Urban Meyer was candid in his assessment of several of his new players during his press conference to preview his first spring practice in Columbus, including one with whom he described having problems even before he arrived on campus: Bri’onte Dunn.
A five-star recruit from Canton (Ohio) GlenOak, the running back verbally committed to Ohio State during his junior season, but he was wavering in November when Meyer was hired.
“During the recruiting process we had to deal with a couple of things with him,” Meyer said. “He starts with, ‘Well, I’m going to go visit here and I’m going to go do this. What about this? Am I going to get the ball?’ ”
Dunn expressed concerns about how he will be used in Meyer’s spread offense, and two visits to Michigan put Dunn’s status as a member of the Ohio State recruiting class in doubt.
That led Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell to be frank with the youngster in December.
“Luke and I had a hard conversation on speakerphone with him in my office that you are not going to visit there, and if you do you better like it (because) that's where you're going to go,” Meyer said. “I wasn't a Bri'onte fan, and then something interesting happened. I went and visited his family. Incredible people. I mean off the charts. One of the best home visits I've ever had. We left there thinking, ‘You know what? We get him now. He’s a product of a great family.’ We’re excited to have him.”
Dunn’s time in the Ohio State program since enrolling for the start of winter quarter in January has gone so well that Meyer named him (along with junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins) one of the most impressive players in team training. His work has served to push fellow running backs Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde, two more players Meyer has seen improve their reputations with him in the past two-plus months.
“You talk about January to what I saw the last week-and-a-half? They're different people,” Meyer said of Smith and Hyde. “We'll see if that carries over in the classroom when we get their grades.”
Grades could also prove to be a catalyst for Meyer to change his viewpoint of Reid Fragel, a senior making the move to offensive tackle from tight end this year.
“Academically, he's on point,” Meyer said. “He was very lazy in the classroom. Lazy in classroom a lot of times correlates to lazy on the football field. He's got a terrific family. We had a little conversation. I’m really proud of him. I like him. He was challenged very directly and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have his best academic quarter that he’s had.”
Changes in Fragel’s body also indicate he put in quality time in the weight room during the winter.
“He’s tinkering with 300 pounds right now,” Meyer said. “He looks fantastic. Looks really good.”
Then there is quarterback Kenny Guiton. The new head coach raised some eyebrows among reporters Tuesday by saying he was “not a big fan” of the rising junior quarterback when they first met, but the native Texan apparently has repaired his reputation already.
The difference is Guiton is starting to act more like a quarterback should in Meyer’s eyes.
‘He’s taking his profession real serious,” Meyer said. “I kind of like guys that do that. When I say take this profession, I mean he's a professional student and professional football player. It's what he does. Take care of your family, your faith and do what you have to do. Then you know what? Saturate your entire life into your academics and then to your football. That's what you do. I kind of like what he's done the last month and a half. He’s done that.”
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