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Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

MeyerUrban Meyer’s first Ohio State fall camp is approaching the halfway point, and with a little help from ESPN, OSU fans are getting an intimate inside look at everything from the practice routines to the locker rooms. The depth chart is changing as some of the incoming freshmen show their stuff early, and Meyer has been busy implementing some of his own new touches to the time-honored traditions of Ohio State football.

Kissing and Making Up

Just slightly over a year ago, ESPN was suing Ohio State for the release of internal emails related to the myriad scandals that rocked the program in 2011. Fans of the OSU football program were furious at what they considered nothing short of a vendetta of some sort by the sports network against (take your pick) Ohio State, the Big Ten, or their nascent competitor, the Big Ten Network.

The perception was, and in many quarters still is, that ESPN had treated the Ohio State case with far more negative scrutiny and coverage than they had been able to summon for what many considered far more serious scandals elsewhere. In the course of their lawsuit against the university, ESPN had claimed OSU was “aggressive and misguided” as well as “equal parts cynical and hypocritical” in their withholding of the requested emails.

But all that stuff is so 2011.

On August 2, the university announced that ESPN would be granted unprecedented access to Ohio State training and practice facilities, players and coaching staff, and would produce “four, 30-minute specials on ESPNU (August 14-17), a five-part series across College Football Live (August 19-23) and a one-hour special on ESPN (August 22).”  

The regular OSU beat media took a back seat to the ESPN cameras and crews for the first two weeks of fall camp, getting somewhat less than normal face time with Buckeye players and coaches, but things should return to normal now that the shows are in the can. If the first episode in the series is any indication, the show should be a huge hit with followers of the Buckeyes and a masterstroke of welcome PR for Meyer and his program. Ramzy from 11W called the overwhelmingly positive first “All Access” show on Tuesday  “the weirdest make-up sex in the history of make-up sex.”  Apparently, all is forgiven. Was it good for you too?

One additional positive result of this newly-flowering romance was an outstanding profile of Urban Meyer by Wright Thompson of ESPN the Magazine, a piece of writing well worth your time if you’re a fan of OSU or college football in general.


Playing Angry

One of Meyer’s repeated themes of this camp has been that he wants “a hungry team... a team that can’t wait to get out there.” He goes a step further, saying that he leads an “angry staff”, and he wants “an angry team...I want a pissed off football team”. This is something he is seen saying on ESPN video, and it is detailed in a piece by Scout’s Jeff Svoboda. Meyer cites his 2006 Florida Gators as a team motivated by a certain chip on its shoulder, and he hopes his 2012 Buckeyes will play “pissed off” as a group.  

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Last summer, several OSU players spoke of how being “pissed off” about what they had been through was going to be motivating them on the field. If that anger was a factor in how the team performed last season, it was not discernible from where I was sitting. I can’t say I ever saw any evidence that this approach was embraced or encouraged by Luke Fickell though. In hindsight, maybe he should have tried, and for all we know, maybe he did try, out of view of the public.

I’m sure Urban Meyer will do all he can to harness and then channel the pent-up emotion, frustration and anger still felt by some of his Buckeye players in a positive direction. While the “us-against-the-world” thing isn’t exactly a novel motivational ploy, I wish him all the best in that project, if he feels it can help the team maintain an edge. It’s worth noting too, that Meyer can be seen in the ESPN show exhorting his players to “calm down” and to “have fun out there”, so it’s clearly not “all angry all the time”.


The Black Stripes

Spence3Meyer ran two separate practices the first day of for returning players and one for incoming freshmen. And while the two groups came together following that first weekend off, there is now in place a fairly formal rite of passage for the first year players to officially become Buckeyes.

Meyer considers the hazing of freshmen to be silly and dangerous, but he wants there to be some ritual to mark the moment when a freshman becomes part of the team. Freshman players must wear a black stripe of tape down the middle of their helmets, as a reminder that they still have something to learn about what it means to be a Buckeye. That can relate to how hard they work in practice as well as their conduct off the field and around campus.

Each freshman is overseen by a “big brother”, an established upperclassman teammate from his position group, assigned to show the freshman the ropes and help him get acclimated to the program. The black tape can only be removed when the player’s position coach and his big brother agree that he is ready to be a part of the team. The removal of the tape is usually done in ceremonial fashion in front of the whole team, with the involvement of the big brother and the coach. As you might imagine, the players love it.

