Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Urban Meyer didn’t necessarily stare into the souls of his players, but it was close.
“I watched — I don’t know, out of the blue — I started watching guys’ faces and how easy it is to be average,” the first-year Ohio State football coach said.
“It’s just so easy. I mean it is. I mean, think about it, for all of us. It’s so easy to be an average whatever. It’s so easy to just be an average guy.”
Not that he quite knows why, Meyer says he was just watching his players’ faces, just thinking of them.
“I was just looking in their helmets and I saw the guys,” he says.
Meyer’s says his gaze then turned to junior safety C.J. Barnett.
In that moment, he says, he realized something.
“C.J. Barnett is a guy that just does not accept to be average,” Meyer says. “And then I looked at a couple guys next to him and they do accept it.”
He says it’s his job, his duty as a coach and motivator, to break average and instill a yearning for greatness in its place.
Great teams, Meyer says, play through the whistle.
They take two extra steps, run two extra yards.
At the message’s core, great teams, do more than that’s expected of them.
It’s an in-house philosophy Meyer has brought to Columbus.
“Our whole thing is that if we ask you to go 10, go 12. If we ask you to go six, go eight,” he says. “You hear the whistle blow, you don’t anticipate (it)-a lot of times you see teams play slow because they anticipate a whistle.”
Meyer says he wants his players to run through that whistle-even it’s for two steps.
“It’s all two steps,” Meyer says. “Keep going two steps.”
The former Florida coach says he “had some teams play like that.”
The OSU squad he inherited in November, though, is another story, Meyer says.
“This team right now doesn’t play like that,” says Meyer, who won two national titles in five years in Gainesville.
Meyer says it’s a combination of the two-step and relentless effort of going from “Point A to Point B.”
“There’s a kid named Jamal Marcus. He doesn’t know which way up is right now,” Meyer says. “But he knows from Point A to Point B and he’ll run over anything in his way to get Point B.”
The Marcus, of course, that Meyer is referring to is a freshman linebacker who was an All-State defensive end in North Carolina before arriving at OSU.
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said going from Point A to Point B “very, very, very” fast is one of the team’s core values.
The trick, the former Buckeyes interim head coach says, is getting guys to go that hard under control.
Fickell says he’ll take that, though.
“I can assure you I’d rather teach a guy how to control himself than try to teach him how to go very hard.”
Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier is one of those players who Fickell expects to run from Point A to Point B as fast as he can.
Shazier says Meyer anticipates that sort of effort, too.
But not just from him.
“He looks for it in me, he looks it in everybody, he just wants everybody to get to the ball. From Point A to Point B, four to six seconds, you want everybody as hard as they can,” says Shazier, who amassed 57 tackles last season-the most by any true freshman in the last 15 years.
Ask any OSU football player or coach, and the phrases “Point A to be Point B” or “four to six seconds” seem to roll off the tongue.
Arguably, it’s symptomatic of a first-year coach changing the culture of a program in line with what he sees fit.
And it would seem that breaking any sort of contentment with “average” is one of those alterations.
Though, Meyer says he won’t limit what exactly defines it per se.
“Greatness (means) we’re going to try to push you to maximize who you are,” he says. “If you’re a 2.0 student — that’s what you are,” he says. “We’re going to push you to be a 2.0 student. If you’re a 2.0 student but you really should be a 3.0 student, we’re going to grind you.”
It’s the same thing on the football field, he says.
And while Meyer says he wouldn’t mind the greatness in terms of having top-shelf, elite talent at OSU, that’s not what it’s necessarily all about.
“Greatness isn’t exactly a first-rounder.”