren't going to stop us.  He was right.

tennbuckeye19's picture

I would agree with you to a certain extent, but LSU is the exception. Nobody in their right mind would call Les Miles a great coach. Now granted, I do think he's a good coach, and I think much of what he does, the grass eating, the comical interviews, and etc. are part of his schtick. I don't think he's really as aloof as he seems. But I would say he's one guy in particular who has benefited tremendously from great assistant coaches who make him look really good. And LSU sells itself to recruits. He is able to bring in top kids year after year. However, if you watch, LSU is not a disciplined team. They have more crazy things happen in a game than any team I've ever seen. Miles rolls the dice often, gambles, and often wins. 

chitown buckeye's picture

I often think of this SNL skit when thinking about Les Miles coaching...

"I'm having a heart attack!"

TheHannimal's picture

I agree with coaching...but that is also getting up off the ground and adjusting after getting punched in the mouth.  That is what has impressed me about the SEC.  We housed a kick to start the game against FLA and they regrouped and pounded us.  We actually started off very strong against LSU and then they got their sea legs and drubbed us out.  Against Arkansas we got up fast and they rallied to almost win.  If you watch interSEC match ups there are lots of knockout punches exchanged (ie Auburn going down 24 to Bama then furiously rallying).  Now the conspiracy theorist in me attributes some of that to oversigning...but no doubt much of that is their coaching.  Preparedness and that mindset that they can battle back from anything.
Perhaps I'm crazy but I just dont feel like the B1G games have many teams battling back and getting up off the mat after getting knocked down.  Seems to me that Urban has us prepared to handle adversity.

btalbert25's picture

I think the Arkansas come back had a lot to do with Tressel going uber conservative in the 2nd half.  The first half of that game the team was out there winning a game, the 2nd half they were trying not to lose.

QBYBuckeye's picture

1.  Identify the exemplars.  2.  Figure out what makes them the best.  3.  Duplicate.

New York Buckeye

Maestro's picture

vacuuming sucks

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I believe we have a chance to run the table again next year, but not sure how well we would fare in the national title game against a Bama or A&M.  I think Braxton's senior year is our best shot to win it all followed by the JT/Jones era.  Those teams are going to be loaded with defensive talent and speed.

btalbert25's picture

It's just really impossible to say right now.  There are a whole lot of things that can happen.  If they start out the season playing at the same level the ended 2012 on, and then make the improvements they did last year, I think they have a shot. 

cinserious's picture

@ Buckeye in SEC: Yeah, but this team ('13) is ABSOLUTELY LOADED on offense! Sick O-line, Braxton will be as good as he gets by his jr year and Carlos Hyde is a load. Meyer's system gets some playmaking help too with Marshall and co. My point is a Braxton is a very rare and special player that won't easily be duplicated.

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

nickma71's picture

Well, the fundamentals on defense for a large part of the year were bad. The Senator must have had more control on that side of the ball than I thought. It didn't take long to fall apart with missed coverages and just bad tackling.

daytonbuckeye's picture

It was rough watching some of the defensive woes. I also think that some players just made really bad decisions. How many flags were thrown on Orhian "Personal Foul" Johnson this past season? How many drives were extended because of some dumb cheap shot or too much jawing? He wasn't the only one, but I think that he had one in every game he played. I will be eager to see how they develop this upcoming season.

3 85 yards and a cloud of dust.

BuckeyeBacker98's picture

I think you are thinking about Christian Bryant...pretty sure he led the world in 15 yard penalties last season.

petebuc52's picture

It never cost them a game if im correct 12-0..but i get what your saying

Hovenaut's picture

College football is cyclic, we see programs rise and fall. I was too young to remember the Ten Year War, or Notre Dame annually contending for the mythical national championship.

Ohio native, Buckeye bred, I grew up in the south during the shift in power to the warmer states. Miami, Florida State, Florida and the SEC overall. Nebraska fielded some strong teams in the nineties, followed by USC last decade, but success in the major college football landscape hasn't strayed far from SEC country.

We were fortunate to have success with Tress, but with UFM we have a Ohio native who knows Buckeye tradition and the first hand experience in seeing (and succeeding against) top level major college football in the SEC. With that I believe we're witnessing a rise towards new heights for our beloved Buckeyes one step at a time.

I expect this year in college football to be exciting, and the introduction of playoffs in 2014 even more so. Even more exciting to follow UFM and tOSU to be at the forefront of a new era of new successes.

Go Bucks!

farmerbuck's picture

Love the honesty!!! That's one thing that bugged me about Tress. Urbs just gets what it takes to be the best, weather some people like hearing what he has to say or not. So damn glad that he is our coach!

You have to hate losing more than you love winning! GO BUCKS!!

