- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Urban Meyer thought he might need to make a few calls.
There was a possibility the Ohio State coach might have even considered dialing his old sparring partner Lane Kiffin for advice on how to navigate through a season without dangling a championship carrot.
But as his first few months in charge of the Buckeyes passed and Meyer progressively came to know the personalities on his new team better, that plan was scrapped.
Forget the phone. When it comes to making a plan for leading this version of the Buckeyes, all Meyer has to do is open the door to his office and invite his seniors inside.
"I thought I might go reaching out to some other coaches, but I really have a respect for our team now," Meyer said Thursday at Big Ten media days. "I didn't have that in January and February because I didn't know our team. The real guys I'm going to lean on are the leaders on our team; that's how much respect I have for them.
"I wasn't ready to start talking about our guys until I watched them perform -- in January, February, March, through a very difficult offseason, a very competitive and difficult spring practice. Now they just finished one of the most difficult offseasons in the country and I'm watching the way they respond. They've earned the admiration and respect that they're getting right now."
They've also earned the ear of Meyer, who has formed a leadership committee that meets regularly with the coach and has quickly won him over with a competitive mindset that appears unaffected by the looming bowl ban.
And so far, that leaves Meyer little need to seek outside advice on postseason sanctions and free from the burden of coming up with gimmicks such as inspirational T-shirts -- though he admitted he's not opposed to doing the latter if that's what it takes to win a game this fall.
"This team is all about winning," Meyer said. "We've done it, and since the day our staff stepped foot on campus, it's been about competition. Whether it's in the weight room, whether it's academic in the classroom, whether it's on Wednesdays and Saturdays during spring ball, we've competed.
"If you have a team that you really have to encourage and motivate to go win a game, that's a really bad team. If we're in that situation, then I'll do whatever we have to do to go try to win. But I'm hoping, as of right now and being around these players, I don't think there's going to be a problem with motivation to go win a game."
There will still be 12 chances for the Buckeyes to do exactly that this season, and even without the opportunity to play for a trophy at the end of it, there's plenty that can be accomplished without a bowl game.
Ohio State may not be eligible for the Big Ten title game, but it will surely have an influence on the teams that make it there, starting with early dates against Michigan State and Nebraska.
The Buckeyes won't be capping their season with a warm-weather bowl trip, but they still get to close it with a rivalry showdown against Michigan.
And while The Game will be The End for the Ohio State seniors in November, they are embracing the possibility that what they do to close their careers with the program could have a lasting impact when they're gone.
"You know, this season is going to set up the seasons for the next couple years," senior fullback Zach Boren said. "We need to build a lot of momentum, especially since it's coach Meyer's first year. We need to show the freshmen and last year's freshmen, the sophomores now, the way to win. Last year's freshmen don't know what that's like with us having the first losing season in a long, long time.
"We just need to get back to winning and being what Ohio State is, and that's what our job as seniors is going to be."
After hearing that, Meyer obviously didn't feel the need to outsource.
Urban Meyer doesn't believe he'll need gimmicks to lead Buckeyes through bowl-less season