Meyer looking for toughness
First-year Ohio State coach not holding back in practice
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer won’t tolerate anybody on his first Ohio State team who won’t compete.
When Ohio State’s spring practices kick off on Wednesday, Meyer plans on turning the most mundane of conditioning or technique drills into an all-out competition between teammates. However, that doesn’t mean fisticuffs.
“When you get away from Mommy and Daddy, it’s a tough world out there,” said the ex-Ohio State grad assistant who won two national titles at Florida. “The people that work in corporations and do a really good job usually have corner offices and trips to Cancun and bonuses. If [you don’t do a good job], you don’t. I think a lot of times kids aren’t taught that.”
So Meyer is making that one of his cornerstone philosophies as he takes over an Ohio State team that lapsed to 6-7 a year ago and closed the season with four consecutive losses -- including a defeat in the Gator Bowl to Meyer’s former employer, Florida.
One team wins a scrimmage and it gets an icy electrolyte drink as it leaves the field. The losers? They get to quench their thirst from a garden hose. Give up a sack and you run extra sprints after the practice; sack the quarterback and you get better food, a better jersey, kinder treatment.
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“Everything we try to do around here is incentive-based,” Meyer said in previewing the spring workouts. “You want to live off campus, I have no problem with that. But you have to earn that right. A big thing is wearing visors or changing your number to No. 1. I don’t really care what you wear but don’t come see me unless you are taking care of your business in all the other areas that we evaluate.”
It is clear that Meyer believes the Buckeyes need some toughness.
On the day that Meyer was hired last November, former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce said of the kid he brought on staff in the 1980s, “[Meyer] works everybody hard, coaches and players, hard. He has tough practices. I mean, really tough, Southeastern Conference practices, is what I call them. That’s the way they practice down there.”
Louisville coach Charlie Strong, who served as a defensive coordinator at Florida from 2003 to 2009, said that toughness was evident in the Gators’ practices. He referred to other legendary coaches with Ohio State pedigrees.
“He had a chance to work with Earle Bruce and Lou Holtz, who were Woody Hayes disciples,” Strong said. “So it’s all about just a discipline and your structure and how you want your program to be run. It’s all about discipline and structure. You’ve got to find the right fit for the players you want in your program.”
The Buckeyes suffered through a dismal season that was a mess from the start. Tressel was forced out in May for lying about his knowledge of players breaking NCAA rules. Assistant Luke Fickell was elevated to interim coach for the season. The NCAA later banned Ohio State from playing in a bowl game after the 2012 season among other sanctions, including numerous suspensions.
Tressel was hit with a five-year “show cause” that all but prevents him from coaching at the college level during that period. He subsequently took a job at Akron where he can have no contact with athletes.
Meyer was asked if he had tried to make it easy on the players to get through all of those hard times.
“I never even thought about that,” he said. “Let them rest and let’s get over that? No, there were no group hugs. [Instead it was] let’s jump in the weight room and get through it that way.”
He is out to instill the ethic that life is hard and that winning is important. That lesson will be drilled into the Buckeyes right up through the April 21 spring game -- and beyond.
“I really want to see guys lead by not losing,” he said. “You want to be a great leader? Go win. That’s where we’re really pushing [quarterback] Braxton [Miller]. All the players, when you go against someone -- don’t lose. There’s a million excuses. Our whole focus is, go win. Winners have a tendency to stand in front of the team. Losers don’t. So we’re really pushing that winner-loser mentality right now.”