The weather may have suppressed the total a bit, but Urban Meyer was still happy to see an announced crowd of 81,120 show up at Ohio Stadium to get a first glimpse at his first Buckeye football team Saturday for the annual spring game.
“I really appreciate that,” he said of the turnout, the largest since 95,722 attended the 2009 version. “It was not a very pretty game or scrimmage, but we had to get some things accomplished. We had to evaluate some skill players and I think we did that. I want to start out by saying thank you to them and thank you to the best band in the land.”
Meyer, who grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, admiring the Ohio State football program and cut his teeth as a graduate assistant in Columbus in the mid-1980s admitted to being touched by watching the fans sing along to “Hang On Sloopy” with the band. The same went for the overall experience of returning to the Horseshoe by the Olentangy River.
“It felt great,” he said. “It felt great being down there and I told our players don’t ever not appreciate a group of people coming to watch you play on a 45-degree, rainy day. Then also you have guys like (staff members) Mike Vrabel, Luke (Fickell) and (Jeff) Uhlenhake and Kirk Barton, they played here so they’re part of a group of guys who made this stadium what it is.”
Although he has changed many aspects of the program since taking over in January, Meyer maintained one that has become close to many Buckeye fans in the past decade. That is practice of singing the school alma mater, “Carmen Ohio,” after home games. Former head coach Jim Tressel introduced it with the start of his tenure in 2001, and Fickell kept it up last season when he served as head coach on an interim basis following Tressel’s exit in the wake of NCAA violations last May.
“This is a school you don’t have to create a lot of tradition,” Meyer said. “We’re honored to be able to keep the tradition I believe Coach Tressel started. I loved it. I asked Kirk Barton, ‘Where do I go? What do I do?’ He said, ‘Park it right here and look at the scoreboard.’ It was great.”
As for the spring overall, the head coach said he saw a pair of goals achieved.
“We identified our issues. We also identified our strengths,” he said. “I just told them it has to be the best offseason in the history of college football. That has to happen. It starts Monday.”
Meyer also explained the absence or brief appearance of several players who had been expected to play.
Senior defensive lineman John Simon was held out for a simple reason.
“John Simon didn’t play because he didn’t need to play,” Meyer said of a player whose praises he has sung repeatedly this spring because of his work ethic and attitude.
The Gray team was expected to have both Simon and tailback Jordan Hall, but the latter player missed the game because of a foot sprain discovered only a day earlier.
The victorious Scarlet squad had to make due without defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure to alleviate a minor knee problem, while offensive linemen Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort both played sparingly because of a lack of depth on that unit.
Linebacker Curtis Grant did not play because of a pinched nerve, but none of the ailments are considered serious for the long term. ?