COLUMBUS -- Finally, Urban Meyer cracked a slight smile and admitted he'd been caught speaking with forked tongue.
With the countdown to his first game as head coach at Ohio State evaporating by the day, he held his first weekly media conference and sent some mixed signals.
Asked whether he anticipated having a team that lost seven games, including its last four, a la 2011, or one that's ready to turn things around, Meyer began his answer with, "I can't comment on last year's team; I have no idea."
Asked about his message to the Buckeyes regarding their postseason ban, he said, "I think at some point that's going to have to be addressed. Now is not the time … There is no conversation about week 13, week 14, week 15, Christmas break."
Asked about his team's personality, he said he "wanted to have an angry team, a team with a chip on its shoulder."
So, eventually, he was asked that without discussion about the past or the future, just what did he expect this team to be angry about in the present?
"Well, they're not very well thought of," Meyer responded. "I mean, they lost a lot of games, the most games since the 1800s or something I read somewhere. [For] a lot of reasons, for the John Simons, [Etienne] Sabinos and those kinds of guys, that's their legacy. They're going to be known as that group. I don't want [them] to be that group. And that's part of the angry … I'm speaking with a forked tongue.
"I don't want to talk about the end of the season. However, I'll utilize any form of motivation I can to get guys angry because I love coaching angry teams.
"There's nothing like it. There's nothing like a group of kids that really wants to prove someone wrong or [prove] something to someone. That's every coach's dream as opposed to the fat cat that sits back and [thinks], hey, we're good and don't worry about it."
In other words, Meyer would prefer not to discuss last season or the end of the upcoming season with you or me, but, baby, you'd better believe those are non-stop topics behind closed doors at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex.
"If I want to make them angry, then I can fire some shots at them," he said.
"I mean, my job is to motivate 100 18-year-olds … If I see a window opening to go [tick] someone off to get them to go a little harder today, I've been known to do that."
Truthfully, the Buckeyes, at least those a little older than 18, should already be plenty ticked off.
A former coach, Jim Tressel, and some teammates committed major NCAA violations during the 2010 season. Twelve wins and a Big Ten co-championship from that season were vacated, Tressel was forced out, ongoing player suspensions affected the 2011 season under interim coach Luke Fickell, and a 6-7 record represented the most losses at OSU since 1897. Sanctions will continue during the '12 postseason, with the Buckeyes ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship game or in any bowl.
So, yes, there's plenty to be at least mildly aggravated over.
"Yeah, considering everything we've been through," said Sabino, the senior starter at outside linebacker. "Last year didn't end the way we wanted it to end. Neither will this year. So we want to show that Ohio State is still here, that we haven't disappeared. We want to prove we deserve respect."
On the other hand, Ohio State is ranked No. 18 in the AP preseason poll. Some national pundits have the Buckeyes in their top 10s. At least one predicts OSU would be the Big Ten champion, if eligible.
So while Meyer says the Buckeyes are "not very well thought of," one might counter that they are thought of more highly than perhaps they should be. After all, the skill position talent on offense is pretty much the same as that which ranked 107th in the nation in total yards a year ago.
The difference? That would be Urban Meyer and, to a large degree, quarterback Braxton Miller being a year older and light years better in Meyer's no-huddle spread, to a yet-to-be-determined degree. That would be one proven rock star and one potential rock star, both starting over.
It begins Saturday at Ohio Stadium against Miami (Ohio). The non-conference schedule includes manageable games, all at home, against Central Florida, Cal, and Alabama-Birmingham. The Buckeyes have won 57 straight non-conference home games against teams not ranked in the Top 25.
Can we all say 4-0?
The Big Ten slate is pitted with minefields, though, with trips to Michigan State and Wisconsin and home games against Nebraska and Michigan. All four are ranked ahead of OSU in the AP Top 25.
Maybe that will rile up some of the Buckeyes.
"We just have to play with that chip on our shoulder and win as many as we can," said kicker Drew Basil.
Sabino said he is only sure of one thing. "Coach Meyer is a great coach with a great track record," he said. "He and this program are going to do great things. To have a small footprint in that foundation would mean a lot to me. But we want this to be more than a foundation year."
Anything less and Sabino would be, well, angry.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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