Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller will lead the Buckeyes today in the team's first preseason practice.
Columbus Dispatch Enlarge
COLUMBUS -- The predawn opening of Ohio State's first preseason camp under coach Urban Meyer today will begin to cast a light on several questions.
For one, will the Buckeyes be able to proficiently throw and catch the ball this year? Meyer believes the results of sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller's offseason workouts with his wide receivers should be apparent shortly after the start of today's 6 a.m. practice.
"If I see those receivers coming out of breaks and the quarterback spinning the ball on time, that means we have a chance to be really good on offense," he said, referring to a unit that ranked 115th in passing last season. "If they don't, we have got a problem."
More important to Meyer are the questions that cut to the core of his players.
Will he be coaching an angry team this fall? As the new boss continues to fashion the program in his exacting vision, will the players embrace what he promises to be a "really, really hard" camp?
Meyer foremost wants to coach a team filled with fury. A team fuming from the disappointment of the school's first seven-loss season since 1897 -- and ready to do something about it.
"I saw a quote somewhere where the last time Ohio State lost seven games was in the 1800s," Meyer said. "I actually heard players say that. I'm hoping it's a very angry team. … It's a coaches dream to coach an angry group of guys on a mission. The complacent and entitled group, that's a nightmare."
Meyer experienced the former in his second season at Florida, calling his 2006 team that throttled Ohio State in the national championship game the "most motivated" group he's coached. The Gators had spent months simmering after spending the holidays at the Outback Bowl for the third time in four seasons.
"It was a group of kids who struggled for a few years," Meyer said. "You come to places like Florida to go get a ring, and they never had one. You can stoke that fire real easy. It's the teams you can't push you worry about."
Which type is Ohio State?
"I still don't know enough about this team," Meyer said.
Ultimately, he said, the character of his team will be revealed in the shared struggle of preseason camp.
"Guys are definitely hungry from what happened last season, but I wouldn't say we're angry yet," senior fullback Zach Boren said. "It takes for you to go through camp. That's when you build your personality as a team."
The answers won't come today, either. They will come when Ohio State begins two-a-day practices in full pads on Aug. 10. They will come when the Buckeyes pack 17 practices into 14 days between Monday and Aug. 19. They will come in the dog days for which senior defensive end John Simon said he and his teammates trained for this summer by waiting until the sun scorched high in the sky to begin their outside workouts.
Meyer wants to know how his players will respond after two weeks of spending their waking hours at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, when they are bruised and wearied and "their girlfriends are telling them to pound salt."
"Let's talk about Day 10, Day 11," he said. "That's when I evaluate, 'Do you really like football?' I didn't say, 'Do you like two a days?' The John Simons of the world are the only guys really enjoying two a days. But do you appreciate the struggle?"
Meyer said early indications are positive. He believes he has an angry team bent on restoring the program's name. If not, he just might make them one.
At the Big Ten media days in Chicago last week, a reporter asked Meyer if he's concerned by high outside expectations for his team. One ESPN personality said on air the previous day that OSU could be 10-0 heading into its Nov. 17 trip to Wisconsin.
"My concern is not with me," Meyer said. "But if those kids hear that, I've got to beat it out of them the first week of training camp. I can promise you after Day 4, they're not going to be talking about being 10-0. They're worried about getting to Day 5. It's going to be a really, really hard training camp."
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.