What Expectations?

By Kyle Rowland on August 12, 2013 at 9:30a
Urban knows winning.

Years pass, players and coaches come and go, but the expectations always remain the same in Columbus. In 1955, Ohio State fans clamored for an undefeated season. The same holds true for 2013. 

Luke Fickell has been inside the Buckeye football program for 18 years. His playing days ranged from 1993 to 1996 – a resurgence for the Buckeyes. When he graduated, Fickell left Ohio State as one of the winningest players in program history. He returned as a coach and, not surprisingly, winning was still the top priority.

A young graduate assistant on the 1987 coaching staff saw what can happen when great expectations meet distractions: a train wreck. The Buckeyes were a top 5 team entering the season. They ended the previous year winning nine of 10 games, including a resounding win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Visions of Pasadena quickly disappeared, though, when star wide receiver Cris Carter was ruled ineligible for signing with an agent. Ohio State tied LSU early in the season and then lost to Indiana, a loss Earle Bruce referred to as “darkest day” at Ohio State.

“I’ve known about Ohio State football since I was a freshman here in 1949,” he said. “This is the darkest day in Ohio State football since I have been associated with it.”

Three straight losses in the final weeks of the season doomed Bruce, but he went out on top with a win over Michigan. Urban Meyer, the aforementioned GA, also lost his job. He learned a lesson as well; outside commotion can disrupt any season, no matter how good the team is.

“I was here in '87, and at the start of the season we were preseason No. [5] in America,” Meyer said. “Our staff got let go and it wasn’t really a positive year. It’s not because of bad coaches, it’s not because of bad players, it’s because of distractions.”

That message is being pounded into the current players. All was well in Buckeye Land until the past month, when four separate incidents took place involving players running afoul with the law. Suddenly, a promising season seemed on the brink of collapse.

But Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith issued an ultimatum that’s been well received, even with the recent revelations regarding Najee Murray. When hype is the operative word to describe the upcoming season, the head coach is wise to be stern.

“You just try to create a culture,” Meyer said. “Our clientele is 18-to-21-year-olds. If you recall, they kind of get distracted. We’ve just got to make sure that they stay focused.”

It wasn’t an issue during the first week of camp. As he briefed the assembled press at media day, Meyer rattled off bullet point after bullet point. Almost every attribute was indicative of a good football team. A year ago, Meyer delivered a message that was more subdued in tone.

Back then, his quarterback’s skills remained in the shadows, as did the play of the offensive line. And don’t forget about the underwhelming wide receivers. All that is way in the past now. 

The reviews of Miller’s game are good every time a coach or player is asked to comment. The all-around nature of his game – performance and leadership – creates a heaping pile of excitement.

“I love Braxton Miller,” Meyer said. “He and Tom Herman have something really special going right now. You can see it on the field. He’s just a different guy. He’s always been a great guy, but now he’s got some confidence to him.”

It’s contagious right now. Taylor Decker spoke of the newfound confidence he has in himself, admitting it just wasn’t there during spring practice. After stewing over not seizing the moment, he’s taken hold of the starting right tackle position after one week of fall camp.

“Taylor Decker has solidified himself as a starting candidate,” Meyer said. “If we played tomorrow, he would be the starting right tackle.”

There’s still three weeks, though. Even with so much assurance traveling through the locker room, using the next three weeks to refine the play on both sides of the ball is a must. That doesn’t mean the players are going to like it.

The Buckeyes will have nine practices in six days, and it won’t be enjoyable. They’re moving to the notorious Ackerman Road fields, simulating an NFL training camp. There are no amenities, just grass. But it creates an atmosphere conducive for bonding and laughing at adversity later in the season.

“This next week is tough,” Meyer said. “The 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes will be determined by this week coming up. We’ll be going over to the Ackerman Road fields. There are a lot of reasons why we do it. The most important reason is you have to feel bad before you can feel good. You have to appreciate what you’ve got. I would like to go away, but that is hard to do with all of your video equipment and your teaching facilities here. The university has been gracious to let us use the Ackerman fields.”

So with football at the forefront, Ohio State will shelve distractions and focus on its one-day-at-a-time motto. There will be competitive excellence and four to six seconds of relentless effort. That’s what Meyer asks of everyone. This season, those four to six seconds might pass by a little quicker.

“We’re a faster team,” Meyer said.

“That whole part of the offense did not exist, which is tough. If you examine last year on offense, we were a pro offense. There were not a lot of read components. The equation where if there is an extra guy in the box and you read it one way, which is the essence of spread football, did not exist for us.”

One year later, so much has changed. But the welcome constant remains the lack of season-altering distractions.


Comments Show All Comments

osubuck57's picture

Getting excited for the season to start already. Offense should be crazy good. Defense may take a little while to gel. Expect our front four and back four to play lights out. Hope our LBs other than Shazier to step up their game.


Buckifan4Life's picture

Thanks and "have an A-1 day" Kyle. :)

I'm gonna be saying that all week. LOL!

Go Bucks!

