Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Urban Meyer's 5 Biggest Challenges at Ohio State for 2012

By Tyler Featured Contributor

Urban Meyer has dominated his opponents at every school he's coached; the two-time national champion carries a 104-23 record (81.9 percent) heading into his first season with Ohio State, which is second behind Boise State's Chris Petersen as the current leader in winning percentage.

However, his debut in the Big Ten isn't guaranteed to be a walk in the park. The Buckeyes are coming off their first losing season in 23 years, one in which the offense was stagnant and the defense underachieved.

Although the NCAA-imposed postseason ban alleviates any major pressures to win, the Ohio State football program is used to winning and expects Meyer to get it right back to the top as the best team in the conference.

With an almost entirely new coaching staff, offensive playbook and way of life, Meyer and the "most talented team in the Big Ten" are striving for improvement every day and look to stay extremely competitive in the Leaders division.

But for he and his team to continue doing so, he'll have to get past these challenges that lay ahead.

It seems as if it's a perfect "us against the world" type of situation, where Ohio State and the football program just can't do anything right for the moment.

On May 4, highly-touted linebacker recruit Alex Anzalone de-commited from the Buckeyes after a ridiculous run-in with a superfan, who just happened to be a sex offender in the state of Kentucky.

This of course made national news and put an unwanted spotlight on the school and coach Urban Meyer, who had been on a recruiting tear up until then. No player has committed to Ohio State since the incident.

Just two weeks later, athletic director Gene Smith released a report that showed the university had 46 secondary violations committed through 21 different sports that included assistant football coach Mike Vrabel using smokeless tobacco on the sideline and head coach Urban Meyer wishing luck to a recruit during a non-contact period.

"It's nothing that troubles me," Smith said, according to "It's normal operating business. It's nothing that troubles me. I've seen all the cases, we know all the cases. You look at them, and they're inadvertent mistakes."

A bit silly if you ask me, but it definitely added another target to the program's back in the eyes of the media and rival fans.

And most recently, tight end Jake Stoneburner and left tackle Jack Mewhort were arrested last weekend for obstructing official business. The two were then suspended indefinitely by the university, which could potentially be a huge blow for the developing offense.

With all this occurring within a month's time, I can only imagine Meyer's frustration. The Buckeyes need to throw everything behind them and move forward, tip-toeing into the regular season and staying quiet up until they are again bowl eligible.

Anything else would be undesired attention.

After racing to an incredibly fast start for the 2013 recruiting class by receiving verbal commitments from 13 prospective athletes, Urban Meyer is now either taking it slow or is in a rut.

On April 30, 3-star linebacker Lewis Neal de-committed from Ohio State after being offered a scholarship by LSU (which he has not accepted).

And then of course was the infamous Alex Anzalone case, as the 4-star linebacker re-opened his recruiting market just a few short days later. currently has Meyer's 2013 class No. 10 overall, even though his last commitment came from 5-star defensive lineman on April 23.

Michigan ranks No. 1 with 19 total verbals—five more than second-place Alabama.

Although national signing day isn't until February, Meyer needs to continue building around his strong class by grabbing another high-profile receiver, offensive lineman, linebacker and more.

Which I expect he will do at his own pace.

With the hiring of Urban Meyer comes the offense that won him two national championships at Florida. His spread-option scheme revolves around playmakers, like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez.

Braxton Miller, Jordan Hall and Jake Stoneburner are expected to be those guys in 2012.

However, any time there's a huge transition with the offensive playbook, every skill player needs to dedicate himself to learn it and live it.

In this particular change, the quarterback gets a lot of attention. Miller is still developing as a passer and a decision-maker, but has vastly improved since the beginning of spring workouts and has proven to be a leader.

It's the guys around him that are extremely critical to the offense's overall performance, and this is where Meyer is a little concerned.

Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Corey "Philly" Brown, Hall and Stoneburner—all Jim Tressel or Luke Fickell recruits—are expected to fill these roles to start the season. Every single one of them will need to play in sync with Miller to find an early rhythm and sustain it, while continuing to develop and get better.

It is up to Meyer and the coaching staff to get them where they need to be by Week 1.

Due to the improper benefits scandal led by former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in 2010, the Buckeyes are facing a one-year bowl ban that will even hold them back from a potential Big Ten title appearance.

This could be the season that nobody cares about, where every regular season matchup becomes meaningless because of the end result—or lack of.

But that's not the case.

“It is still my goal to hire excellent coaches, recruit great student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and to win on and off the field," said Meyer after the NCAA released the news, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Players said the Buckeyes could follow the example of Southern California, which received a tighter NCAA sanction with a two-year ban. It went 10-2 last season and are projected to be the No. 1 team to beat in 2012.

Meyer will need to maintain a high-spirited locker room throughout the regular season and continue encouraging his players—especially the seniors—to leave everything on the field and play to the best of their ability on every down.

And to look forward to November 24.

The most important—and probably most challenging—portion of Urban Meyer's to-do list for 2012 is to beat arch-rival Michigan.

And with the postseason ban in place, the mood is set just right.

The Wolverines will make a visit to Columbus on November 24 where they will play a very hungry Buckeyes team that will likely take the matchup like it's the national championship.

105,000-plus fans will gather around the 'shoe and form a January-like atmosphere, giving Ohio State the right inspiration to hand Michigan its ninth loss against the Silver Bullets over the last decade.

A victory here would allow the Buckeyes to carry an incredible amount of momentum heading into the 2013 season, where they are expected to make a title run.

It won't be easy, but a win against Michigan in his first year as OSU's head coach would be huge for Meyer.

And it could possibly start a new version of the Ten Year War.



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