If there’s one thing Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer wants to avoid in the 2013 season, it’s complacency.
“When you get complacent, when you get lax, when you start taking things easy, then that’s when minds wander,” Meyer said in a round table interview at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last week.
He said instead, members of his team must stay focused.
“When your mind’s focused on the next day, all’s good,” Meyer said.
He cited the “legendary” focus of Michael Jordan, saying there was “little to ever disrupt his train of thought.”
Meyer said focus like that is crucial for his team, on and off the field.
“We just had something to disrupt our team’s train of thought. We just turned right. We can’t turn right. We gotta get back straight,” Meyer said, referring to the separate, unrelated legal issues of senior running back Carlos Hyde, redshirt junior corner back Bradley Roby, freshman tight end Marcus Baugh and freshman defensive lineman Tim Gardner.
Despite those setbacks, Meyer spoke with confidence about the strengths he sees in the Buckeyes.
“And then how do you get it back straight? Those three guys over there (Braxton Miller, Jack Mewhort and Christian Bryant), my strength coach, myself, that’s the essence of a good team.”
Junior quarterback Miller said Meyer helps keep him level-headed and able to set an example on the team.
“You know, (Meyer is) just keeping me level and making sure I’m on the right path,” Miller said. “He always makes us tell him what’s going on (and) be focused on things that need to be focused on.”
For Meyer, a grenade tossed in to thwart his players’ focus comes in the form of free time.
Aside from summer strength and conditioning workouts, the players face a relatively higher amount of free time in the summer than any other point in the year.
And when school is out of session from May until mid-August, free time can pile up, perhaps explaining some players’ recent run-ins with the law.
Meyer said he’s looking forward to the loss of some of that free time.
“One of the best things is in 12 days we move into hotels, we wake up every morning and go to work,” Meyer said. “They don’t have time to be dealing with ‘what about this, what about this, what about this.’ The hardest part is when they’re away from you, so I try to temper all those things and worry about getting better day to day.”
Mewhort said Meyer’s expectations are clear, and he can’t be to blame for his players’ poor choices.
“You know he’s not walking with us everywhere we go, telling us to do this and that,” Mewhort said. “He has a set of core values in place and we know them and we’re told them every day. And we know as players if we violate them we’re going to be held accountable for our actions.”
But regardless of what causes off-the-field issues, when a player gets in trouble, the entire team is affected.
Senior safety Bryant described what the season would be like without Roby, who was arrested in Bloomington, Ind., and charged with misdemeanor battery July 21.
“That would be a devastating loss,” Bryant said. “That’s one of my good friends on the team, we came in together. It wouldn’t sit right with me.”
He said with Roby on the field, he thinks the Buckeyes could go 26-0, building upon the team’s perfect 12-0 record from last season.
That’s the goal he talked about with Roby just a few weeks ago, Bryant said.
“We play the game of football, that’s what we do every Saturday,” he said. “And me, being a leader on the team, and a couple more leaders we talk about it all the time. Actually, me and Roby (were) talking about it maybe two weeks ago; 26-0 that sounds great. I mean, that’s a goal I think everybody is trying to accomplish.”