COLUMBUS, Ohio – The retirement party can wait. Candlelight vigils can be put on hold. Urban Meyer isn’t leaving Ohio State.
The Buckeyes’ emperor, who underwent brain surgery over the weekend to remove a headache-inducing cyst, was back on the field Tuesday leading the first day of spring drills. There was Meyer donning a whistle and white Ohio State hat overseeing the secondary, an area of great scorn last season.
The drawback from surgery: doctors ordered Meyer to refrain from yelling.
“I feel great. I feel good, not great,” Meyer said. “I feel good. I’ve had [the cyst] for several years. It’s a cyst that’s surfaced a couple times – once in 1998, once in 2004 and a couple other times. It’s just something you have to manage.”
Meyer’s health has been a topic of conversation since the then-Florida coach took a leave of absence in 2009 for esophageal spasms, which mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. He resigned from Florida following the 2010 season, taking a one-year sabbatical and doing work for ESPN before being named the head coach at Ohio State.
Since returning to coaching, Meyer has delegated more responsibilities to his assistants and allowed more time with family. Ohio State hosts a family night every Thursday during the season, and Meyer attends his daughters’ volleyball games and son’s football games. He’s also stepped away from work to partake in family vacations during his two seasons in Columbus.
But Tuesday was about the team, not Meyer’s health. And what he saw was adequate for the first day of spring practice.
“I don’t want a team that’s scared to make mistakes. I don’t want a team that’s thinking. I want a team that goes four to six seconds and put their foot in the ground from Point A to Point B,” Meyer said.
- At this point, Meyer said he’s not worried about defensive breakdowns or big plays by offense. He simply wants the defense to go hard.
- Meyer said he felt like Ohio State lost something on defense the past two seasons. He’s never felt comfortable with the unit.
- Winter conditioning went great, according to Meyer. He said he wants the Buckeyes to finish better. “I like where we are as a team.”
- Braxton Miller will miss taking reps this spring, but Meyer said he’ll still be an active participant in the offense. Video study will be daily, too. Ohio State has a device for quarterbacks to wear, so the video can be deciphered afterwards with QBs and coaches.
- Miller was in uniform wearing a sling on his throwing arm. He spent the day watching the quarterbacks, conversing with them and Herman.
- Meyer said he wasn't particularly impressed by Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett. He said he doesn’t know who the backup QB will be.
- Backup QB play was spotty. Both looked good and bad at times. I thought Barrett was better during live drills. But in passing drills, Jones was much more accurate. Barrett fell victim to the overthrow.
- Jones did throw one of the best passes of the day, deep down the sideline to Corey Smith. He caught it while be guarded by Gareon Conley, whose coverage was superb. Just outstanding placement by Jones.
- Meyer: “I want an angry, blue-collar team.” He said Ohio State almost played entitled last season. There wasn’t always that competitive fire. Meyer wants that this season.
- Darron Lee spent the first day of practice as the first-team WILL linebacker, Ryan Shazier’s former position. Meyer mentioned him by name as someone he was impressed with.
- Meyer said Lee “earned” his position as first-teamer on the defense.
- True freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan is another newcomer Meyer mentioned by name as a positive. Clearly has the body of a college linebacker and quick reaction time on plays. Meyer’s also excited about the play of Kyle Berger.
- McMillan was never more than a few feet away from Luke Fickell, learning and asking questions while not in drills.
- On 10-second rule, Meyer said it’s an interesting conversation, but he doesn’t believe rules should be passed without discussing with coaches.
- Tyvis Powell, Vonn Bell, Doran Grant and Armani Reeves were starters in secondary. Gareon Conley and Cam Burrows also saw time.
- Jeff Greene was very impressive. Caught some passes that were well covered and also got behind the defense. He abused Gareon Conley on one long throw. Michael Thomas was also good.
- First Team OL: Taylor Decker, Antonio Underwood, Jacoby Boren, Pat Elflein, Darryl Baldwin
- Second Team OL: Kyle Dodson, Joel Hale, Billy Price, Tommy Brown, Evan Lisle
- First Team DL: Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence.
- Tyquan Lewis was running with the second-team defensive line, in front of Jamal Marcus. Still, Marcus stood out in his ability to beat the offensive line. Ohio State will need one – or both – of them in the first two games while Spence is suspended.
- Chris Ash was very active with the secondary. Barking orders, shouting encouragement, etc. Kerry Coombs was also a presence. Another person who took in a considerable amount of the secondary’s work was Meyer.
- The running backs didn’t really have an order behind starter Ezekiel Elliott. Warren Ball, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn all received carries, as did Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel. The last two also caught passes.
- On one particular play, Wilson beat the entire defense down the middle of the field. He raced untouched to the end zone. It was about 60-70 yards.
- Sources say Cardale Jones and Trey Johnson haven’t exactly lit the world on fire with their work ethic over the winter.
- It sounded like Larry Johnson’s tagline was, “It’s a fast pace to be great.”
- Armani Reeves got called for pass interference on a play where Johnnie Dixon had him beat. Dixon also spent time returning punts.
- A portion of the practice was spent running the offense in quick succession. They’d run a play, then switch out the offense. It’s meant to get the defense in shape.
- Gareon Conley and Vonn Bell each suffered minor knee injuries. They both returned.
- Eli Apple still had his black stripe and did not practice.
- One bright spot – Marcus Baugh. The troubled tight end was on the field a decent amount and caught one long pass down the seam. The Buckeyes used the tight ends frequently. Nick Vannett also looked solid.
- An interesting drill the defensive line worked on was recovering fumbles. I’m sure it’s common, but I’ve never seen Ohio State do it.
Here's video of Meyer's post-practice press conference.