December 20, 2014

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OSU football: Urban Meyer era begins today

Jim Naveau, The Lima News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A crowd of 61,312 watched Ohio State play Florida in the Gator Bowl on Monday, which is probably smaller than the attendance will be at the Buckeyes’ spring game, the first chance for fans to watch Urban Meyer coach at Ohio State.

But before that, there is a smaller meeting planned. At 7 a.m. today, Meyer was scheduled to address the returning Ohio State players in a team meeting.

For some reason, these things always seem to happen early in the morning.

It’s probably designed that way to help get the players’ attention.

The unspoken message is that they need to wake up, that they need to start working earlier than their competition, that they need to sit up straight and pay attention.

Meyer probably won’t be as blistering in his assessment of the situation at Ohio State as he was in his first meeting at Bowling Green, where he was a first-year coach and the football program was mired in losing.

But after a 6-7 season marred by numerous suspensions, the new coach’s prodding to do better will probably be a few notches beyond gentle.

Meyer has already spoken to Ohio State’s team on the day he was introduced as their new coach back in November.

But this is the first day he will be exerting all of his power after interim coach Luke Fickell and the previous OSU staff were allowed to coach the team through Monday’s Gator Bowl game.

Meyer has said he wants to hit the team “like a hurricane” with his new staff in place.

So, it could be an interesting meeting and an interesting next few months for Ohio State’s underclassmen and incoming recruits.

After all the issues they’ve dealt with, along with a 6-7 record, Meyer could find a roomful of willing listeners when he talks to the Buckeyes.

“I’m just ready for next year,” sophomore defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins said. “I’m anxious to turn the page. He’s just going to give us a brief talk (today) and take it from there.

“I’m going to be prepared for next year and get the job done,” Hankins said.

Junior linebacker Etienne Sabino said, “I know there’s going to be a change.”

When it was suggested to him that having a new coach was a chance to wipe the slate clean with a new man in charge who hadn’t seen the mistakes and bad habits players had in the past, he said that’s not the way it works.

“(Ohio State’s new coaches) have the film. They’ll see the mistakes,” he said.

Meyer’s hiring has created a tidal wave of enthusiasm in Ohio State’s huge fan base, even with the NCAA-imposed bowl ban for the 2012 season.

But something to remember — and something Meyer might point out to his team — is that there are a lot of other teams who want to be great and will put in the work to try to do it.

Even though it beat Ohio State 24-17 in the Gator Bowl to finish 7-6 and avoid a losing season, Florida’s players can expect a meeting of their own when they return to campus.

“I’m so excited for our football team, but we need to get better and that starts with me,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said after Monday’s game.

“Seven-and-six is not acceptable at the University of Florida and we’re looking forward to getting started on Jan. 9. We start school and we’ll have a good team meeting that day and get these guys ready to go,” he said.

A new era begins today at Ohio State. But there still will be challenges and challengers to be met.

Contact Jim Naveau at (419) 993-2087 or jnaveau@limanews.com.