Blue Ribbon Preview: Ohio State

Originally Published: July 3, 2012
Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

Editor's Note: ESPN has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 122 FBS teams. To order the complete 2012 edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. (The information in these previews is current through June 25, 2012.)

ABOUT

Ohio State officials hope they have the perfect answer to the wreckage of 2011: Urban renewal.

When coach Urban Meyer was hired on Nov. 28, the Buckeyes had just lost to Michigan for the first time in eight years and were on their way to their first losing season since 1988.

Earlier in the year, a memorabilia-for-cash scandal forced out 10-year coach Jim Tressel, then senior quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Three other key offensive players faced major suspensions.

Interim coach Luke Fickell made a valiant effort but took his lumps in part because of poor quarterback play but also because of atypical breakdowns on defense.

What had been whispered for much of the season became reality with the hiring of Meyer, perhaps the only move that could have turned around the spirits of a dejected fan base.

The 47-year-old Ohio native, whose first job was as an Ohio State graduate assistant in the mid-1980s, pronounced himself, "home," and almost immediately began talking tough and backing it up with aggressive recruiting.

He retained Fickell as defensive coordinator but allowed all but two of Tressel's other assistant coaches to depart. One who stayed is former longtime NFL standout Mike Vrabel, who shares Meyer's hair-on-fire competitiveness.

The defense is experienced, and Meyer likes what he sees in sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, the team's leading rusher, who should thrive in the new fast-paced spread offense.

But beyond Miller, the Buckeyes are surprisingly thin at the skill positions.

Meyer certainly has set a tone. He immediately helped turn around what was shaping up to be a lackluster 2012 recruiting class, to the point that he rankled several Big Ten coaches who thought he "poached" their committed players.

At the spring game, Meyer had many of his players face off in a pregame "circle drill" -- basically pitting guys one-on-one in tough man contests as others circled around.

The crowd loved it.

This savior-of-the-program talk is a bit overplayed. After all, Ohio State is just two years removed from a string of six straight Big Ten titles. Tressel ran a similar drill, but in practice, not for public consumption.

But there's a lot to be said for Meyer re-energizing the program. There is a feeling that his teams will be ruthless -- try-and-stop-me rather than Tressel's style of make-fewer-mistakes, punt and play defense.

Meyer also has relatively little pressure this season, as the Buckeyes are ineligible for postseason play.

He can spend this year instilling his philosophy and scheme, and with another stellar recruiting class apparently headed his way in 2013, the Buckeyes are confident they will quickly get back to their winning ways.

THE STAFF

Head Coach: Urban Meyer (Cincinnati '86)
Record at school: First year
Career record: 104-23 (10 years)

Assistants:
… Everett Withers (Appalachian State '85) Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
… Tom Herman (Cal Lutheran '97) Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
… Ed Warinner (Mount Union '84) Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
… Luke Fickell (Ohio State '97) Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
… Kerry Coombs (Dayton '83) Cornerbacks
… Stan Drayton (Allegheny '93) Running Backs
… Tim Hinton (Wilminton '82) Tight Ends/Fullbacks
Zach Smith (Florida '07) Wide receivers
… Mike Vrabel (Ohio State '04) Defensive Line