Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, right, laughs with cornerback Armani Reeves during the Buckeyes’ first practice of spring.
COLUMBUS — Four days after undergoing brain surgery, Urban Meyer oversaw Ohio State’s first spring practice under strict doctor’s orders Tuesday.
"And I need to watch how long I blow the whistle," he said with a smile. "I had [a staffer] blow the whistle today, but it didn’t sound the same."
Meyer said he felt "good, not great." As the Buckeyes went through a nearly three-hour workout in their indoor facility, Meyer wore a white ball cap to cover his surgical scar while his voice was fainter than usual. He had experienced increasing headaches in recent weeks, and went in for a minor procedure to drain fluid from a cyst on his brain — an issue he has endured off and on since 1998.
Meyer, though, vowed he will back to his old self by month’s end. Rather than the surgery foreshadowing a recurrence of past health issues, he said it showed he was diligent about his well-being like never before.
"I'm not going to be ignorant like I was before," said Meyer, who cited his health in resigning from Florida after the 2010 season.
Besides, even if his volume was turned down, Meyer felt his message rang plenty loud during a first day of practice that lent a shred of clarity to several position battles and established the season’s early theme.
Meyer suggested the outsized expectations heaped onto last year’s team invited a feeling of entitlement. Now, with the Buckeyes’ school-record 24-game winning streak giving way to consecutive losses to end last season, he wants an "angry, blue-collar team."
Especially on defense. For all of its issues as teams passed at will on OSU late last season, Meyer said the biggest problem was the unit’s identity. The first weeks of spring will be less about installing new schemes than reviving an old culture.
"I felt we had a ‘what if’ defense last year," Meyer said. "‘What if they did this or that?’ I saw it from our coaches, I saw it from our players. What I'm looking for is simplicity and four to six seconds going hard.”
As for who will be called to execute those charges, coaches took their first crack at the depth chart Tuesday.
Among the most notable developments: cornerbacks Armani Reeves and Doran Grant and safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell formed a new-look first-team secondary; sophomore Darron Lee filled the linebacker vacancy left by the early departure of Ryan Shazier; and left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Antonio Underwood, center Jacoby Boren, right guard Pat Elflein, and right tackle Darryl Baldwin manned a rebuilt offensive line.
Sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett shared repetitions at quarterback as senior Braxton Miller looked on following minor shoulder surgery.
Senior walk-on offensive lineman and Woodmore graduate Ben St. John will not play a fifth season this fall because of a shoulder injury.