Ohio State Focused on Constant Improvement

By Kyle Rowland on March 5, 2014 at 9:15a
28 Comments

The calendar reads March, which brings average temperatures in the 50s in Columbus. But snowy owls remain a more common sight than cardinals. In a winter that’s contained few breaks from gruesome weather, spring suddenly sprung on the campus of Ohio State.

Tuesday marked the first of 15 spring practice for the Buckeyes. And just three days removed from brain surgery, head coach Urban Meyer oversaw a group with the usual expectations – win, and win often.

Using a soft voice and no whistle, Meyer offered encouragement to quarterbacks, observed the secondary and chatted up freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger. The past two seasons included frenetic activity and an unmistakable booming voice. The absence of yelling Tuesday was due to a procedure to ease headaches Meyer’s been experiencing from a cyst that was discovered in 1998.

There was still constant motion, but doctors told Meyer no screaming and no blowing a whistle. After years of being stubborn, he opted to obey orders.

“I had Fernando [Lovo] blowing the whistle today, but it didn’t sound very good,” Meyer said, with a smile. “It didn’t sound the same. So I’ll be back after spring break. You’ll hear it again.”

All Ohio State fans care about is whether Meyer will win the national championship again, this time at the helm of the Buckeyes. The first day of spring practice didn’t yield many results – especially without Braxton Miller. However, slowly but surely the team’s nucleus will be formed.

Meyer’s 24-2 in two seasons in Columbus. But when the two are the most recent games, it tends to cause issues.

“I felt we had a ‘what if’ defense last year. I saw it from our coaches, I saw it from our players.”– Urban Meyer

Another highly ranked recruiting class signals a surplus of talent, but Ohio State’s never been lacking in that area. Meyer believes attitude was the central cause of the Buckeyes’ late-season unraveling. They became entitled after a 12-0 year gave way to a school-record 24-game win streak, he said. This season, Meyer prefers an angry, blue-collar team.

“I felt we had a ‘what if’ defense last year,” he said. “’What if they did this or that?’ I saw it from our coaches, I saw it from our players. What I'm looking for is simplicity and four to six seconds going hard.”

Ohio State welcomes two new coaches – Larry Johnson and Chris Ash – to help sort out and correct the problems. But perhaps the matter can be solved with Meyer’s involvement. He said he’ll be an active participant. When Meyer helped out with the defense two years ago, the unit saw steady improvement.

Last year’s ghastly details are known, and coverage breakdowns, communication, etc. will be addressed during the spring, but Meyer’s more focused on setting a positive tone and witnessing his team play motivated and with a purpose.

“I felt like we lost something on defense,” Meyer said, referencing the past two seasons.

The process of finding their way begins with four new starters. The one who’s filling the biggest shoes turned the most heads. Darron Lee is charged with replacing Ryan Shazier, if such a thing is even possible. Shazier’s production the past two seasons put him on par with some of the program’s all-time greats at the position. Lee’s doing his best to smooth the transition.

“He deserves it,” Meyer said of Lee’s status as a starter. “He’s got all the skills. His negative was that he played quarterback at New Albany. We just have to get him ready to play.”

That should be a non-issue when it comes to true freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan. It took all of one practice for Meyer to come away impressed by the nation’s top linebacker recruit.

“Very positive of what I saw,” Meyer said. “He did a really good job. Very mature. For a shorts practice, he did enough where I was.”

In all, Ohio State lost 10 starters from last year, with the most significant departures coming on the offensive line, where only Taylor Decker returns. Establishing a workmanlike approach on both sides of the ball is the objective during spring. A relentless effort wasn’t always noticeable last season, according to Meyer.

Finishing became a glaring weakness in the final two games. Consider it addressed. Winter workouts proved effective. For 30 minutes on Tuesday, the Buckeyes continuously ran a version of the hurry-up offense, rotating in fresh players as the defense huffed and puffed.  

“I’m not going to be ignorant like I was before,” Meyer said. “If something happens, I’m going to get it fixed.”

That statement was about his health. But it also fits when interpreting Meyer’s view of the defense. He believes both concerns have been corrected.  

28 Comments

Comments

buckeyestu's picture

I will not be surprised that Kwon starts the first game. He is my favorite player.

+2 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

He is your favorite player?....without even PRACTICING in pads yet....OK.......

Go Bucks!

-2 HS
BuckeyeSouth's picture

So you can't have a favorite player if they haven't yet worn pads in practice yet?  I had no idea.

Embrace it.

