5 questions about Ohio State football

Associated Press Modified: August 23, 2012 at 11:12 am •  Published: August 22, 2012
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State has a new coach, new approach, new players and a fresh start.

But what does it all mean?

There's a lot going on in Buckeyeland, now under the guidance of former Bowling Green, Utah and Florida coach Urban Meyer.

After a forgettable 2011 — which included NCAA sanctions, suspensions, departures and a dismal 6-7 record — fans are embracing a rejuvenated program that opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Miami (Ohio).

Fifteen starters return from the team that weathered nothing but bad news under interim coach Luke Fickell. With the Buckeyes officially in looking-ahead mode instead of dealing with the trauma of Jim Tressel's resignation and all those NCAA nightmares, there are many questions as Meyer establishes his own imprint in the program's 123rd year.

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1) How are things different under Meyer? Despite what you may have heard there are no meters yet invented which can accurately measure intensity. So it's hard to say, as have some over-caffeinated observers, that Meyer has run the toughest August camp ever at Ohio State, or that it's substantially more "competitive" or hard-hitting than last year's, the year before or when Paul Brown prowled the sidelines.

Still, Meyer displays a brutally frank form of public tough love. He called it "a clown show" as the Buckeyes tried to grasp his new, fast-tempo spread offense in the first week of spring drills. He has consistently called out the wide receivers for not working hard enough or not doing their jobs, and hasn't hidden the fact that since day one he's been searching for a hybrid runner/receiver around which to build.

Just this week, Meyer spoke of the passing game.

"The area where we're much improved is throwing and catching. Much improved," he said. Then he added, "We couldn't have gone much the other way."

In terms of approach, this is light years from the senatorial doublespeak of Tressel, deposed in the wake of the memorabilia-for-cash scandal of 2011.

Other than not suffering fools (or marginal effort) gladly, Meyer has instituted his version of speed dating called the spread offense. Every few seconds, the ball will be snapped; defenses had better be ready. This is beyond light years removed from the conservative "let's play field position and rely on our defense" offense of Tressel, which to be fair resulted in his teams winning almost 8 of every 10 games for a decade at Ohio State.

Meyer is demanding, intolerant of excuses and indifference, more than a little arrogant and assured that his way will work.

It'll be interesting to see how Meyer — who twice quit as Florida's head coach, the second time to sit out of coaching for a year due to health concerns — handles a return to the pressure cooker of coaching. It'll also be a lab experiment whether Ohio State fans, quick to love any coach who wins on a regular basis, accept his blunt perspective.

2) Will the new offense flourish? Offensive coordinator Tom Herman makes it clear that Meyer is canny enough to not try to fit players into his offense; it works the other way, with the offense adapting to fit the talent at hand.

That means that there will still be a lot of passing — perhaps more passes than Ohio State has ever thrown. And that means far more throws to backs out of the backfield and in the slot, to tight ends and to receivers in a multitude of sets.

The personnel on hand, at the skill positions in particular, is nowhere close to what Meyer had in his six seasons at Florida, and probably not up to what he had at Utah. But it's a fluid situation, with Carlos Hyde probably running the ball a lot in the first few games until Jordan Hall returns from a cut foot and the offense finds its mojo. It will likely take time before QB Braxton Miller finds a receiver with which he has an almost innate connection.

It's a qualified yes. The offense will flourish, but don't judge it based on the opener. There will still be moments where it's a clown show, but other times where it makes defenses look silly. Remember: Miller is still only a sophomore who had an up-and-down first season, most of the receivers have never actually done much receiving in a game, and the running game is a work in progress.

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