Fifteen days before he steps onto the fields at the Harmon Family Football Practice Park to lead an Ohio State practice for the first time, new head coach Urban Meyer stepped to the mic Tuesday afternoon to preview what it will be like for those players once drills begin March 28.
Ohio State will utilize Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the 15 sessions leading up to the annual spring game, which will be held April 21 in Ohio Stadium.
And now, after a few months on the job and with the team’s offseason conditioning program now over, Meyer said he’s finally starting to get a handle on the roster he’s been left for the 2012 season that he and his staff will begin molding in spring.
“I have a pretty good feel,” he said. “The football specifics, no idea. I have not seen Braxton Miller throw a ball. I haven’t seen guys catch a ball. I’ve seen them run, but I think that all will come. If they couldn’t throw or couldn’t catch, they certainly wouldn’t be at Ohio State.”
Once those players hit the field, positions will certainly be on the line. Meyer said that while the coaching staff will enter the spring with a depth chart in mind – one that was determined by the way players performed in a variety of offseason tasks – the true pecking order will be determined in the latter days of March and first three weeks of April.
Those depth charts will hold all the way until fall, which Meyer described as a time to prepare to win football games, not determine spots. And if that sounds like pressure, just wait until you hear what Meyer has in store for spring.
“Every Wednesday and Saturday in spring (after the first week) there will be a winner and a loser when you leave the practice field,” he said. “It’s a competition. Once again, it’s creating environments and situations where I want to see who the fighters are and who the guys are who are going to compete.
“There will be rewards at the end of the day. You can get off the field with Gatorade if you win and if not, you drink out of a water hose and do some running. That includes the coaching staff.”
Such drills will be a continuation of the way the program has evolved since Meyer and his staff took over in late November, with the bulk of the group installed by January. Director of football performance Mickey Marotti has put his charges through the paces with competitive drills designed to get the best out of the players and foster a sense of team unity.
Meyer also said that he noticed the offensive line had noticeably slimmed down and that the team was in great shape after workouts with Marotti as well as strength and conditioning assistants Anthony Schlegel, Jeff Uhlenhake, Rick Court and Kenny Parker.
“We had an excellent offseason,” he said. “Our new staff has done a phenomenal job. We take great pride in our offseason program, and in our very strong opinion that championships are won in the offseason. I grade ourselves a plus.”
Next, the team will separate for spring break, then get back together March 26 for its Champions Dinner, at which players who have bought in and are doing things the right way will be rewarded with new gear and a nice meal.
While such dramatic steps sound like a departure from the way things were done under former head coach Jim Tressel, Meyer said he didn’t get the sense that his style was a major change from the old days.
“I don’t get that feeling at all,” he said. “I’ve had no resistance whatsoever from the players. I’ve kept several coaches on the staff with zero resistance. I’ve asked because I had a lot of respect for what was done in the past. I think, sure, there are some differences.
“I’m sure the tempo of practice is going to be a culture shock. We’re one of those offenses where we’re going to try to run as many plays as we can in practice, a lot of contact during practice – a lot. Other than that, I think it’s just a bunch of good guys doing their job the best they can.”
**Meyer confirmed Ohio State will receive three more early enrollees in time for spring ball in offensive lineman Taylor Decker, defensive end Se’Von Pittman and linebacker Luke Roberts. They will join Dunn, quarterback Cardale Jones, wideout Michael Thomas, offensive lineman Jacoby Boren, linebacker Joshua Perry and defensive back Tyvis Powell, all of whom enrolled in January.
**Meyer said the position he’s most excited about is the tight end group – pointing to the talents of Jacob Stoneburner, Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett – while he’s been pleased with the play of OSU’s fullbacks. Their emergence could lead to Meyer to use more of those types of players than in the past.
**Meyer said he does not expect any more attrition from the team. The Buckeyes are at 82 scholarships after the departures of such players as Jaamal Berry, David Durham, Jeremy Cash, Dominic Clarke, DerJuan Gambrell, Taylor Graham and Jordan Whiting.
“I hope (the attrition is done), but you never know,” he said. “I think if a kid makes it through what they’ve been through, now they get to go play football.”
**Meyer confirmed Darryl Baldwin, whose number has changed from No. 90 to 76 on OSU’s official roster, has moved from defensive line to offensive line. Baldwin joins converted tight end Reid Fragel, who is now close to 300 pounds. Meyer couldn’t name any other position switches off the top of his head.