Cody Cousino / Photo editor
After having his players put on their pads Saturday morning for the first time this spring, saying that Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has placed an emphasis on competition might be somewhat of an understatement.
After the two-hour practice, Meyer had his offense, players and coaches running sprints from sideline to sideline while the defense moved off the field for Gatorades and post-stretch.
Harsh, perhaps. But in the culture that Meyer is establishing at OSU, winners are rewarded and losers punished.
In this particular case, the offense lost a scrimmage drill against the defense toward the end of practice.
And redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino did his best to drive home that point.
“Defense won today, make sure you all got that,” he said playfully, albeit seemingly proud.
Maybe it was because, for Sabino, Saturday was “like Christmas.”
“It was so fun. You got six weeks of running around here, around cones and stuff, and you’re finally able to hit somebody,” he said. “It’s fun, everything’s fast paced, it’s real competitive and we’re having a great time.”
For OSU, it’s the first spring under Meyer and another reminder of how much things have changed for the Buckeyes in the past year.
Aside from not even being a year removed from former coach Jim Tressel’s scandal-induced resignation, Meyer’s ultra-competitive philosophy coupled with an new additions to the coaching staff suggests his players have had a lot to adjust to.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said while his offense is “not even close” to what they want it to be, it’s a normal progression.
“I think once you get to Day 3 (of practice), it gets to be a little bit overwhelming, and that’s kind of the plan,” he said.
Herman said the staff wants to throw as much as they can at them and in about a week go back and re-teach the finer points of the offense.
It’s part of the reason why he thinks sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is struggling a bit.
“The mental part of the game is just getting to him right now,” Herman said.
A reserved, borderline shy Miller said he’s trying to get better everyday.
“What I really want to improve on is knowing where everybody’s at, (what) everybody’s doing,” he said. “I just feel good about the whole game plan right now.”
Herman said Miller grasping the offense is critical in getting him to be the coach on the field they need him to be.
But having started last season has helped prepare him to be a leader, Miller said.
“I feel heavier,” he said. “I feel like I know I got my first year under me and just keeping working hard and progressing.”
Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier, who came on strong for OSU toward the end of the season, said adjusting to all the changes has been a fresh start.
“It’s the same team, we just have a new beginning,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Similarly, the struggle adjusting to change isn’t limited to the players.
Luke Fickell, who served as the Buckeyes head coach in 2011 before taking the roles of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under Meyer, said it’s good the coaches have differing opinions in terms of putting things together for next season.
The key, he said, is coming together and figuring out what’s best for the program.
“You can’t get anything better than having a little bit of different perspectives at times,” he said. “None of us like change at times, but it’s good. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, like coach (Meyer) will tell you, change is uncomfortable, but it’s really good. It’s good to help you grow.”