Ohio State Buckeyes: Ohio State football

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nationally, Bradley Roby is a first-teamer with an All-American honor to show for it last season.

Bradley Roby
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY SportsOhio State cornerback Bradley Roby is working with the second team until further notice.
But on his team at Ohio State, he's currently just a second-string cornerback.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer still hasn't announced a punishment that could conceivably include Roby missing a game or two after his arrest for an incident in an Indiana bar last month. But if his practice reps during Wednesday's open workout are any indication, the Buckeyes are either planning for life without him for a few weeks, sending a message that no spot on the roster is set in stone -- or both.

"I feel like it’s a humbling experience for him," senior safety Christian Bryant said. "Just him stepping down with the twos right now, I feel like it’s to show an example just because he was a starter last year and nothing is guaranteed.

"I feel like he’s doing a pretty good job of taking that role, understanding what he needs to do and showing the young guys that he doesn’t have a problem with it."

However, Roby is still causing some issues for quarterbacks and receivers. While he may have looked out of place with the reserves, the redshirt junior continued to produce the kind of plays that earned him so much attention last fall.

Twice in the red zone he flashed the speed and instincts that make him so dangerous to passers by jumping routes, including one leaping interception of a pass near the sideline from backup quarterback Kenny Guiton. The other breakup could have easily been a pick as well, and after muffing the grab, Roby immediately dropped to the turf and cranked out 10 pushups to punish himself.

That discipline, of course, should pale in comparison to what Meyer may have in store for him for the misdemeanor battery charges after an altercation with a security guard at a bar. But for now, nothing has been made public -- aside from the loss of a starting spot on the practice field.

"Just still waiting to find out all the information," Meyer said Tuesday. "I can’t tell you what [the timetable] is, because I’m just waiting to get the word what it is."

Until then, Roby will continue to make life difficult for anybody trying to pick on the second-team defense.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Winning a job on the field might be the easy part for Taylor Decker.

Surviving the hazing process of becoming a sophomore starter for an Ohio State offensive line stocked with four seniors may be the bigger hurdle the talented right tackle will face during training camp this month.

There are the nicknames Decker can’t reveal publicly. And then there are jokes about his long hair and questions about whether he’s got the right sense of humor to fit in with the veterans. And as guard Andrew Norwell reminded him with one raucous wrestling match outside the locker room during the offseason, there are also some physical tests, including those off the field, that must be passed during the rite of passage into the starting lineup.

“It’s like the little brother thing for us,” left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “He definitely gets his fair share of garbage from the older guys.

“He’s kind of like the baby brother. He’s bigger than all of us, but he’s the baby -- but we love him.”

The wise cracks and good-natured ribbing actually help make it clear that Decker is welcomed with open arms by the closest position group on the roster.

The Buckeyes bring back more experience and skill than just about any unit in the country up front, though the one hole at right tackle after the graduation of Reid Fragel left some uncertainty and caused some hand-wringing during spring practice for offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

Decker was always the heir apparent for the job after pushing Fragel for it during training camp a year ago as a true freshman, but by his own admission, he didn’t make a convincing enough case when practice ended in April to lock down that role heading into the summer. But as he integrated himself with the tight-knit veterans while continuing to develop a 6-foot-7, 315-pound frame that makes the little brother the tallest and stoutest of the bunch, Decker steadily won over the seniors in building his case as the final piece of the puzzle.

And while still not definitively a starter or finished product, the Buckeyes are already seeing how some of the tests Decker faced over the summer are paying off in August.

“It’s not really been anything too bad,” Decker said. “Honestly, a lot of the times they’re really helpful and just bringing me up the ranks and teaching me how to be an Ohio State lineman. They’re great guys, and since I’ve been here, they’ve been great to me. I’m like a little brother to them, and they joke around with me, but to be said in the same sentence with them would be a huge honor.

“I don’t want to be the right tackle just because I’m the only one there. I want to earn coach’s trust, earn the trust of the guys on the line because they’re great players and I don’t want to be detrimental to their season. I want to help them, because they’re great players and they deserve a great season.”

