The Ohio State football team is coming off its eighth national title, returns three Heisman-caliber quarterbacks and a likely Heisman front-runner at running back — but it still has doubters.
At least that is what senior linebacker Joshua Perry said Tuesday after the Buckeyes concluded the first day of spring practice.
“It’s just the nature of the game and the nature kind of being in the position that we are in. We’re one of those teams that’s got a great tradition and we’ve been good in the past, but you know there’s always that little bit of doubt,” Perry said.
While some might say it was indeed a fluke in 2014, the Buckeyes completed “The Chase” and have created a new motto for the 2015 season: “The Grind.”
Perry said the new slogan was created by two people not on the playing roster: coach Urban Meyer and strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marrotti.
“The grind is a lot of things. It’s what our program is about. You sharpen, you shape, you pulverize. It’s a lot of friction and so we like that,” Perry said. “It’s how you develop players and get the best out of people.”
Meyer said he worries about motivating his players to make another run at a title, but that’s not his main focus at the moment.
“Right now, we are not into the motivation. It’s just about improving. As long as a player or program feels like it’s getting better, then the motivation is going to be there,” Meyer said.
The Buckeyes will have a plethora of experience on the 2015 roster as the offense and defense each graduate just four regular starters.
Senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said while he understands people doubting the Buckeyes, he and his teammates are not buying into any negativity.
“I can see why there are reasons people could doubt us, not that I believe in those. We did lose players that were vital to that team last year,” Decker said. “It’s kind of scary, a team coming off a big season like we did, to have a let down because you don’t want guys to think they’ve arrived, or be entitled to winning games.”
The current Buckeye senior class enters the 2015 season having won 38 of 41 games, and that figure doesn’t include redshirt-seniors like Braxton Miller. The quarterback returned to practice in a limited role on Tuesday for the first time since August.
As Miller returns from a torn labrum, the majority of the Buckeyes are feeling healthy and are ready to begin “The Grind,” Perry said.
“I think we did a really good job this offseason being smart and taking care of our bodies. Guys were talking about how fresh they felt, I felt fresh today and ready to go,” Perry said. “I think when you’re anxious to get back out there on the field, a lot of that stuff goes away. If you have a nagging ache or pain, you just wanna get back out there.”
Perry said the people who might doubt the OSU football program are the ones who make the Buckeyes want to get back out on the field.
“It gives you a little bit of extra energy. It wouldn’t be as fun if everybody was always just cheering you on,” Perry said. “You kind of need those doubters to give you a little bit of that extra edge.”
With doubters fueling their drive, Decker said it’s time for the Buckeyes to get back to work, less than two months removed from a national title.
“We have to start that next journey for next season,” he said. “We can’t idle because of what we did last season.”
The Buckeyes are set for their annual Spring Game on April 18 at Ohio Stadium before opening the 2015 season on the road against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7.