Doc's picture

Urban is like a CEO of a major corporation who just had a great year.  He knows the investors want more.  He knows what it takes to get there.  Not bagging on Tress, but it seemed like the status quo was fine.  Not any more.  Urban could put his head in the sand and look at an undefeated season and say "Good enough".  He knows there is better out there and he wants better.  Boy, this is going to be a fun ride.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

buck4's picture

This is why a loss would be devastating next year.  I don't think that we will be favored to lose any game.  He (as well as Kelly at ND) has set the bar very high.  A 1 or 2 loss season next year could look really bad to all of us. I see this team getting better and will be interesting to see year 2 under Urban.

iball's picture

This is the difference between a champion and a runner up.
Tress would never admit we were inferior, a very dangerous trait.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

acBuckeye's picture

Maybe Tressel never wanted his team to think he had no trust in their ability? Especially in a public setting. I seem to remember an "inferior" Tress-led team faring pretty well against the "dynastic" Hurricanes.

iball's picture

Yea and an over confident Tress team getting curb stomped by Urbz Gators.
We are not where we need to be and its blatantly obvious Tress was losing his edge, so you're argument is invalid sir.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

acBuckeye's picture

You were saying that Tressel not ever admitting his team could be inferior was somehow viewed as a bad trait. I was just saying that i'm sure Tressel had a very good reason as to why he did things the way he did them. Did it always work? Of course not. And remember, Urban will eventually lose a game here. Shocking, i know.
Plus, going 12-1 in your final season is losing an edge?? WTF?
I agree that this past season there were several games we could've lost, but just b/c Urbz says aloud what his team's weaknesses are and that they are going to try and fix them doesn't mean Tressel wasn't trying to fix his team's weaknesses as well.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

Also, being over-confident is not what lost the 2006 game. That's over-simplifying a bit.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

cinserious's picture

@ACBuckeye: its all about psychology and Urban knows the subject well. When Tressel beat the hurricanes, we were MAJOR underdogs and its appropriate for the coach to 'hype' his boys up. However in the '06 NC, Tressel's Bucks were world-beaters and it would've been appropriate to tell 'em they are not as good as everybody thinks. Going forward, Urban wants and will get a "pissed-off" team whether we are heavy favorites or heavy underdogs. Most espayshially in the NC game. 

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

btalbert25's picture

I think we're seeing the difference between a good coach and one of the all time greats.  Tressel was a good football coach.  Better than most worse than a few.  Urban is one of those kind of coaches that few in the history of the game are better than.

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

Nice work, Kyle.


I have to believe Coach Meyer and his staff will use the bowl ban and media negativity thrown toward OSU over the last few years as a way to make the Buckeyes his "angry team" An angry, motivated and focused team can do wonders. Meyer gets a little more talent and some depth to go along with that chip-on-the-shoulder mentality and it's going to be a HELL of a lot of fun to watch. I agree, the season opener cannot get here any quicker.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

okiebuck's picture

Urban is a no nonsense straight talking guy who knows that what you did yesterday is not as important as what you do today or tomorrow. Communicating that to the players is vital and I think he's got their full attention.
Fundamentally we all know our tackling was terrible this past season and it has to improve if we are going to the next level. That one thing solves alot of problems on that side of the ball. I'm hoping they pull out some old tape of Antoine Winfield to show how you fundamentally make good tackles; you never saw him hit a guy up high or arm tackle; always low and he always brought them down.  

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

chitown buckeye's picture

Winfield, The best one on one open field tackler to ever put on the S And G! I hope your right in showing his film. He still does today in the NFL, thats why he has been around for a long time.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

buckeyedude's picture

I really like Shazier, but if anyone could learn from and improve tremendously from watching Winfield, it's him. Way too many times he just doesn't wrap up, thinking he's going to KO the receiver/RB just by hitting him. That may work with a 175lb receiver, but not a 230 RB.



buckeye76BHop's picture

“Fundamentally, we are not where we need to be,” Meyer said. “Probably the best fundamental team I’ve certainly seen this year won that game. And that’s with leverage, that’s with tackling, blocking – all the things that help you win football games.

Great article Kyle...this quote here is spot on...and in order to beat the best...we must become the best.  Domination of tB1G must happen in order for OSU to be the best.  Watch for Urban to  do more work like they did against NEB (without giving up 38 on Defensive side of the ball).  However he'll demand this every game....last year was the first year....expect it to get much better this year as far as beating teams more effectively and efficiently.  Urban demands the best...then he'll get the best the Buckeyes can give.  Get the Dline/Linebackers figured out...and we're good to go.  Good thing OSU has four OCC games that aren't against VA Tech, Oklahoma or Oregon....and two bye weeks...that will help.

"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 

3technique's picture

I hope some of these young gun LBs can step in and contribute.. They will definitely be faster than the last two years.. I think the Dline will be a very good. The players coming back plus the young studs will wear out Big ten Olines...

bassplayer7770's picture

I agree it's clear LB is the position where we need the young talent to really step up.  We do have a lot of DL talent, but even the young guys will need to step up in order to play significantly more time this season.  I'm optimistic, but there's a lot of hard work ahead for these guys.

sir rickithda3rd's picture

i think next yrs team will be very explosive on offense. although the defensive line will be young by the time we play mich, big ten champ, and hopefully for the nat champ the spences and washingtons will basically be juniors and no longer sophmores... the schedule sets up quite nicely to endure the growing pains tosu will prolly have

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

petebuc52's picture

I look forward to next year/following years with pure excitement because Urb is thinking outside of the big10 box in his recuriting..continue to stock the lines, upgrade overall team speed, and let the best players play rather they be freshman or senior play.. If the upperclassman is getting beat out by a underclassman so be it, if the starting MLB not doing the job find someone else (shot out ZB). that stops the since of entitlement and everybody has to stay on top of they game...I also dont feel like im getting spin when Urb talks (maybe i am but at least i dont feel like it lol), i mean this is football folks not performing operations. Many have played on different levels and are able to at least have decent observations about the game...Go Bucks...