That’s obviously the expectation in general for a team that will enter the season ranked No. 2 in the nation, but the line specifically is being counted on to be the top unit in at least the Big Ten, charged with protecting quarterback Braxton Miller and building on a year ago, when it was wildly productive in opening holes for the rushing attack.

The Buckeyes already know what they’re getting with four guys who started every game a year ago and have accomplished résumés to show for it. The next step is figuring out who could handle the responsibility of being the fifth member of the band, and the veterans apparently handled some of the auditions themselves.

“Oh yeah, we do that on purpose,” Warinner said. “But it’s all loving. ... There’s an age gap in there, and at the end of the day, he is an offensive lineman and he’s really starting to grow into that unit.

“Those older guys, they pick on him like he’s their little brother. But if anybody else messed with him, they’d jump all over it.”

Official starter at this point or not, that bond might be the surest sign yet Decker is part of the family.

Position preview: Wide receivers

August, 6, 2013
Breaking down the Ohio State roster as training camp starts to heat up and the program turns its attention to the opener on Aug. 31 against Buffalo.


[+] EnlargeDevin Smith, Isaiah Lewis
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDevin Smith looks to get help from some newcomers this fall.
Top of the depth chart: Philly Brown and Devin Smith on the perimeter with Chris Fields in the slot

Next in line: Michael Thomas might not have been able to crack the starting lineup with another impressive spring camp, but the sophomore is certainly knocking loudly on the door thanks to a complete package of size, willingness to take on contact, speed and an ability to make difficult grabs with his strong hands. Evan Spencer has also shown flashes of productivity, and he could be a nice addition to the rotation if Ohio State needs to throw another body in the mix.

New faces: The lack of depth at receiver was no secret, and Urban Meyer and his staff attacked that potential weakness on national signing day by loading up at the position and landing some of the fastest targets on their board to beef up the passing attack. Depending on how smooth the transition is for Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and James Clark, the Buckeyes may have instantly turned a spot that could have been easily tripped up by a couple injuries into a group capable of moving on without missing a beat.

Recruiting trail: Brown could find himself in elite company if he leads the team in receptions for the third straight season as expected. But he’ll have to be replaced in the offseason, and while there are already candidates to fill that void on campus, the Buckeyes are chasing recruits at receiver with the same urgency they did a year ago to make sure the pipeline is full. Four-star commits Lonnie Johnson (Gary, Ind./West Side) and Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral) are already in the fold, and both bring the type of game-breaking speed Meyer so covets on the perimeter.

Flexibility: The Buckeyes are much more capable of spreading the ball around in the passing game this season, and neither Meyer nor offensive coordinator Tom Herman are shy about using every weapon available to them. That should take some of the pressure off Brown, but he and Devin Smith will still be the top attractions and favorite targets for Braxton Miller after another season of absorbing the playbook and developing physically. Brown, in particular, should benefit from his improved ability to make something happen after the catch, which figures to significantly improve his yardage total as a senior.

Notable numbers:

-- Brown certainly isn’t likely to match his 46-catch improvement from his sophomore year to his breakout junior campaign, but he does have room to build on his yardage. Criticized early last season by Meyer for not making defenders miss any tackles, Brown steadily improved but still finished the season averaging 11.1 yards per reception -- and boosting that was a top priority in the spring.

-- Devin Smith has proven he can strike from just about anywhere, but perhaps more important for the Buckeyes, he’s also been able to do it when the team needs him to deliver most. On his 10 touchdown grabs through two seasons, Smith has averaged a robust 39.3 yards on his scores -- and three of them have gone down as game-winners.

-- Devin Smith and Brown combined for 90 receptions last season, and while the Buckeyes might take that total again from the starters without much complaint, they’d definitely prefer it to account for a smaller percentage of the overall production. In all, the tandem made 56 percent of the receptions for the offense and only one other returning player finished with double-digit catches last year with Spencer’s 12.

Big question: How much help can the newcomers provide?