JasonR's picture

Breaking Bad reference = automatic upvote.

stevebelliseeya's picture


"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

trukjo's picture

Faster team than last year - I expect to hang 100 points on someone this year...  Let Kenny & Cardale put the last 35 points up.

Northbrook's picture

"The Buckeyes will have six practices in nine days, and it won’t be enjoyable."
Should that be 9 in 6 days?

Oyster's picture

It's dyslexic being hell...
(that is the number that was reported on 610 this morning, and it has been fixed above)

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

trukjo's picture

"an institution may not conduct multiple on-field practice sessions (e.g., two-a-days or three-a-days) on consecutive days".  Six practices in nine days is more reasonable than three three-a-days with rest days.

Kyle Rowland's picture

Nine in six...today, tomorrow and Saturday are two-a-days. 

Calgarybuck's picture

NCAA laws have it that two-a-days cannot be on back to back days..I believe Wednesday is the 2nd two-a-day.

dmiller2345's picture

"The Buckeyes will have nine practices in six days, and it won’t be enjoyable." -from above article

"I've got to coach a few of them and I want an angry team, I want a pissed off football team." - Urban F. Meyer

2015 CFP National Champions Buckeyes 42 - Ducks 20

- Are you a solution or a Pain in the ASS? -

ChazBuckeye's picture

Great stuff Kyle...

“I was here in '87, and at the start of the season we were preseason No. [5] in America,” Meyer said. “Our staff got let go and it wasn’t really a positive year. It’s not because of bad coaches, it’s not because of bad players, it’s because of distractions.”

This is why I keep preaching these coaches don't want distractions and they will not tolerate much (which is fine by me).  They've lived it and learned from it.  Love these coaches...I hope they stay together for a while but i realize that probably won't happen.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Hovenaut's picture

We also saw distractions at the end of Coop's tenure - in fighting (Tyson Walter suing LeCharles Bentley), academic futility (Reggie Germany pulling a John Blutarsky) and leadership, uh, issues (Steve Belligerent).

I'm sure we all recall the distractions that led to Jim Tressel's resignation.

Meyer has had his fill of distractions, and has been feeling enough heat for not doing enough about possible distractions in the past. You have to respect his up close and personal understanding to such issues, and how he relates the seriousness of it all to the student-athletes he's responsible for guiding.

stevebelliseeya's picture

Steve Belligerent FTW....that's why name is happily Stevebelliseeya :)

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool


This story hit the nail on the head. As far as I'm concerned the distractions are a FAR bigger concern than anyone we play, TTUN and Bama included. We can only pray the fallout from this summer is mitigated and that nothing else materializes out of it. We can only hope that nobody else slips up. We can only hope Roby's situation doesnt cost him his last season with us. One ill-timed suspension/expulsion resulting in negative publicity is all it takes. As for 1987, as far back as that was, that season was sadly ahead of its time at showing what distractions can do to a season. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Please, not us.

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

yrro's picture

Really interested to see Ross weigh on the "we were a pro offense" comment. I guess that means Braxton's reads were almost all predetermined on the IZ and OZ stuff?

RedStorm45's picture

"That whole part of the offense did not exist, which is tough. If you examine last year on offense, we were a pro offense. There were not a lot of read components."
For context, he was referring to the H-back part of his spread offenses.

Grayskullsession's picture

I love articles like these, but it isn't making the wait for football season any easier. I think I will cryogenically freeze myself for several weeks.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

Jabba the Hoke's picture

But then you will run the risk of staying frozen for 500 years and Nintendo Wii will not even exist any more.

JasonR's picture

My grandpa took me to my first game at the 'Shoe, and it happened to be the '87 game against Indiana. We had great seats too, so we got an up-close view of that ass-whoopin'. After being at around 20 games since then, it's still the only home loss I've witnessed though.
Sounds like Coach Meyer is doing everything he can to keep expectations and distractions from ruining what should be a special season.

DaytonBuckeye4life's picture

Good article distractions can hurt a team but I think Urban is going about the disciplinary actions very good he is showing he won't  tolerate stupidity no matter who you are.

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Can any of the 11W comment on seeing the diamond formation in practice?  I was very impressed with how the 49ers ran it last year and I am hoping to see us run it some this year.  I definitely think it adds a different dimension and complexity to our offense. 

InHartWeTrust's picture

Last I heard was that it would be "put on hold" until Hyde is back, as he is a key part of it.  That very well may have changed by now, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
I, too, am looking forward to seeing it.

pjtobin's picture

In Urban we trust! I am a firm believer that he will get this team on track. My greatest hope for TOSU is all of the students stay focused on their school work and don't let any distractions get in the way. Go Bucks!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Great write up, Thanks Kyle.

unholy bucknut's picture

I don't think distractions are going to be anymore of a problem. I know its not ideal to have any at all  but I'm glad if we were going to that they happened before the season and not sitting 11-0 going into Michigan. Happening now gives Urban time to set the record straight and get the guys refocused and back on the path of the chase