+4 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

I didn't mean to insult a fellow Buckeye fan. I was just surprised after looking at his profile...him being a life long Bucks fan with players listed like Archie, Eddie, and Spielman as some of his favorite players I was just surprised to see him say that Kwon was his favorite player. It just seemed odd to me to say a freshman who has never played a down at OSU is your favorite player after seeing his list. I thought maybe he knew Kwon or something and  I just left the...ok.... thinking he would explain why. No Offense Ment.

Go Bucks!

D-Day0043's picture

What worries me is when Meyer trusted his assistants on defense to do their jobs they failed. That means he will have to be more proactive overseeing the defense. He told everyone he wasn't trusting people to do their jobs and that caused him to get burnt out and Florida. 

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+6 HS
ODEEZ330's picture

Darron lee starting is a nice surprise. Was unreal at New Albany

O'Deez330
stark county football

+5 HS
seafus26's picture

I wanna see this Jeff Greene in live action and pads. Mega-Buck

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+4 HS
buckeye_heart's picture

Sounds like McMillan maybe the real deal and has that football IQ. Second coming of the Big Kat?

+2 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

I am thinking that after the first couple of games Meyer will trust Ash with the results we should get. To me it sounds like the team as a whole thought they were actually better than what they were. And the secondary must have always thought 'oh well, our offense will score". I worried big time after the celebration on the bus when Bama lost. To me they were looking past MSU. That will all change now.

zacisone's picture

I want to see what Coach Ash and Coach Johnson brings. Unless I miss my bet, they will be lights out! Go Bucks!

Zacisone

+1 HS
Wesleyburgess1's picture

I have a felling thos defense is going to be a tuff one

Wesleyburgess1's picture

I have a felling thos defense is going to be a tuff one

+1 HS
steveoz49's picture

I'm not sure why but Darron Lee is a surprise to me.  Anyone else feel the same way?

+2 HS
Buckeye06's picture

Of course it's a surprise, which is why Meyer had to comment on it.  Everyone assumed Johnson would get that spot, and not a former QB/Safety 3* from Ohio. 

Also, I don't know if he gets 1 minute of thought from anyone outside the coaches. 

+1 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

Yea, I just figured it would be Johnson...from everything I'd heard.

Go Bucks!

Hovenaut's picture

Even with all the challenges ahead (fixing the defense, breaking in a new offensive line, etc), and while Urban has done an excellent job in his first two years, I think 2014 is where we see he really has his hooks into the program.

We may not see it at the beginning, but I'm hoping the machine gets in gear by conference season, with Ohio State football right where we hope it to be by season's end.

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

I don't remember where I heard it but I thought you never counted a coach's first two years.  It was the third year when he had his players (and the one's that made it from the previous coach) and his system implemented.  So I'm eager to see what year 3 brings.

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I agree, but a coach of Urb's stature coming to a town like Columbus and all...

2012 was phenomenal, all things considered, last season was tough but an honest dose of reality.

Again, there's some reloading/retooling to be done, but I believe Meyer is entering a key season this year. I'm going nuts by mid-August, and it's going to be even tougher a wait the next few months.

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

Earle's picture

I'm pretty sure it was Jim Tressel who said that.

Earle's picture

I am so disappointed that nobody saw and/or got this.

Oyster's picture

Maybe you should have used more emphasis in your post...

Earle's picture

Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

dubjayfootball90's picture

I am just so gosh darn happy...

+3 HS
Dayton Buckeye's picture

Saw where they were not thrilled with Johnson's work ethic.  I hope he turns it around. He is very talented, but nothing is given to you at OSU.

Kurt's picture

I'm tired of these blue collar teams.  Time for a team to openly embrace being white collar.

Chadding Tatum's picture

I remember thinking it was a little premature when Urban said on signing day how the '14 class of linebackers would HAVE to play next year. With Mitchell gone and now Lee taking first team reps in front of Johnson, that comment makes a lot more sense. Probably unfair to call Mitchell a 'miss' but Urban can't be pleased with two highly touted guys making zero impact so far. Obviously Johnson is still on the team and could still put it together, but questions about work ethic don't lead me to be too optimistic. Here's hoping Lee and/or the incoming freshman don't make us miss Shazier too much. 

bigbill992001's picture

Theres been TWO constants with the D the past couple yrs.   Meyer AND Fickell.   I loved me some Fickell as a player, and maybe he's a good recruiter, but as a DC.........not so much.   Even Co-DC.

rayjack01's picture

Joey Bosa was my favorite player last year before he ever played a game with the Buckeyes, but I did see him play a high school game on TV. Mike Mitchell was going to be one of my favorites and I have never seen him play and unfortunately it looks like I will not. What a bummer.