New OSU coach asks his players to show respect for their school.
Jack Mewhort (74), a St. John's graduate, said new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer commands respect from his players.
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COLUMBUS -- The air in the room was tight with tension, anxiety, apprehension, and a dose of fear of the unknown.
When Urban Meyer had his first meeting with the Ohio State players on the same day he was announced as their new head coach, his initial words were not what they had expected.
No rah-rah stuff, no litany of the things they would do differently, and no fire, no brimstone.
He walked in the room and told them to sit up straight.
Ohio State vs. Florida
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m.
Records: OSU 6-6; Florida 6-6
Series: Florida 1-0
Favorite: Florida by 2
"You knew [right away] he was all business," said sophomore offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, "which was good to see."
Mewhort, a St. John's Jesuit grad who has played in 22 games in his Ohio State career, said that after a year's worth of turmoil and scandal within the program, and several weeks worth of rabid speculation about Meyer possibly returning to coaching and taking over the OSU program, the scene was somewhat surreal.
"It was kind of like, 'Wow, this is really happening.'" Mewhort said recently as the Buckeyes went through practice and preparation for a Jan. 2 date with Florida in the Gator Bowl.
"It was really cool, just because you know what he's done, which everybody respects, everywhere he goes."
What Meyer has done is win two national championships in the six seasons he spent in Gainesville coaching the Gators and take Utah to a 12-0 record in 2004 for its first perfect season in 75 years. He resigned at Florida following the 2010 season and spent the past year working as a college football analyst for ESPN.
Mewhort, who can play any position on the offensive line and was named this season as an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the league's coaches, said he is still learning what to expect from Meyer. Mewhort said that Meyer, an Ohio native who started his head coaching career at Bowling Green, is revered in the same manner as former coach Jim Tressel, who resigned in May after 10 seasons as OSU's head coach.
"I haven't been around coach Meyer a lot, but something that he has in common with coach Tressel is that they're both very well respected," Mewhort said. "When you see them in the hallway, you straighten up, because you know what they've done, you know what they've been through, and what they've accomplished."
Junior fullback Zach Boren said he got an immediate read on Meyer and felt very comfortable with the new coach and his direct style.
"He's an intense guy -- that's the first thing that I thought of when he came in and talked to us," Boren said. "He said he expects the best out of us each and every day, and he's going to push us to the fullest. If he's more in-your-face, then that's fine with me. I kind of prefer that approach."
Meyer, who since his official hiring on Nov. 28 has been concentrating on recruiting and building his staff, said his message to the Buckeyes was a simple one.
"We had a great team meeting, and it's a good-looking group of players," Meyer said in his remarks at his initial news conference.
"I asked them to play and be respectful of this great school and of the coaching staff and to go out and find a way to win the bowl game. Have a good taste in your mouth, and let's start on January 2nd moving forward."
Junior defensive lineman John Simon said he liked Meyer's energy and his admiration for Ohio State's tradition.
"He's very enthusiastic about what he does and very excited to be here," Simon said. "He said he feels it's an honor to coach for The Ohio State University, and we're excited to play for him."
Mewhort said all the focus is on preparing for the Gator Bowl and putting forth a premium effort in Ohio State's final game under interim head coach Luke Fickell, who was named to direct the program after Tressel was forced out. After that bowl game, the new era in Ohio State football with Meyer really begins.
"I'm really excited to get things started with him," Mewhort said. "We all know what he's done, and I think we're ready for that. We're ready to move on, Ohio State's ready to move on, and we're ready to win a lot of games next year."
And what happens in that first team meeting with Meyer in January, once the team returns from Florida?
"When he walks in the room, you sit up, and you make sure you are listening to him," Mewhort said.
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @MattMarkey.