The Buckeyes can be reasonably certain they know what they’re getting out of Smith and Brown. They have plenty of optimism for the improvements Miller has made as a passer, and they also are confident in the combination at tight end with Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett capable of expanding the game plan through the air. But Ohio State could use at least one and probably two targets who either haven’t had a chance to shine yet or weren’t on campus a year ago to add some diversity, depth and danger to the WR unit. Thomas is a likely option moving into his sophomore campaign, but the three newcomers will also be watched closely this month to see if they’ll be able to jump right in that mix or if the Buckeyes will have to continue to lean heavily on the veterans.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has a ton of individual moments which stick out in the memories of fans, be it individual performances or games or sometimes even the hoopla surrounding it.

Considering this rivalry is among the biggest, longest and best in sports, there is an overflow of Michigan-Ohio State moments to pick from when it comes to selecting the five most memorable, from a Michigan perspective.

Here’s one man’s look at five signature moments in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry.

1. Michigan upsets Ohio State in 1969: The game which turned the rivalry from just another rivalry into one of the most celebrated rivalries regardless of sport in the nation. First-year head coach Bo Schembechler and Michigan upset Ohio State, 24-12, snapping a 22-game winning streak for the Buckeyes. The win sparked the “Ten-Year War” between Michigan and Ohio State and its legendary coaches, Schembechler and Woody Hayes. At the time it was considered among the biggest upsets in college football history.

[+] EnlargeTim Biakabutuka
AP Photo/Tom PidgeonMichigan running back Tim Biakabutuka high steps past an Ohio State defender to gain some of his career-high 313 yards.
2. Tim Biakabutuka, 1995: Perhaps the single-most impressive individual performance from a Michigan player in the history of the rivalry. While Biakabutuka only scored once in a 31-23 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State, ruining the Buckeyes’ national title hopes, he gained 313 yards, slashing through the entirety of the OSU defense. It was the second-best single-game rushing performance in Michigan history and one of two 300-plus yard rushing games in school history.

3. Snow Bowl, 1950: Like most seasons, the Big Ten title was on the line when these teams played in what the Ohio State library website quotes the Ohio State University Monthly as a “full-scale blizzard.” Michigan won, 9-3, in a game where Wolverines punter Chuck Ortmann punted 24 times. The game’s only touchdown, according to the OSU library site, came after a blocked Ohio State punt in the end zone was recovered by Michigan.

4. Punt returns. So many punt returns: Stop in the end zone. Look around. Pose. When Desmond Howard finished off a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in 1991, he struck the iconic Heisman pose still replayed more than 20 years later. The return -- and the pose against Ohio State -- helped cinch his Heisman Trophy. Six seasons later, with another potential statue there for the taking, Charles Woodson caught a punt of his own and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to help Michigan knock off the Buckeyes. Woodson didn’t pose after his return, but the win pushed Michigan to the Rose Bowl and eventual national championship. Oh, and for Woodson, the first and only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman.

5. The day after Bo Schembechler’s death: The day before the biggest game in the history of this rivalry, one of its biggest icons collapsed and died of a heart attack. Bo Schembechler, the architect of a lot of what has turned into the Michigan football of today, had passed away. The last 24 hours of his life included a funeral for a former player, speaking to the 2006 Michigan team and a dinner with old friends. While Michigan lost the next day in Columbus, it turned what would usually have been one of the more intense atmospheres of the year into a somber remembrance. Ohio State honored Schembechler, a former assistant, before the game. His death also transformed Michigan’s program for a handful of years until Brady Hoke’s hire in 2011.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The wait is almost over. The season is almost here, and the annual release of preseason watch lists for the biggest awards in college football confirms it.

[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesRyan Shazier slipped under the national radar last fall, but that probably won't happen again.
It also helps provide a useful distraction during the final month leading up to the start of fall training camp. BuckeyeNation will be tracking all the Ohio State players considered by the various committees, and we'll be handicapping their odds of bringing trophies back to campus.

