As Urban Meyer stood in front of the assembled media at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago’s Hyatt McCormick Place on Thursday morning, reporters were eager to see if the first-year Ohio State coach had some insight for how the conference could match the Southeastern Conference’s recent dominance on the field.
Though reluctant to get too opinionated about a conference he still admits he has much to learn about, Meyer had a simple answer – win bowl games consistently on the national level.
That may have been a painful thing for Meyer to say, particularly because Ohio State will not be allowed to partake in the postseason as it serves its NCAA penalties from scandals involving former coach Jim Tressel and a handful of players.
Meyer, however, scoffed at the notion that he’d have a “buffer year” to experiment with new things without the stresses of damaging postseason position while enduring growing pains.
“There is no such thing as a buffer year in college football, certainly not at Ohio State and certainly not with myself or my staff or the players,” Meyer said. “There’s no buffer year.”
Two big pieces that could go a long way in determining Ohio State’s success are seniors Jake Stoneburner and Jake Mewhort, both of which lost their scholarships and had to pay their own ways through summer school when entering guilty pleas to the charge of disorderly conduct after being found urinating in public.
Meyer said neither player – both seniors – have been reinstated to the team but both have worked diligently to take the steps needed to rejoin the Buckeyes for fall camp, which is set to kick off in eight days on Aug. 3.
“They're not reinstated yet, but they're actively working out,” Meyer said of the senior duo. “They have to fulfill their penance or obligation that we've asked them to do.
“Obviously the kind of people that they are, the families they're from, we did take their scholarships. They've had to pay for their summer school. Very expensive mistake. They're doing what they are supposed to do. Monitoring it closely. And that decision won't be made until we get to training camp. But as of now they'll be reporting to training camp a week from Friday.”
Both players completed spring practice as starters and integral pieces to an offense striving to grow from what Meyer has repeatedly described as an unacceptable unit moving into 2012.
Meyer wasn’t specific about the actual steps Mewhort and Stoneburner have taken off the field, though he was confident the two have done the necessary things to be worthy of rejoining the team in just more than a week.
“It is eight days away, but if they fulfill their community service and a variety of things I am not going to list, if it continues as-is, they’ll report next Friday,” Meyer said.
Meyer updated the status of two other players in running back Jordan Hall and defensive end Nathan Williams, both of which will be sidelined in fall camp while recovering from injuries.
Hall, a senior running back that was expected to play a major role in the Buckeyes’ offense, has been recovering from foot surgery after mistakenly stepping on a piece of glass roughly a month ago.
Meyer envisioned Hall would be the perfect candidate to make plays for Ohio State in a variety of different ways, whether it was as a ball carrier out of the backfield or as a receiver. The running back, who was initially slated to miss 10 weeks while recovering from surgery, is making progress in his rehab.
“Jordan Hall and I spoke yesterday and he is a little bit ahead of schedule,” Meyer said. “It was a very unfortunate injury to a guy, I hate to use the term ‘bought in,’ but was completely bought and was getting more than a 3.0 his last two quarters. He was a guy who had a great spring, and then an injury to this day I am still trying to figure out what happened. He stepped on a piece of glass at three in the afternoon, but he is also moving along very fast.”
Lost since Ohio State’s season-opener a year ago, Williams’ injury is the reason he’s gone from being one of the most impactful players on the Buckeyes’ defense to somewhat of an afterthought.
It still remains to be seen if Williams can make a full recovery in time to be the same player he was before his injury – he was one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten – but the senior told BSB that he expects to be a main contributor once again.
Meyer said Williams is ahead of schedule for his return from micro-fracture knee surgery and could be a big addition to an already deep Ohio State defensive front.
“Nathan Williams I’d say is right on schedule, if not a touch ahead,” Meyer said. “He’ll be on the team, he’ll report, but he won’t be at full speed. He is cutting, he’s accelerating and doing things a little bit ahead of schedule and the training staff and him are doing a great job.”
Follow Me on Twitter and find us on Facebook.