Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Talking points: Gearing up for media days
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Timing is everything, and Ohio State couldn't have picked a worse moment to slip up publicly.
The spotlight was already going to be intense on the Buckeyes given their rock star coach, an undefeated record last season and the freedom from NCAA sanctions that locked them out of a bowl game in 2012.
But instead of talking about a potential run to a national title, Braxton Miller's chances of winning a Heisman Trophy or Bradley Roby's decision to return for another season with the program, the Buckeyes are likely going to be on the defensive when Big Ten Media Days kick off on Wednesday in Chicago.
Thanks to Roby's own part in various brushes with the law over the last week, the redshirt junior won't even be on hand. But given how closely those issues bump up to the annual preseason event for the league, the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer might now wind up facing more questions about off-the-field matters than actual football.
Meyer will be joined by Miller, senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort and safety Christian Bryant over the next couple days. And before leaving for the Windy City, here's a primer on the hot topics for each.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will likely have to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions at Big Ten media days.
He can make news by offering his thoughts on just about anything related to the game, but there will be a few specific conversation pieces that will be the focus when Meyer is on the podium this year. His track record for discipline at Florida and his ties to Aaron Hernandez -- charged with murder in Massachusetts -- are bound to come up again. And his Gators past will likely stay in the picture after Will Muschamp took a shot at Ohio State for turning in his program for a possible recruiting violation. With the latest developments for his current roster, expect a heavy dose of questions about Carlos Hyde's future with the program and possible discipline for Roby -- even if Meyer likely won't have an answer as the investigations continue.
Typically averse to all the attention that comes with being the starting quarterback at Ohio State and competing for the biggest individual awards in the game, the junior will have nowhere to hide in Chicago. And he'll be one of the biggest attractions among the players at the event after finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year and leading an unbeaten season as a sophomore. Miller has proven as skilled at avoiding questions about his personal success as he is at avoiding opposing defenders, and that will be put to the test. It could be revealing to see how much progression he believes he's made in the spread offense with another spring camp and summer to absorb all the responsibilities.
Already anointed as the player Meyer expects to be the "heart and soul" of the Buckeyes this fall, Mewhort is going to be repeatedly asked about setting the tone as a leader and to offer his thoughts on the recent troubles for Roby and Hyde. After his own offseason incident a year ago, Mewhort should bring an interesting perspective to the way Meyer has handled discipline and his roster. From a football perspective, returning along with three other senior starters on the offensive line and the potential advantage that gives the Buckeyes will be a recurring storyline.
His inclusion was unplanned, but the late addition of Bryant makes it even more clear that the senior safety is heading toward captaincy this fall. While Roby's status will probably be unsettled, it still seems unlikely that he'll miss much time this season, which will continue to allow Bryant to talk about the veteran depth and talent in the Ohio State secondary. A feared hitter, he's also going to be asked over and over about the rules change for targeting offensive players and how that might impact his game.