  • What: The nation's top linebacker
  • On the list: Ohio State junior Ryan Shazier
  • Credentials: Despite boasting numbers that usually produce hardware and doing so for a team that went undefeated, Shazier seemingly slipped under the national radar as a sophomore last fall. That won't be the case for Ohio State's star linebacker this season since he's a proven commodity, and now that the program is again eligible for the postseason, it may ensure the spotlight stays on Shazier all season. Opposing offenses will have to pay attention to him for sure. He has speed in locating the football, an ability to wreak havoc in the backfield and a knack for coming up with a timely turnover. It all makes him a threat to change the game at any time.
  • Head to head: Showcase opportunities against other linebackers currently being watched by the committee -- Chris Borland (Wisconsin), Jonathan Brown (Illinois), Glenn Carson (Penn State), Anthony Hitchens (Iowa), Christian Kirksey (Iowa), Khalil Mack (Buffalo), James Morris (Iowa).
  • Odds: Just from the Big Ten, Shazier has plenty of company on the list, so for starters, he'll need to shine in the league against a handful of deserving tackling machines. But there's already some evidence that few players in the country can match the diverse way the junior stuffs the stats sheet, and now that Shazier is completely healthy after being slowed for half the season a year ago with a sports hernia, the numbers and attention might really hit another level.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Nothing really says as much about a rivalry as a good villain. Every narrative, whether someone wants to admit it or not, has one. There’s a white hat, a black hat, all of those cliched things.

With Michigan and Ohio State, there is plenty to go around.

Here’s a look at the top five Michigan villains for the Buckeyes, most of whom had a hand in critical wins in the last game of the regular season.

1. Bo Schembechler, Coach: Much like Woody Hayes on the Ohio State side (and maybe Jim Tressel) there is no surprise Schembechler is tops on this list. Heck, a band made up of Ohio State fans even called themselves the Dead Schembechlers. Bo vs. Woody still ranks among the best coaching rivalries in the history of sports. Schembechler finished 11-9-1 against his biggest rival and a 5-4-1 record against Hayes. Oh, and if there were any questions about this, Schembechler’s win over Ohio State in 1969 ignited the “Ten-Year War,” which elevated this rivalry to among the best in all of sports.

[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh
Mike Powell/Allsport Michigan quarterback and Ann Arbor native Jim Harbaugh guaranteed a win over Ohio State in 1986 and delivered.
2. Jim Harbaugh, QB: You make a guarantee that you will beat your rival, you'd better back it up. When Harbaugh, who grew up in Ann Arbor, said Michigan would beat Ohio State, he permanently placed himself in the history of this rivalry. The Monday before The Game in 1986, Harbaugh said “I guarantee we will beat Ohio State and go to Pasadena.” Michigan’s response -- they had to do it. Harbaugh did, leading the Wolverines to a 26-24 win at Ohio State that Saturday, sending his team to the Rose Bowl.

3. Charles Woodson, DB: Where to start? Woodson talked trash with Ohio State receiver David Boston prior to the 1997 contest, then went out and clinched the Heisman Trophy with a 37-yard touchdown reception, a 78-yard punt return touchdown and an interception. This on top of his 1995 performance as a freshman, where in the Tim Biakabutuka game he intercepted two passes to knock off the undefeated Buckeyes. Being from Fremont, Ohio, only makes it more difficult to deal with.

4. Tom Harmon, HB: Harmon wasn’t really even a villain in this rivalry except that he was just so much better than the rest of his peers at the time. According to the Heisman Trophy website, Harmon completed 11 of 12 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns along with 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the final game of his college career and against Ohio State. He also intercepted three passes and kicked four extra points in the game. Harmon won the Heisman after the season. Why wasn’t he a bigger villain? Consider this: After the performance, the Michigan Alumnus magazine (on the Bentley Historical Library website) said the crowd at Ohio State gave Harmon a “thundering ovation.” Chances are, that doesn’t happen today.

5. Barry Pierson, DB: In the game which really launched the rivalry -- that 1969 one -- Pierson intercepted Ohio State three times. He also had a massive special teams play, returning an Ohio State punt 60 yards to set up a Michigan touchdown. While that entire 1969 team could probably be on that list, Pierson statistically made a major impact that day.

