Urban Meyer knew exactly what he had to work with. He just needed to see it in action to truly believe his initial thought.
"I've done this long enough, I can see a talented player when we have one, and we have a bunch of them," Meyer said Saturday minutes after Ohio State's 77-10 annihilation of Bowling Green. "But I just wanted to see them perform in the arena."
The Buckeyes said 30 players saw action for the first time in their college football careers on Saturday. Meyer's program shelled out arguably the best NFL Draft class ever this past spring, while those left behind waited with eagerness to show the world what they could do. The Spring Game provided a tiny peek but some players missed with injuries and the majority of the 2016 recruiting class did not arrive on campus until June.
The youth in Meyer's program dominated headlines for weeks that turned into months after Ohio State downed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl 44-28 on New Year's Day. It busted out of its chains six months later for the real thing, even though Ohio State set a record with more than 100,000 people at its spring game in April.
“Let's not put the cart before the horse and start anointing anyone.”– Urban Meyer
"I don't want to devalue that opportunity to do that," Meyer said.
But now with the first breath of excitement behind them in the form of a record-setting performance, Meyer wants his players to show they can do it again. And again. And again.
Tulsa visits Columbus this coming Saturday, then the Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma. Big Ten play follows as the schedule slowly intensifies, with road matchups at Wisconsin, Penn State and finally Michigan State lying on the horizon.
"It's one game," Meyer said. "Let's chat in about four weeks now see how we're doing."
Smiles were everywhere during postgame interviews — players like Malik Hooker, Damon Webb, Jalyn Holmes and Curtis Samuel spoke excitedly about their new, featured roles in Ohio State's plan to win games. More than 770 total yards and 41 first downs coupled with the Buckeye defense only allowing three points with three interceptions made the haze over interviews a positive.
"Just trying to keep progressing. We're not downgrading, we're just reloading," Webb said.
"It's been a long time coming," Hooker added. "Like Coach Meyer said, there were some times where I thought about leaving because when you first come in and you're not playing, you start to think that it's not for you. My mom helped me stick it out and everything and it ended up working out."
Hooker's two interceptions provided outstanding highlights for Luke Fickell's defense. The Falcons won the MAC last year but lost multiple essential pieces before Mike Jinks' first game as head coach. They were efficiently overwhelmed by the Buckeyes, who scored 11 touchdowns and still had room for improvement.
Barrett threw an interception that Brandon Harris returned for a touchdown to give Bowling Green an early lead. He almost tossed another one in the second quarter. Ohio State committed nine penalties and the Falcons missed chances to stay close with a handful of drops.
Still, Ohio State dominated. That won't always be the case once the competition kicks up in a few short weeks, especially if the Buckeyes are unable to stay healthy. Their defensive line rotation is now short two players after Tracy Sprinkle's knee injury. Darius Slade ruptured his Achilles during camp and offensive lineman Malcolm Pridgeon underwent season-ending knee surgery. That gives plenty for Meyer to prod at both his staff and players.
"Our backup offensive line concerns the heck out of me," Meyer said.
That group has more than capable bodies for Greg Studrawa to work with to establish depth. The first five played well Saturday but concern lingered when Jamarco Jones went down with an injury. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, he returned after only suffering a cramp.
Players slid in and out of the lineup as if they went through a revolving door without the production dropping off much. Game 1 excitement yielded major results from all areas.
"Just run our base plays and know it's going to get to everybody and we rotate a lot of guys," Barrett said. "Now being that we're so deep at receiver it's really not the mindset of let's get it to that one person."
The coaching staff shouldn't find too much to gripe about with a 67-point victory in the books to start the 2016 slate. It knew the players it brought to Columbus were extremely skilled. Now that they have one game under its belt, the routine of games every week are inching to the forefront.
The time to fine tune the mistakes and improve depth is in full swing. The ability to establish consistent dominance showed Saturday grows with each passing day.
If it doesn't happen, the Buckeyes won't reach the ultimate goal of competing for a Big Ten Championship.
"Let's not put the cart before the horse and start anointing anyone," Meyer said. "They played pretty good. Other than that, we'll watch film. I'll get to you on Monday and tell you really how they played."