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Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Drums OSUIt’s a relatively quiet time for the OSU football program, if there is such a thing anymore. The players are working at winter conditioning under the demanding direction of new OSU "toughness" guru Mickey Marotti. If you can go by their plaintive tweets, they are being taxed to the max, and living for the blessed relief of the weekend. It’s no secret that Meyer was not happy with what he saw in the OSU players’ overall conditioning in 2011, and everyone is expecting a leaner, more fit group of Buckeyes in the fall....those that survive, that is.

The coaching staff has turned their recruiting focus to the class of 2013, and the program is playing host to a number of top junior recruits this weekend. The other Big Ten coaches have been spotted cowering in dark corners across the Midwest. Tickets are already on sale for the Spring Game on April 21st, and I understand they are moving briskly. Don’t underestimate the appeal of a football season that promises to be primarily about football.

Projecting 2013

A couple of adjustments to future Ohio State schedules were announced this week, adding a date with the University of Buffalo to complete the 2013 slate, and also placing Cincinnati on the 2018 schedule, replacing a game previously set for 2012, but cancelled last year by mutual agreement.

For all the grief OSU took in Tressel’s tenure for scheduling out-of-conference pushovers on its September slate, the Tressel era, with rare exceptions, was actually noted for tough early season match-ups, featuring home-and home series with the likes of Texas, USC and Miami, and single games with Washington and UCLA since Y2K. Looking forward, the scheduling has Ohio State doing more of the same over the next ten years, including 2-game sets with Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Georgia, with somewhat lesser opponents North Carolina and California also on the future schedule twice each. All that said, the first glance at 2013 has to make Meyer smile.

With Buffalo now in place as the final cupcake on the 2013 slate, it looks like Meyer’s first year to to compete for something beyond moral victories shapes up favorably, to say the least. Jeff Tedford’s Cal Bears probably look less formidable today than they did when they were scheduled a few years ago, but even at that, they represent the closest thing to a challenge on the non-conference schedule for 2013.  

Consider, a non-con slate of Vanderbilt, Florida A&M, at Cal, and Buffalo. The Big Ten road contests that year are at Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan, while Nebraska and Michigan State rotate off the schedule altogether. The game in Ann Arbor is the only one of the twelve in which the Buckeyes could conceivably be an underdog. Give Meyer a full year and a second recruiting class under his belt at Ohio State, and the expectations for his 2013 Buckeyes will be sky-high...a BCS game at worst, and national title game contention if all goes well. No pressure, Urban.

Marotti3rWinning is a Habit

Observers of Meyer’s offseason conditioning program are noticing one thing that is in sharp contrast to previous years. Everything is about competition...from the the the drills. Winners are rewarded and losers are punished...with laps or extra work. (OSU's Mickey Marotti pictured at right)

It is often said that a team takes on the personality of its coach, and that could surely be said of Jim Tressel’s Buckeye teams. They were conservative in their approach on both sides of the ball, and not overly excitable (for better or for worse). Tresselball, as it came to be called, was at once maddening and effective, succeeding at an 82% rate for a decade while frustrating fans wanting to see Ohio State’s athletes unleashed.

It is way too soon to say whether the aggressive, ultra-competitive, refuse-to-be-outworked approach of Urban Meyer will generate better results on the field, or how soon his teams will come to reflect his personality. But there is no doubt at all that there is a different mindset at work in Columbus going forward, and eventually it will be evident in the product we see on autumn Saturdays.


thadmatta1Thad Matta’s 3rd-ranked Buckeyes (21-3) can look like as good as any team in college basketball when they are playing their best, but in order to compete for the national championship, they’ll have to show way more consistency. Among the questions about OSU’s status as a championship caliber team in 2012....Can they survive in the tournament without the 3-point shooting they had last year?...Can they overcome not being a very strong (69.6%) free-throw shooting team?...and ...Holy crap, have you seen Kentucky play lately?

The Buckeyes’ reputation as a solid defensive team was tarnished a little on Tuesday night, when a sharp-shooting Purdue Boilermakers squad scored 84 points against them in a three-point OSU win in Columbus. But as a rule, Matta’s recent teams play great defense, and they do it without fouling. In their home win against Michigan, no Wolverine shot a free throw until there were less than three minutes remaining in the game. Again against Wisconsin five days later, the first Badger free throw came at the 6:46 mark of the second half. That kind of defense can make up for some of the 3-point shooting this team lacks.