Bonus selection: Drew Henson, QB: Henson is on this list for a couple of reasons. He was the last Michigan quarterback to beat Ohio State in Columbus in 2000. While that alone might not be enough to be on this list, consider this: When he left Michigan to pursue baseball following that season, he was assigned to be the third basemen for ... the Columbus Clippers. It did not go well. Henson was booed over and over again despite playing for the hometown team and the Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees. All because he played for Michigan and beat Ohio State.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Picking one all-time team for a program as rich in history as Ohio State is no small feat on its own. A simple glimpse at the Heisman trophies on display in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center instantly makes it clear that no shortage of talent has walked through those doors.

But those squads have been selected for years and the degree of difficulty is still too low for BuckeyeNation. So along with a handful of other sites across ESPN.com, we (with the help of a former Ohio State standout) are drafting four of them to see who can come up with the best roster once the stiff-arm winners and repeat All-Americans start coming off the board.

The full lineups will be unveiled Tuesday, the result of a snake draft with beat writer Austin Ward, recruiting writer Brad Bournival, editor Scott Kendrick and former Ohio State wide receiver Bam Childress.

There will be plenty of room for debate along the way, both among the "coaches" recruiting their dream teams and during the feedback from fans weighing in after the final selection, offering up their top picks, biggest omissions and, most important, helping choose the best overall team.

Before we get started this week, a couple key questions to think about prior to the clock starting.

[+] EnlargeArchie Griffin
George Long/Getty ImagesArchie Griffin was a three-time All-America selection for the Buckeyes.
Alone at the top?
  • There's still just one man with a pair of Heismans on his résumé, and Archie Griffin's career continues to stand up as one of the best in the history of college football. By default, that would put him at the top of the list for the Buckeyes as well -- but does that mean the seemingly unstoppable running back will actually go No. 1 in the four-team draft? The Buckeyes boast plenty of historical depth in the backfield, and a guy like Eddie George or Keith Byars would obviously provide a nice consolation prize at running back for any team that misses out on Griffin. This could be where strategy in composing a team first shows up, because the talent disparity at a position like defensive tackle behind Dan Wilkinson could conceivably be wider than Griffin's edge over George. On the other hand, though, two Heismans.
Picking a style
  • All four rosters are going to feature at least one workhorse running back, and depending on how the flex position is used, a team might end up with two of them. Drafters will have the option of taking a fullback, a second tight end, a third wide receiver or a second tailback with that wildcard spot on offense. How that's used will certainly help determine what kind of system suits the personnel. But the choice at quarterback will go even further to sort that out, with a nice mix of multi-purpose, athletic quarterbacks on the table along with more traditional, pocket-passing options. A team that doesn't mind turning its signal-caller loose as a rushing option might even be tempted to snag Braxton Miller after just two seasons with the Buckeyes, maybe setting itself up to look even better with two years of hindsight assuming he continues his steady improvement as a passer.
Rush or cover?
  • There's less flexibility in putting together the defensive unit, which will be locked into a 4-3 alignment for every team. But the preference in style of play should still be evident based on which talented position group is targeted first. The Buckeyes have a long, proud tradition at linebacker, and it's pretty likely some productive, All-Big Ten performers will wind up looking for a free agent deal when the draft is over. Ohio State isn't hurting on the line or the secondary, either, but the choice between chasing a pass-rushing superstar like Mike Vrabel or a dynamic defensive back like Antoine Winfield will be significant in shaping the unit, and it will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the selections.

Leaving a legacy: C.J. Barnett

June, 27, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.

