Ah, the spring. It's so nice to see the flowers in bloom, the air warming, and Urban Meyer relentlessly hating on his team.
Every year at Ohio State, Urban Meyer has something bad to say about the team during spring practice. In 2012, it was the lack of playmakers. In 2013, it was a search for leadership. Last year, the team needed to learn how to get the job done.
One might think winning a national championship would buy the Buckeyes some leisure time. No such luck, as Meyer has said all of the following about his team this spring:
- "There’s a little discomfort right now because it was not a good day."
- "It was a bad tackling day — we were incredible at that last year and it was awful today."
- "There are bodies there [at defensive tackle], but they've got to get better."
- "...Sometimes [the offensive and defensive line] just looks really bad and today was not a pleasant one."
- "We're not very good right now."
Urban Meyer is simply not one for praise in the springtime. He hates where the team is, one way or another, and that dissatisfaction has led to a 38-3 record in Columbus.
Compare Meyer to someone like Illinois head coach Tim Beckman. Beckman is effusive in praise for his team, tweeting banalities like "Had a great spring break, now back to work! Getting after it this morning" and "Team is ready to put some hard work in!"
Beckman has to do this because he is 12-25 at Illinois and hanging on by a thread. He needs all the good feng shui energy in the world to keep boosters happy and avoid getting fired; thus the forced cheer. There is no need for forced enthusiasm in Columbus.
To see what a nightmarish spring looks like, see Alabama. So far this offseason, the Crimson Tide have dismissed three players following arrests, and another has suffered a torn ACL. One of the dismissed athletes was a problem partially of Nick Saban's making: he vouched for a transfer (Jonathan Taylor) with an arrest record who promptly embarrassed Alabama by being arrested on domestic violence charges. It's what coaches euphemistically call "distractions".
There have not been any of what coaches euphemistically call "distractions" in Columbus. There have been no drug busts for the Buckeyes, no players kicked off the team, and few injuries. To the latter point, Ohio State is operating in a position of luxury. A cap of 2,000 reps per player in the spring is intended to reduce wear and tear, and it largely has. The players still practicing are the younger and less accomplished players, which could explain why Meyer is seemingly disgusted by their play.
Ohio State's foe this offseason is complacency. The theory is that if players start to feel a creeping sense of entitlement – as was the case at Florida after championships in 2006 and 2008 – the program will suffer. Creating a safeguard against laziness is the goal of the criticism.
"How do you somehow create that, with the leadership on your team, how do you create that?" Meyer said after a recent practice. "Because complacent and entitled teams can be really, really bad. A team that somehow has a chip on its shoulder like this team did is going to be the essence of the season."
At this time of year, Meyer is a bona fide hater. Come the fall, that derision usually leads to success on the football field.