Today is the first day of the rest of the Ohio State football program’s life.
I certainly would not mind having been a fly on the wall at Urban Meyer’s first meeting with the Buckeyes and his coaching staff. Seeing how he changes the culture and the attitude of the football team should be fascinating.
A decade is a long time to do anything. There were a lot of positives that came from the Jim Tressel era, but there is much excitement involved in seeing what else is out there. That’s especially true when the new guy is as good or better than the one he is replacing, but let’s not pretend like there’s at least a bit of “the grass is always greener” phenomenon involved as well.
Meyer takes over after not only a disappointing season but one of the worst overall years in program history. A lot of pain piled up in Columbus as a result of players repeatedly taking extra benefits, Tressel covering up some of it and those above him bungling their reaction to the whole thing.
The Buckeyes suffered their first losing season in more than two decades. Their seventh and final defeat came in the Gator Bowl at the hands of Meyer’s former team, Florida, and that provided one more interesting subplot.
Tyler Moeller, the only player on either side left over from the 41-14 massacre Meyer and the Gators administered in the BCS National Championship game five years ago, called this Florida team classless after seeing them take some swings at him as well as hearing an abundance of what he called racial slurs from them during the game. While the outgoing senior was understandably upset, I doubt he’ll give it much more thought because he has bigger and better things to do now that he has used up his eligibility and graduated.
The fact that Meyer recruited many of the Gators being labeled classless cannot be ignored, though. It makes one wonder a little bit more about the circumstances that led him to leave Florida last year.
It’s entirely possible having unwittingly brought in those types of kids helped drive Meyer away. Any coach will tell you that you only get to know so much about a player in recruiting. There is always a lot of mystery until you actually coach them. I’ve talked to many a Buckeye from Florida who took pride in associating swagger and trash talk with their state. They see it as an essential part of competition. That was something plain to see in the recent past when Florida, Miami and Florida State were regularly featured in national showcase games taunting and cheap-shotting their way through their rivalry games.
Winning is winning, and they don’t ask you how but rather how many when the season is over. Lots of people like to see teams go at it that way, but it turns just as many or more off. I like a little bit of mustard on the hot dog, but not too much, and there’s a fine line between bragging and disrespecting.
Now is fleeing a program when faced with too many uncontrollable kids the admirable thing to do? I’d say not, but sometimes we all make decisions we’d like back. There are usually a variety of factors in any such decision, too. Perhaps of Meyer’s health were better or his kids further grown up he would have felt better able to deal with such a problem. Maybe the whole culture of the SEC dragged him down as well, further harpooning thoughts he could turn things around. And maybe it had nothing to do with his decision at all. Only he knows.
I’m only speculating at this point, but it’s an interesting aspect to all this change Ohio State football is about to go through.
There has been a feeling – since about the time Meyer’s 2006 Gators spanked the top-ranked Buckeyes – that Ohio State’s players needed more swagger. I sometimes questioned if they played with enough of an edge, especially when things got close.
As silly as it sounds, did Tressel’s well-known conservatism lead him to bring in too many good kids?
I associated these questions most with the group that made up the core from 2006-08 because they lost all those big out-of-conference games and they were missing some more outgoing personalities like AJ Hawk, Nick Mangold, Santonio Holmes, Donte Whitner, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter. Of course given what we’ve seen from some of those guys since they left Ohio State, there is no doubt good and bad to being a big personality.
Many of the guys who followed them were plenty talented but more reserved. There was a real sense – both from them and those around them – that the class of 2008 was going to be different. They had a few more out-of-state kids, a lot of highly rated players and no lack of confidence. At the signing day press conference, J.B. Shugarts talked about winning multiple national championships. Terrelle Pryor told Tressel he would help him get over his national championship hump. Instead, he committed NCAA violations that disgraced the program and put Tressel in position to harpoon his own career.
Now many of those players are gone, and the ones who are left begin to find out today what life will be like under someone new.
Mike Brewster said in late July there was some complacency in the program and some change would do it good. That’s kind of a jarring thought considering the success of the Tressel era, but Brewster is a thoughtful guy whose opinion should carry some weight. I tend to think he’s probably right, and the season that just ended provided plenty of proof.
Whatever the case, change is inevitable and it is at hand. Should be fun seeing what it brings.