C.J. Barnett
    [+] EnlargeC.J. Barnett
    AP Photo/Jay LaPreteA healthy C.J. Barnett (center) is a difference-maker for Ohio State's defense.
  • So far: Nobody will bring more experience to the Ohio State defense this fall than the senior from Dayton, though Barnett could lean on even more game action if he'd simply been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Injuries have also had a noticeable impact on his numbers and, at this point, probably overshadow how productive he has been at full strength. Barnett's size and athleticism have always been appealing to the Buckeyes, who first tabbed him for a starting job in 2010 before a knee injury ended his season after two games. After surgery, he bounced back to reclaim that gig and played the only full slate of his career so far, leading Ohio State in tackles, intercepting a pair of passes and ending the season as the team's most outstanding defensive back. As a junior a year ago, Barnett again flashed his potential and proved invaluable in the secondary -- but a nagging ankle injury kept him out of three games and slowed him for a couple others. The Buckeyes, obviously, could use a healthy Barnett, and it might do wonders for the way he's ultimately remembered.
  • Numbers to date: 140 tackles, 13 passes defended, four interceptions and four tackles for a loss
  • Record chasing: There aren't really any defensive marks Barnett is capable of chasing down this fall, and the blame can fall squarely on an injured knee and ankle. But he could conceivably wind up starting 38 games for the Buckeyes if he makes it through the fall unscathed, and he could finish among the top hitters of his era behind linebacker Ryan Shazier and safety sidekick Christian Bryant as he goes into the year ranked third among active players in tackles.
  • What's next: The center of attention in the secondary will continue to be cornerback Bradley Roby, with any spotlight that spills over likely heading to Bryant. But the fact that Ohio State can follow them up with a three-year starter at safety who has been through all sorts of adversity, knows the entire playbook and brings a huge supply of experience to the table reinforces the incredible depth the defense has in the secondary. The Buckeyes are planning to rely heavily on that talent and veteran savvy to set the tone for the overall unit this fall, with the defensive staff likely to frequently line up in nickel and dime packages that should put Barnett and his buddies in position to make a significant number of plays -- and strongly influence how good the Silver Bullets can be.
  • Crystal ball: A couple of stints on the disabled list, albeit one longer than the other, have helped keep Barnett from doing the things that would show up in the record books and throw his name in the conversation among Ohio State's former greats at the position. Another healthy, solid campaign like the one Barnett posted two seasons ago probably won't change that much, but it would definitely be a boost to a team that has national title aspirations. And following up a perfect record in 2012 with a championship is one surefire way to go down in school history.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Leadership is the factor Urban Meyer always points to first with teams that accomplish something special, and it's hard to argue with somebody who already owns two national championship rings.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Sam RicheLed by QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State should be even more productive on offense in 2013.
But that quality is too hard to quantify, so ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein went looking for some numbers that would indicate a team is on the path to a crystal football and found some common threads for the last seven teams to raise one at the end of the season.

Borrowing from his results and applying them to Ohio State, last season's team would have fit pretty neatly into the mold with only one exception. And now heading into a year that won't include a postseason ban, the Buckeyes appear to have all the hallmarks of team that could win it all so we break down each of the characteristics and analyze the likelihood of them becoming a perfect fit for a crown.

Criteria for a champion

Rank 38th or better in rushing offense
Last year: No. 10 in the country at 242.3 yards per game
This year: For all the hype and excitement about what Meyer’s spread offense would do for Ohio State’s typically buttoned-down passing game entering his first season with the program, he quickly offered a reminder that his system is based on a successful rushing attack. With Braxton Miller always a threat to break off a long run and Carlos Hyde returning as his tackle-breaking counterpart, not to mention four seniors on the offensive line, the Buckeyes figure to be even more dangerous on the ground even without involving a deeper stable of tailbacks or speedy freshmen capable of playing the famed H-back position.

Finish 23rd or better in scoring offense
Last year: No. 21 with 37.2 points per game
This year: As powerful as the rushing attack is likely to be, the Buckeyes might really start lighting up the scoreboard if a full year in the system allows the passing game to reach another level. By their own admission, the wide receivers were a bit overwhelmed with their responsibilities at times a year ago, and Miller clearly didn’t always look like he knew where the football needed to go. But Philly Brown and Devin Smith are more polished now on the perimeter, Chris Fields, Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas have added some experience and a talented group of newcomers is on the way for fall camp. Ohio State should only improve its point total this fall.

(Read full post)

Urban Meyer and 1,000-yard running backs are the albatross of college football.

That’s not a bad thing.

While the two-time national champion is still waiting for his first one -- quarterback Braxton Miller did rush for 1,271 yards last season -- that’s just fine with him.

