Chelsea Castle / Managing editor for content
New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy while he was a college football player at Florida, where Urban Meyer was his coach. Meyer, in his first season of spring football as the Ohio State coach, has already compared one of his Buckeye players to Tebow.
Coaches and players from the Leaders Division of the Big Ten Conference answered questions from the media Wednesday on the Big Ten Spring Football Coaches Teleconference. When asked about players who have stood out this spring, Meyer immediately mentioned senior defensive end John Simon.
“The No. 1 guy, the guy that is just a war horse. He is Ohio State football, and that’s John Simon,” Meyer said. “I can’t help but say I love the guy, he is one of the most committed, he’s Tebow-ish as far as his commitment.”
Meyer also praised numerous other players who have impressed him this spring, including redshirt senior tight end Jake Stoneburner, redshirt junior offensive tackle Jack Mewhort, junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, redshirt junior safety C.J. Barnett, redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby and senior running back Jordan Hall.
Meyer was also asked to respond to accusations that “Sporting News” published Monday in a story written by Matt Hayes about Meyer’s tenure at Florida. Among other allegations, former Florida players accused Meyer of building a “Circle of Trust” around his favorite players, and that he allowed those players to wrestle control of the team away from him.
Meyer acknowledged that he does give some players special treatment over others.
“When you start saying preferential treatment to players, that is probably a correct statement,” Meyer admitted. “We did do that. We do that here, we did it at Bowling Green and Utah. If you got class, you’re a warrior, you do things the right way off and on the field, you’re completely committed to helping us win, then you’re going to get treated really good.”
Meyer was then asked if he objected to any particular claim in the “Sporting News” story.
“More than one,” Meyer quickly responded. “There are things like ‘Circle of Trust’ … that didn’t happen.”
Meyer also vehemently asserted that the program did not break any rules during his time at Florida.
“Anytime you mention the NCAA, there is no violation,” he said. “So if you would bold that for me, underline it, there is not an NCAA violation.”
Senior fullback Zach Boren, another player who Meyer praised, also spoke during the teleconference. Boren said he believes the team’s effort has been where it needs to be this spring for the team to contend against Big Ten competition.
“All the competitiveness that we have each and every day at practice, and the toughness that this team has, we’re honestly pushing each other as hard as we can, and I’ve never seen a team work harder than we have this spring, and we haven’t even gotten to summer workouts or camp yet,” Boren said.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who also spoke during the teleconference, said he believes OSU will continue to be the Badgers’ top competition in the Leaders Division.
“In this (division), the team to beat is going to be Ohio State,” Ball said.
Wisconsin Badgers coach Bret Bielema was asked whether he believes a rivalry is blossoming between his team and OSU.
“I hope so,” Bielema said. “Ohio State’s done a lot of great things and will continue to do so. I have a lot of respect for their program, I always will because of their place not only in our conference but in the world of college football overall, so if you can be a rival with them, I think that’s a positive thing.”
Bielema made waves back in February, when he criticized Meyer’s recruiting practices following the commitment of offensive tackle Kyle Dodson, who was previously committed to Wisconsin, to OSU.
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who also spoke during the teleconference, had no interest in responding to a question about Meyer recruiting players away from Penn State.
“I have absolutely no thoughts on that whatsoever,” O’Brien said.