Devan Bogard, the safety from Glenville, was the first freshman in this year’s class to have his black stripe removed...followed in order by defensive end Noah Spence, (pictured) defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, and on Tuesday, offensive tackle Taylor Decker.


Camp Notes

-  Jake Stoneburner has been working with the wide receivers, and Meyer has acknowledged his position shift from tight end. This might be seen as reflecting the coaches’ feelings about their two young tight ends, Jeff Heurerman and Nick Vannett, both of whom have been singled out for praise. It may also be a reflection of their dissatisfaction with their wide receiver group. Either way, we will see Stoneburner and another tight end on the field together. Whether he is working out of the slot or from the TE position, Stoneburner figures to present matchup problems for linebackers and safeties because of his combination of size and speed.

Dunn7- Nate Williams is hoping to be ready to play in September after missing almost all of 2011 with microfracture surgery on his knee. John Simon has been in the ‘Leo’ end position in his absence, but now sophomore Steve Miller and true freshman Noah Spence are showing well at Leo, and could free up Simon to play inside, or at the strongside end spot. Spence is one freshman who will certainly play early, and can add pass rush capability to a unit that needs it. Another freshman defensive lineman who is clearly going to play early and often is Adolphus Washington. He is already in the two-deep at the 3-technique tackle, ready to spell Johnathan Hankins and jump right into the regular rotation.

- The true freshman linebackers have stood out, and several of them could be familiar names by the time October rolls around. Jamal Marcus and Josh Perry have been alternating reps with the second unit behind Etienne Sabino at the Sam linebacker spot. Meyer loves Marcus’ full-go approach to everything, even though he still doesn’t always know where he’s going. Luke Roberts enrolled early, had an excellent spring, and is backing up the starters at both MLB and in the weakside (Will) LB role. David Perkins has also been mentioned by Meyer when asked about freshmen who are standing out. He’s working at the Will position, and will almost certainly be used on special teams. Cam Williams is repping at MLB and is another candidate for early special teams duty

- Returning players who have made marked improvement this fall include defensive tackle Joel Hale, currently listed as the backup to Garrett Goebel at nose tackle, end Steve Miller, and redshirt freshman Conner Crowell, who is currently #2 on the depth chart behind Curtis Grant at MLB. Safety Christian Bryant is another returning starter coming off an injury-plagued season and he is reportedly looking ready to take it up a notch in what looks like a very strong secondary. And emerging sophomore Michael Bennett is listed as the starter at the strongside DE spot.  

DevinSmith1- The coaches love the speed and athleticism of Najee Murray, the freshman corner from Steubenville. Murray has been mentioned as a possible candidate for some work on offense, but for now he will concentrate on his job in the secondary, where he is already close to being in the two-deep. And sophomore Doran Grant has been making progress in his bid to unseat Travis Howard as the starting cornerback opposite Bradley Roby.

- In the absence of Jordan Hall for fall camp (and probably the first game or two), Carlos Hyde has grabbed the starting tailback spot, and Meyer has expressed his pleasure with how Hyde has looked. He has dropped a few pounds, to 235, and has firmed up his body and increased his quickness. Rod Smith and freshman Bri’onte Dunn (#25 above) are competing for the backup spot behind Hyde, and freshman Warren Ball rounds out a very deep unit.

- A group of four wide receivers has begun to separate themselves from the pack, and if there were a game tomorrow, Devin Smith (#15 at right) at split end, Evan Spencer at flanker, Philly Brown in the slot, and backup split end freshman Mike Thomas would be the guys you’d see on the field first. (Add Stoneburner to that group, now that he has been redefined as a WR).

- The offensive line starters remain unchanged from spring ball, with only the right tackle spot still up in the air between converted tight end Reid Fragel and freshman Taylor Decker. Both starting guards, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall have been the objects of praise from coach Ed Warinner for their improvement over last season. Center Corey Linsley and left tackle Jack Mewhort are two of the best players on the entire offense, and probably the two most difficult to replace in the event of an injury.


2012 Ohio State Roster


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(photo credits - Jim Davidson and Dan Harker -


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