Buckeye Cruise for Cancer: Meyer Takes Center Stage on Day 4
By Brandon Castel
Photo by Dan Harker
Urban Meyer was a busy many on Sunday, the fourth and final full day of the 2013 Buckeye Cruise for Cancer. He and his wife Shelley held a donors dinner for 50 people who gave a thousand dollars to dine with the Meyers.
Ohio State’s second-year head coach also spent most of the day talking football with his good friend Kirk Herbstreit. We will have some video footage of Meyer and his former ESPN cohorts, Herbstreit and Robert Smith, but here’s a look back at a busy Sunday aboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas.
College Football Preview
Following a quick interview with former Woody Hayes assistant Ed Ferkany – got a lot of really interesting stuff about Archie and Woody – I was off to the pool on the top deck for a College Football Preview featuring Meyer, Herbstreit and Robert Smith.
For those who don’t know, Ferkany was the offensive line coach who replaced Earle Bruce at OSU in 1972 when Earle left to become the head coach at University of Tampa. He had a lot of interesting things to say about Woody and Archie, but the first thing he told me was “all those stories you've heard about Woody...they're all true.”
Ferkany also told me he sees a lot of Woody in Urban Meyer. Not just the toughness but also how he treats the players with respect but he demands a lot out of them – on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom.
The College Football Preview was an interesting event because fans got a chance to hear what Herbstreit and Smith had to say about college football with Urban Meyer sitting right between them. One fan asked Meyer if he thought the Buckeyes could have played with Alabama at the end of the year: “Hell yeah, of course we could.”
Meyer said the Buckeyes were not a very good team early in the year. The returning players were doing a lot of evaluating with the program and the new coaching staff. He said the UAB game was some of the worst football he has seen in 10 years.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The team was headed in a bad direction but something happened during that trip to Michigan State, and according to Meyer, it all started with Zach Boren. He said Boren, John Simon, Etienne Sabino and Garrett Goebel were some of the best leaders he has ever been around.
Robert Smith agreed that Ohio State would have been a better matchup with Alabama than Notre Dame but Herbstreit said he thinks Alabama is on a different level right now. He did say he thinks Urban Meyer is trying to get to that level and he’s one of the few guys who can.
Both Herbstreit and Smith picked an Ohio State-Alabama matchup in the 2014 BCS National Championship game. Herbstreit said the Buckeyes should be favored by 7-8 points in every game they play this year, but did tell Urban he better be ready for the trip to Northwestern.
Night of Buckeye Football
They concluded Day 4 with an hour-long program in the Coral Theatre. It featured Urban Meyer on stage with Kirk Herbstreit and it was an absolute smorgasbord of good Ohio State information.
The event was supposed to be A Year in Review, with Meyer and Herbstreit talking about the 2012 Buckeyes and what it took for that team to finish with a perfect 12-0 record. There was a little bit of that, but the two of them also touched on a number of topics across the college football landscape.
Meyer also talked a lot about spring football and what he sees in the team he has coming back for the 2013 season.
Meyer said he is excited to get back to Columbus to start working with the offensive guys he has coming back. That starts with Braxton Miller, and Meyer thinks his junior quarterback has every tool he needs to be successful at the next level. He just needs to work on fundamentals.
He was not shy about the fact Jordan Hall was the only guy they had last spring who could “make someone miss,” which is what their offense is predicated on. Meyer said Hall “will be a captain again” and he will no longer be a tailback. He is moving out to the hybrid No. 3 position with incoming freshmen Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson.
Senior wideout Corey Brown will slide to the slot and the top three tailbacks will be Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Bri'onte Dunn, though Meyer did say Warren Ball presents “an intriguing option” for them at tailback.
Meyer said the four guys they have coming back should give them the best offensive line in the Big Ten. He also talked about how much he loves Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett at the tight end spot.
On the other side of the ball, Meyer said their top options at middle linebacker right now are Curtis Grant and Camren Williams. Sophomore Josh Perry could play outside or inside but he’s not sure who else they have at linebacker.
He about jumped out of his seat when Herbstreit mentioned Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell, “I love freaks,” he said with a smile.
Meyer really likes the talent on the defensive line, but he’s concerned about the lack of experience. He said sophomore Noah Spence is up to 245 pounds from 225 last year and was practically salivating about Spence and Adolphus Washington. Meyer expects this group to be top 5 in the country in two years but said they need to accelerate that.
He is worried about a lack of leadership on defense right now. He said Christian Bryant is the “emotional leader” of the defense, but they are incredibly young and he doesn’t know where the leadership will come from.
Most Important Play in Football
Meyer was asked about the punting situation on Sunday and he joked about the fact they won’t need to punt this year. He then quickly reminded fans “we will definitely punt.”
Meyer said senior kicker Drew Basil will also be their No. 1 punter heading into spring and redshirt freshman Frank Epitropoulos “will get a chance.” He said after those two “we don’t really have many other options right now.”
Clearing Things Up
One important thing Meyer tried to explain Sunday night was the fact he never called out the other coaches in the Big Ten about their recruiting. He said he was asked about the Big Ten’s lack of success compared to the SEC. He responded by saying the entire conference needed to look itself in the mirror and figure out a way to go win games. He said he mentioned more night games, more speed and better recruiting as three possible ways to improve the overall profile of the conference.
Meyer also reiterated that he is adamantly against the new recruiting rules that will deregulate everything. He said the vote was unanimous among the 14 Big Ten coaches against the new rules and feels like it went from being a done deal to being 50/50 across the board.
If the NCAA does adopt the new rules – or rather eradicate some of the ones they have in place already – Meyer said has already talked to OSU athletic director Gene Smith about increasing the recruiting budget by “seven or eight” times so other people aren’t outdoing them.
Meyer also brought up the fact he wants more night games at Ohio State. He said he is all about tradition and he loves the rich history at a place like Ohio State, but he loves recruiting even more. Meyer said it's all about giving an 18-year-old kid an experience he won’t forget. To him, that supersedes everything else.
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