Edit: Then they go out and lay a big fat egg at home against Michigan State, and you wonder if they have what it takes to even get to the Sweet 16.

Bring it On

When Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics came under fire from a couple of other Big Ten coaches, Athletic Director Gene Smith and Meyer acted quickly to confront and refute the vague accusations. As it turned out there was precious little substance to address. Meyer not only shot down the suggestion that he had done anything wrong in landing the commitments of Kyle Dodson and SeVon Pittman for Ohio State, but he fired a shot across the bow of the Big Ten coaching fraternity that more of the same was coming.

It’s mostly over with, and really  Ramzy and Tony Gerdeman have already done the heavy lifting, but I still feel the need to go there.  

Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State were both stung by Meyer when they couldn’t close on northeast Ohio kids Dodson and Pittman, respectively, after getting their verbal pledges. Although Dantonio backtracked at the Big Ten coaches meeting, saying that he had been misquoted and had said nothing about Meyer or Ohio State, this Detroit News report says otherwise.

Dantonio3rBob Wojnowski of the News says Dantonio (pictured) was “especially irritated” by losing Pittman, and quoted him saying "They've got a new coach, and it's different.  I would say it's pretty unethical, in the end."  I think that’s enough “context” to gather he was talking about Ohio State. What Dantonio means is that relations aren’t as cozy with Ohio State since they fired his good friend Jim Tressel, and he longs for the good old days.

Dantonio preferred to walk it back later I guess, because to press the issue would require him to explain how his hosting of Badger commit Dodson on a visit in January was any different than Meyer pursuing Pittman...especially since it appears Pittman was the pursuer as much as he was the pursued.

Bielema’s over-publicized bitch was equally devoid of seriousness. He claimed to have contacted Meyer over what he thought was a recruiting impropriety of some sort, and without giving any details, said it had been “rectified”. Bielema may have been victimized by some bad journalism, because the reporter implies he was unhappy about losing Dodson without any quotes from the Badger coach to back that up.

Still it wasn’t long before Bielema’s own athletic director Barry Alvarez would tweet him under the bus, saying Meyer had done nothing wrong in continuing to recruit Dodson. Even Brady Hoke is apparently aware that, when coaching and other circumstances change, 18-year olds sometimes change their minds.

All of which led to the unrepentant Urban Meyer firing that warning shot. Speaking at a high school coaching clinic two days after signing day, Meyer responded to the whining: "You're pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we got nine guys who better go do it it a little harder next time."

This of course warms the cockles of a Buckeye fan’s heart, regardless of how he felt about Urban Meyer five years ago.

2012 Class Complete

The last potential piece to Meyer’s 2012 recruiting class, Olney, MD wide receiver Stefon Diggs, ended up committing to Maryland after keeping fans from Florida, OSU, and Auburn well past signing day waiting for his big announcement. Like Ohioans Dodson and Pittman, he ultimately decided to stay home to play football. Or maybe it was because of the uniforms.

Meyer has publicly lamented the lack of offensive playmakers on this OSU roster, and Diggs would have been a nice addition, but I suspect Meyer will be pleasantly surprised with some of his wide receiver talent once he gets a good look at it running in his offense. And he has already added one major offensive playmaker for 2013 in Middletown’s Jalin Marshall.

Speaking of 2013, Meyer says they are “knee deep” in the evaluation of next year’s prospects. Rivals has released their rankings of the Top 100, and Buckeye Grove has a summary of the kids OSU is looking at. And there’s more here from BG on the OSU prospects in the Rivals list of Nos.101-250.

Proving Ground

For all I know it’s entirely coincidental, but it’s interesting how many members of Meyer’s coaching staff attended small D-III or FCS (1-AA) schools. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman (Cal Lutheran), running backs coach Stan Drayton (Allegheny College), offensive line coach Ed Warinner (Mount Union), tight ends coach Tim Hinton (Wilmington College), secondary coach Bill Sheridan (Grand Valley State) and defensive coordinator Everett Withers (Appalachian St.) all come from smaller school backgrounds. If nothing else it shows that a small school start isn’t a hindrance to success at the highest level of D-1 football.


2012 ScheduleIn case you missed it...among the many things changing under Urban Meyer is the way the head coach refers to our rival to the north. Meyer has decided to go back to Woody's way. So be it. 





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