Ohio State 2014 spotlight: DT Ford 

June, 14, 2013
Throughout the next few months, BuckeyeNation will look further into those juniors offered by Ohio State.

We’ll give as much detail as we can and go behind the scenes to see why these Class of 2014 standouts are so attractive to the Buckeyes.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Ohio State outlook: Top 5 2014 OLs 

June, 13, 2013
Don’t like the air in the recruiting world today?

Much like the weather in Ohio, wait two minutes, things will change.

Ohio State is in desperate need of linemen. The good news is there’s a plethora of them out there, and many of them are looking at the Buckeyes as the recruiting circuit heats up.

With that in mind, here’s a redux of the top five offensive linemen -- regardless of position -- Ohio State is looking at now:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Throughout the next few months, BuckeyeNation will look further into those juniors offered by Ohio State. We’ll give as much detail as we can and go behind the scenes to see why these Class of 2014 standouts are so attractive to the Buckeyes.

Next on the list is quarterback Zack Darlington, who wowed Tom Herman in a workout so much that the Ohio state offensive coordinator offered him the very next day.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Urban MeyerJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesIf his history as a second-year coach is any indication, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes will be flexing their muscles in 2013.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The debut seasons are nice and in one recent case featured perfection.

The sample size is too small for third seasons with a program or any campaigns that follow it since only one school qualifies in that category.

But there is enough evidence in Year 2 to at least identify a trend on the résumé of Urban Meyer. Three times already it’s proved to be the sweet spot for the Ohio State coach, the period where his impact on a team truly shows up and the results start catching the eye.

Meyer has set the bar ridiculously high during his second year with every program he’s taken over, piling up a combined record of 34-4, going undefeated once and raising a crystal football in another season.

Now the anticipation for what Meyer can do as an encore has soared to new heights after seemingly moving up the time frame with the Buckeyes, guiding them to an undefeated season last fall while just beginning to set the groundwork for their future.

What’s the secret? What seeds are planted when he arrives that makes the ground so fertile the following year? Will the blueprint work yet again?

Set the tone, establish leadership
Not everybody could survive, and Morgan Scalley remembers teammates leaving Utah instead of enduring the grueling offseason conditioning program that has since become legendary.

The Utes defensive back and captain wasn’t opposed to work, and he had no trouble seeing how the intense conditioning and in-your-face motivation might pay off for a team looking to bounce back from a 5-6 season when Meyer arrived in 2003.

But one thing he and a handful of upperclassmen couldn’t stand was hearing all about the success Meyer had at Bowling Green, and they made sure he was aware of it.

“We were a different group, probably a more mature group than he had been used to," said Scalley, now a safeties coach at Utah. "We wanted to win as much as he did, and he was always listening to his leaders.”

The words were delivered loud and clear, and Meyer dropped the references to Bowling Green, stopped showing clips of his old team and kept the focus solely on the Utes from then on. In return, it was clear his message would be absorbed and passed on by a hungry bunch of veterans.

It worked in a hurry, with Utah doubling its win total, claiming a conference title and finishing the season ranked No. 21 after the Liberty Bowl. The Utes had evidence they could survive Meyer’s demands, not to mention a much better idea of how they translated on the field.

Now they wanted more, and Meyer had them hooked.

“Once you start winning, and winning the way we were winning, there’s a tremendous amount of confidence that comes with doing that,” Scalley said. “You just had a collective group of players who believed in what we were doing, and the results were really confirming it.

[+] EnlargeSmith
Jason Chan/US PresswireBehind quarterback Alex Smith, Utah won a BCS bowl in Urban Meyer's second year with the Utes.
“We knew what we had coming back, a good, solid group. Then there was a huge amount of leadership coming back that Urban gave a lot of responsibility to and let us kind of run with the team, take ownership in it. It just went from there.”

That momentum never slowed either, at least not until history was made with an undefeated record and a BCS-busting Fiesta Bowl win.

Find the answer at quarterback
Before it became commonly accepted that a multipurpose weapon like Braxton Miller would be perfect for his system, before unleashing Tim Tebow on the college football world, even before molding Alex Smith into a Heisman Trophy finalist, Meyer had to find the right quarterback for his attack the first time.

