Urban Meyer grew up with the Buckeyes. On Saturday, he will coach them for the first time.
COLUMBUS -- As the Ohio State football team sets off on a new era Saturday against Miami (Ohio), its coach hopes he will able to laser his focus onto the field.
But Urban Meyer makes no promises.
This is personal. Toledo-born and Buckeye-bred, he first watched Ohio State play as a 4-year-old, coached there as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce, and later adorned his home office with a photograph of Woody Hayes.
Meyer envisions he will confront a flood of emotion when he runs onto the field before a booming band and an Ohio Stadium crowd of more than 100,000.
"I'll have a few notes," he said Monday. "I'll carry a little folder with me to keep my face in the game and not worrying about when 'Hang on Sloopy' gets played.
"No, that's serious. I have to do that because I'm going to be coming out of my shoes a little bit."
Meyer began his first game week at Ohio State in an upbeat mood Monday at his weekly press conference, excited to see his new team debut in his old home.
He returns to the sideline hopeful but uncertain after spending a year as an analyst at ESPN.
Meyer said Buckeyes are "champing at the bit to go play." He wants to see a team that bent on sending a resounding message that last year was an exception, a team ready to wash away the aftertaste from the program's first seven-loss season in more than a century.
The guardedness stems from so much being new, including the no-huddle spread offense and many of the players on the first depth chart of the season released Monday.
The two-deep chart on offense and defense included 12 freshmen, including at each of the three linebacker positions. Meyer said three freshmen will also start on the kickoff team.
One spot where a new face will have to wait is right tackle, where senior Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker waged the most competitive battle in camp. Fragel, a tight end his first three seasons, will start Saturday, but offensive line coach Ed Warinner said Decker will see time.
"He would be our third tackle right now," Warinner said. "But it's still a very close race there in terms of there isn't a lot of separation."
Meyer, however, is ready to get started. At least as ready as he and Ohio State can be.
"Am I ready for this?" said Meyer, who won two national championships in six seasons at Florida. "We'll judge that here probably in the next week or next two weeks, next two years. … I want to work on getting this team ready for Miami, give everything I've got.
"I'm not worried about what's the legacy, what's this, what's that. I want to make the great state of Ohio proud and win this darned game coming up, and look good doing it."
Just as long as Meyer can keep his eyes on the field.
"Obviously, to say I'm very excited about Saturday would be a shallow statement," he said.
WILLIAMS UPDATE: Nathan Williams, a fifth-year senior defensive end who had 11 career sacks before missing last season with a major knee injury, appears set to see the field Saturday. Williams underwent microfracture surgery last fall.
"He's been up and down, trying his heart out," Meyer said. "Tough injury. I would hope to have him back for a limited basis in the first game."
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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