In college football, coaches and rosters change every offseason, regardless of the success a team had the year before.
Incoming recruiting classes and departures of staff members cause an overhaul for any team, but in the case of Ohio State, there is one thing coach Urban Meyer wants to keep at the forefront of his program.
“I gotta make sure that we’re clarity of purpose, of culture, here at Ohio State,” Meyer said after practice Tuesday, his team’s first of the season in pads. “Not scared to make a mistake … it’s the very aggressive approach to what we’re going to do.
“I want to make sure the culture’s clear. And to say that, I put that on myself. I want to make sure there’s clarity of purpose at Ohio State.”
Meyer addressed the media Tuesday after his team’s third practice of the spring, and the first since the university was on spring break last week.
The battle for senior quarterback Braxton Miller’s backup is heating up, but Meyer said redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones is “running with the ones right now” because of how he has matured from last season to spring ball.
“Cardale, you talk about a changed guy. He was a guy that couldn’t get out of his own way a couple years ago,” Meyer said. “You remember the famous tweet or whatever. It’s a different guy. Which it had to be a different guy or he wouldn’t be here.”
The tweet Meyer referred to was one Jones posted from his personal account, @Cordale10, Oct. 5 on having to go to class.
“Why should we have to go class if we came here to play FOOTBALL,” the tweet read. “We ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
Another position of interest is running back, where Meyer said neither sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, redshirt-sophomore Bri’onte Dunn or redshirt-senior Rod Smith have separated themselves yet in the fight to replace Carlos Hyde.
Meyer brought up the culture again by mentioning junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker, who returns as the Buckeyes’ lone starter from a unit that finished second in the country in total yards on the ground with 4,321 yards.
“Well Taylor Decker’s really, he’s a product of culture,” Meyer said, then comparing him to former offensive lineman Reid Fragel, who was a third string tight end when Meyer arrived before molding himself into a starter on the line.
“To say Taylor Decker, and this is not to be disrespectful, was the toughest guy in the world when he came here? No. But you sit in the meeting room with his line coach and with those four guys that just left … Same with Reid Fragel. Reid Fragel was a third string tight end that didn’t play at all. Now all of a sudden he’s playing pro football. How’d that happen? It’s because there’s a culture developed in the offensive line room. So Taylor Decker so far has been, he’s really growing into a very good player,” Meyer said.
Another player who has caught his coach’s eye is sophomore linebacker Darron Lee, who Meyer said is inexperienced, but is going hard. And that’s all that matters.
“I have no idea what he’s doing and he has no idea probably either. But I don’t care,” Meyer said, then alluding again to the culture he wants developed within the program.
“You’re not being graded on what a kid’s doing right now. You’re being graded on being a leader, and as a coach — will a kid play as hard as he possibly can? There’s never been a team in 27 years of coaching that a team that didn’t play the hardest didn’t win that game,” Meyer said.
Meyer also mentioned that he and the rest of the staff did research on other teams that run the spread offense, particularly Clemson and Texas A&M. The Tigers shredded OSU’s defense for 576 yards in their 40-35 win in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl Jan. 3.
“We’ve done a lot, and this is a great time of the year to really study the game,” Meyer said. “I think we’ve done a good job and now we gotta see an improvement on the field.”
Meyer and the Buckeyes are set to open their 2014 campaign Aug. 30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore against Navy. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.