Addressing his team for the first time during fall camp, Urban Meyer made it clear that last season's disappointing finish is no longer on his mind.
"The past? Who gives a s--t?" the Ohio State head coach asked rhetorically, referring to the Buckeyes' losses to Michigan State and Clemson in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl to close the 2013 campaign.
And with that, the Buckeyes 2014 campaign was officially underway.
Losses may no longer linger in Columbus, Ohio, but a changed atmosphere was apparent on the first day of Meyer's third fall camp as Ohio State's head coach.
Music ranging from Kanye West to Bruce Springsteen blared from loudspeakers—as did vulgarities from the soundtrack and coaches alike—as the Buckeyes embarked on a redemption tour of sorts in the coming season. But familiar themes rang throughout Ohio State's first fall camp session of the year as well, with Meyer explaining to his team that his "four to six seconds of relentless effort" culture was "non-negotiable."
Whether mixing a looser atmosphere with his permanent philosophy will lead to improved results for the Buckeyes this season remains to be seen. But there was plenty to take away from Ohio State's first practice session of the year, as the Buckeyes set sail on a pivotal season under their two-time national champion head coach.
After missing the entirety of Ohio State's spring practice session following offseason shoulder surgery, star quarterback Braxton Miller was back on the field for the Buckeyes in what Meyer described as "the best shape of his life." The third-year OSU head coach insisted that his senior signal-caller is now 100 percent recovered, although he admitted that Monday's heat took a toll on Miller.
"He wasn't as sharp today. When he got tired he started raising his left shoulder a little bit," Meyer said of Miller. "But he'll be fine. His attitude is tremendous."
With just one season of eligibility left, time is ticking on Miller's already impressive Ohio State legacy. And while he already has two Big Ten MVP awards and an undefeated season to his credit, Meyer knows that there are still goals remaining on Miller's college career checklist.
"I know the one thing he's missing is a championship," Meyer said. "The great players are measured by championships. We haven't had that conversation yet, but we will. And he knows."
Although it didn't technically count as a two-a-day, the Buckeyes held two separate practice sessions on Monday. First-year players—including true freshmen and Alabama graduate transfer Chad Lindsay—practiced in the morning, while Ohio State's returning veterans took the field in the afternoon.
And although Meyer was pleased with the productivity he saw in both sessions, he was particularly impressed by what 247Sports.com's third-ranked recruiting class has already brought to the table for the Buckeyes.
"We're going to try to get those guys ready to play," Meyer said of Ohio State's true freshmen. "It was a really good first day with the young guys."
It should, however, be noted that two true freshmen were noticeably absent from the Buckeyes' A.M. session, as neither linebacker Raekwon McMillan nor wide receiver Johnnie Dixon were on the field. That's because they already received their respective calls up to the big leagues, with Meyer inviting each to practice with OSU's veterans in the afternoon.
"It's rare," Meyer admitted. "They act like grown men, so we let them practice with the grown men today."
With both McMillan and Dixon vying for starting spots this season, it's hard to imagine either of their college careers getting off to better starts.
Speaking of position battles, one in particular has caught Meyer's eye already. As the Buckeyes attempt to replace four experienced starters from a season ago on the offensive line, the OSU head coach is particularly interested in seeing who will replace Andrew Norwell, as Antonio Underwood, Billy Price, Chase Farris and Joel Hale slug it out at left guard.
"That's the one," Meyer admitted. "If I had to say, 'Where's all the focus?,' to me, it's that left guard. What are we going to do with the left guard?"
Another interesting personnel development in Monday's afternoon practice came when Vonn Bell found himself with OSU's second-team defense. Presumed to be a starter this season, Bell will battle with Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows to earn that right and appears to have already used his current spot on the second team as motivation.
"He had a really good day," Meyer said of Bell. "That's a three-man race right now. All three of them think they're going to play and you throw Erick Smith in there champing at the bit too. You just gotta keep them healthy. Yeah, that's a good battle right there."
- Meyer confirmed that defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle has been reinstated to the Ohio State roster. The redshirt freshman was charged with possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and rioting/failure to disperse after an incident in Lorain, Ohio, in July, but he recently had his drug-related charges dropped and passed a drug test. Although he has been reinstated, Sprinkle will be removed from scholarship for the remainder of the summer and suspended for the Buckeyes' season-opener against Navy, according to Meyer.
- Meyer also confirmed the transfer of offensive lineman Tommy Brown. The redshirt junior and Akron, Ohio, native failed to make much movement on the OSU depth chart in his three seasons in Columbus and will spend the remainder of his college career at the University of Akron.
- One position that Meyer doesn't have much concern about right now is punt returner. The Buckeyes head coach said that wide receiver/running back Dontre Wilson is currently working with the first team, but he expects Corey Smith, Jalin Marshall and Marshon Lattimore to make pushes for playing time on special teams as well.
- Redshirt freshman cornerback Gareon Conley missed practice with flu-like symptoms. Meyer said that he anticipates him returning to practice on Tuesday. Conley is expected to battle with Armani Reeves and Eli Apple for the right to start opposite senior Doran Grant.
- Former Texas quarterback and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite observed Ohio State's practice.
- After suffering a season-ending injury early last year, defensive lineman Michael Hill was officially granted a medical redshirt and will have four years of eligibility remaining starting with the upcoming season.
- Initially listed as a tight end, freshman Sam Hubbard is now listed as a linebacker on the OSU roster. Wearing uniform No. 49, Hubbard will still be eligible to receive passes should the Buckeyes opt to use him on offense.
*All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.
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