CHICAGO — After offering his condolence to both the Nebraska and Michigan State football programs following the tragedy that befell both teams, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer got right down to business addressing his 2016 squad.
Meyer opened his first media session of the day by discussing the magnitude of the departure of players the Buckeyes sustained after the end of the 2015 season. Many of the lost players were in starting roles. Only six total starters from last season, three on each side of the ball, will be suiting up with the Scarlet and Gray this fall.
“Forty-four of our players, which is over half of our scholarships, are kids that never played in a game,” Meyer said. “So we have to get them ready. So our practices are going to be much different.”
All six returning members for OSU are battle tested, with all three returning starters on offense competing in the 2014 national championship run for OSU. Junior cornerback Gareon Conley played in 13 games last year, junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan blossomed into one of the top linebackers in the nation in 2015, and fourth-year junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis led the team in sacks.
Fresh on the minds of many, Meyer fielded the question that most individuals in attendance were curious about; if Bri’onte Dunn has any chance of coming back.
“There is no chance,” Meyer said.
With Dunn gone, Meyer said he will include both junior Curtis Samuel and senior Dontre Wilson as candidates for the backfield role. In terms of legitimate running backs on the team, the fifth-year OSU coach seems to be leaning towards redshirt freshman Mike Weber as his go-to guy this season.
“I think so. His performance in spring, his issue is he has to stay healthy.” Meyer said after being asked if Weber would start in 2016. “I like where he’s at. I don’t like, I love where he’s at as far as the physical condition he’s in.”
Weber will have a tall task in front of him trying to fill the void left by Ezekiel Elliott. The Cass Tech High School graduate had a solid spring game performance, and his impressed his coaches and peers alike.
With fifth-year senior center Pat Elflein and fourth-year junior guard Billy Price at the lead of the offensive line, the remaining positions in the trenches are up for grabs. However, Meyer hinted towards the role of a true freshman in a vital role.
“I can’t wait to watch our offensive line. Michael Jordan is probably going to be — a true freshman — will be in our starting lineup.” Meyer said. “From what I’ve seen, his development since he got here in January is outstanding.”
Meyer also raved about the talent of his receiving unit coming into the year, saying they are “as good as we’ve had.” Players expected to take on starting roles, redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and sixth-year senior Corey Smith, are both coming off of injuries last year.
“Talent shouldn’t be an issue. It’s consistent performance and playing when it’s showtime is going to be key.” Meyer said.
Meyer unaware of Franklin’s comments
When asked about the criticism Penn State coach James Franklin had on the recruiting of OSU and Michigan and how it impacted the recruiting of the Nittany Lions, Meyer had little to say.
Franklin spoke to the Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle last month, and claimed OSU, Michigan and Michigan State negatively recruited against Penn State. Meyer was clearly shocked by the statements when asked about the claims and if the Buckeyes were intentionally impacting Penn State recruiting.
“Absolutely not, and that’s the first time I’ve heard of that,” Meyer said. “I’ll address that with coach Franklin if that is an issue. That’s a pretty strong allegation that I’ve not heard yet.”
Franklin told FOX Sports that his words were misinterpreted, and that two separate quotes were combined into one to create the allegation against OSU and other programs.