The new Ohio State head coach said his first offseason in Columbus was a positive one, and much of that is a credit to the new strength and conditioning staff he brought in led by Mickey Marotti.
He was very concerned about the body types of the offensive linemen when he arrived, but he likes what he is seeing in them now.
Speaking of the team as a whole, he’s got a good idea of who wants to go to battle now after a competitive winter in the weight room.
Monday they will have a champions dinner in which the players who have done things the way he wants them to will be treated very well and the rest will have to make due with lesser food and treatment. That will let guys know where they stand.
They will practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays during spring football, and Wednesdays and Saturdays will be competition days. Someone will leave the field a winner and someone else a loser on those days. There will be rewards, like Gatorade, for the winners and extra work for the losers. The losers might have to drink out of hose or something like that.
Everything in the program is incentive based now. It’s a tough world out there, and they need to learn to deal with it. High achievers have better things than those who don’t work hard or compete enough in the real world, and that is reflected in the program.
He doesn’t want guys to wait until training camp to try to win a job. Those will be decided in spring. They will come out of spring ball with a depth chart established. Beginning in August, everything is about trying to win games. There could be changes, but he wants things pretty set.
He has developed a good feel for the personalities of the players in the program now, but he is still unsure of what they can do as football players until he sees them on the field. That will come. He enjoys going in the weight room and seeing guys compete when they are doing wall-sits, tug-of-war or whatever drills the coaches have created for them. That tells him who are the fighters.
The team is about where he expected it to be entering spring practice. It is full of good, tough kids, many of them from Ohio. They like to train, and they have showed toughness and a blue-collar, Ohio way of doing things.
They don’t have a depth chart at this time, but the first guys to take the field will probably be older guys. Those who show the best competitive nature will be starters. Guys like John Simon.
Meyer wants to see a distaste for losing. Those who don’t have that won’t play.
Reid Fragel has made a big turnaround in the class room, a result of a talk Meyer had with him when he got here. He thought the tight end, who has moved to tackle, was lazy with his academics, but that is no longer the case. He’s proud of the progress he’s already shown. Meyer challenged Fragel directly and the player responded.
Also moving to offensive line is Darryl Baldwin, a former defensive lineman. That came at the suggestion of defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. Apparently it was discussed last year but Baldwin was not real keen on the idea, but it is the best way he can help the team this year.
Meyer hopes there will be no more roster attrition. He generally thinks guys look back on their choices to leave and regret them.
He identified quarterback Kenny Guiton as having a good offseason. Meyer was not a big fan of him early on because he didn’t act like a quarterback, but that is no longer the case.
Quarterback Braxton Miller is a really good kid who wants to do well. The offseason was nothing but positive for him.
Meyer has enjoyed working with his new staff so far. They are making good progress getting things installed. The No. 1 thing he wants to make sure he sees happen is the staff members utilizing all their skills and abilities.
He does not see the players as having had to take time to get over the trauma of 2011 when they lost their head coach, endured NCAA scrutiny and penalties and lost seven games. Young kids generally just move on. There were no group hugs to work on that, just a matter of getting to work for next year.
New cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs brings energy and a love for the state of Ohio to the coaching staff. He fits the mold of what Meyer was looking for in building his staff in the first place.
Meyer was not a big fan of Bri’onte Dunn early in his recruitment because of his looking around at other schools, but he changed his mind after meeting the running back’s family. Then he decided that was a kid he wanted to have.
He mentioned Dunn and junior-to-be defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins as two of the best workers during the offseason.
Asked what he is looking for during spring ball, he said he needs to see some offensive skill players step up. Who will carry the ball? he asked. Jordan Hall has had a decent career but not one Meyer would call great. He followed that with a very good offseason. Fellow running backs Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde have come light years since the start of the year. Meyer was not real fond of where they were when he arrived.
As for the wide receivers, Devin Smith had a positive finish to the winter weight program and Philly Brown has probably been the best competitor of the group. He works hard and is a sponge soaking up what they have to teach him. He also praised Evan Spencer and Chris Fields while saying tight end Jake Stoneburner is impressive because he runs like a wide receiver.
He sees a lot of momentum from the running backs group, and that is a big deal. Momentum is always a big deal in games, especially on the road, and it is something he looks for in everything as the builds the team. They need to build positive momentum or change what they are doing.
Meyer has felt no resistance to the changes he is bringing after 10 years under Jim Tressel and his former staff under interim head coach Luke Fickell last year. That goes for the coaches who stayed and the players. Meyer respects the way things were done before but has his own way. Some of the new things, such as the tempo at which they work, has been a culture shock but it’s working out.
Fickell has been fantastic in his move back to an assistant, and Meyer sees him as a future head coach. He is handling the defense with newcomer Everett Withers.