He didn’t settle on one right away, and the Falcons had three quarterbacks appear in at least 10 games that first season. Meyer has proved willing and able to handle situational quarterback play at other times in his career, and the Falcons improved to 8-3 without picking one guy to lead the way.

But by the end of the season, Josh Harris had started showing the kind of dynamic play in the spread that has become a Meyer trademark, and he started the final three games with an eye to the future.

Just like that, Meyer had his prototype.

“I certainly was not a finished product when I got to Bowling Green,” Harris said. “But going into that second year, I think we were pretty well clicking. There was no question about who was the signal-caller, and there was no question in terms about what we did really well on offense.”

For the most part, that was ride the athleticism of Harris.

As a passer, he threw for 2,425 yards and tossed 19 touchdowns. As a rusher, he carried 186 times for 737 yards and scored 20 times. And as a leader, Harris proved his toughness with an unforgettable outing in a comeback win over Western Michigan that helped spark the 9-3 campaign -- with Meyer’s play calling in overtime providing an early example of the unique bond forged between coach and quarterback.

“I said, ‘Coach, my knee is really bothering me. I think we should throw it,’” Harris said. “Then I go in and we ran five plays: Four of them were quarterback runs, and I scored the game-winning touchdown.

“I’m sure there were times when he believed in me more than I believed in myself. Almost like a son would a father, you want to hear that ‘I’m proud of you,’ and you’ll work for that. It’s not just the quarterbacks; it’s everybody.”

Not everybody takes the snaps, though. And even if it takes two guys on occasion, as it did with Chris Leak and Tebow at Florida, establishing the right situation at quarterback has always yielded results in Year 2.

Find something to get angry about
The recipe for the brew essentially remains the same, but the fermentation time may vary before the product is really ready to drink.

The Gators had already survived two offseason conditioning programs. They had found a balance that worked at quarterback. They had a conference title to their credit and had won 12 games.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer earned his first national championship in his second year with the Gators.
But even after all those accomplishments, Stan Drayton was still unsure on the day of the national title game if the coaching staff and players had truly added the final ingredient for a championship team. Like Meyer, the Florida assistant wanted an angry edge that produced inspired effort.

“When they opened up that newspaper and saw what people were saying about those Florida Gators, I knew at the end of the breakfast,” said Drayton, now Ohio State’s running backs coach. “The way they walked around, the energy level, the way they carried themselves, I knew we were going to win that ballgame.

“To sit there and say there’s a particular time frame for the formula, I’d be lying to you. Every team is different, every year.”

That’s true across the handful of Year 2s in Meyer’s career, from the players to the motivations to the accolades. But in all three situations, the programs effectively did exactly what they set out to do.

Bowling Green wanted to be a factor in the MAC again, and by the time Meyer’s two-year run was over, it had won 17 games.

Utah was seeking perfection. Two years removed from missing a bowl completely, it was breaking down the barrier into the BCS and finishing the season ranked No. 4.

Florida had the grandest goal of all, and even after losing once during the regular season, it silenced the skeptics and dismantled the Buckeyes to claim its national crown.

Now the same program that lost to the fired-up Gators at the end of the 2006 season has its turn, and that same system is fueling the Buckeyes as Meyer gears up for Year 2, Vol. 4.

“When Urban Meyer starts his program, there’s a little bit of a shock and awe to the whole approach of the way we’re going to do business,” Drayton said. “It is vastly different than what these kids had been accustomed to in these programs.

“But, you know, the beauty of it is that you can’t time it up. Sometimes it’s a season, sometimes it’s an event, sometimes it’s an experience. But there is something that sparks and turns it on. When that happens, if it happens, there’s no crystal ball -- including the national championship crystal ball -- that can give you the answers to it.”

Indeed, the future is impossible to predict. But peering into the past, it’s not a stretch to expect that Meyer might have something special in store for his Ohio State encore.
The day could come soon when Urban Meyer and Thad Matta will compete for the same recruit.

Such is the nature of the “new” tight end in football.

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