Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
As far as standings go, the Ohio State football team could not have done any better than it did last season.
Despite being banned from postseason play as a result of the program’s sanctions from the “Tattoo-Gate” scandal, the Buckeyes won all 12 of their games and were Big Ten Leaders Division champions.
In the eyes of their coach, however, perfection in the win-loss column is not equivalent to excellence on the field.
“Believe it or not … we finished 12-0, but we were not a great (team), we were very good,” Meyer told The Lantern in an exclusive interview Monday. “In some areas we were great, in other areas we were not. There’s some weak links to this program still.”
Considering that, Meyer said it is important for his team to avoid complacency after last year’s undefeated season.
“I don’t feel it (complacency from his team), because we’re not very good right now,” Meyer said. “I feel a void in leadership … We had not good leaders, great leaders.”
The Buckeyes’ leadership void is especially prevalent on the defensive side of the ball, where the Buckeyes lost seven starters from last year’s team, six of whom were seniors.
Meyer said the development of his defense and whether new players can emerge and step up as leaders is the “essence of if we’re going to be good or bad” next season.
“What’s going to make or break us next year? It’s going to be especially defensive leadership,” Meyer said.
Meyer noted rising junior linebacker Ryan Shazier as a player he expects to step up as a leader on defense but expressed concern about Shazier currently being limited in practice due to a sports hernia injury.
Offensively, Meyer said the Buckeyes are “still at 60 percent,” even though they are returning nine starters from last season, including quarterback Braxton Miller, who won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore last season.
“We’re not very good,” Meyer said. “Last year, honestly I thought we were very average offensively. I thought Braxton did some great things running the ball and Carlos Hyde and our offensive line, some areas were very strong but offensively, if you say big picture, we’re a very average offense.”
In their 12-0 season, the Buckeyes ranked 21st nationally with 37.2 points per game and 46th nationally in total offense with 423.8 yards per game.
For the Buckeyes to find the extra 40 percent of their offense, Meyer said more playmakers need to step up.
“The great offenses in America right now are the ones that have the guy that can change a game when they get the ball in their hands,” Meyer said. “We don’t have enough of those guys right now.
“(Rising senior wide receiver) Philly Brown’s developed,” Meyer added. “I think (rising senior running back) Carlos Hyde’s developed into being that kind of back. (Rising junior wide receiver) Devin Smith is up-and-down still, but he certainly has the potential, when he does it’s really good. But other than that, you don’t have enough.”
For the Buckeyes to build upon last season and be a contender, Meyer said the Buckeyes have to do the same thing as “every other team in America:” improve their weaknesses.
“If you do (improve your weaknesses), you have a chance to be a better team,” Meyer said. “That’s what we’re working on now.”
Considering the Buckeyes won every game they played last season, finishing the season with a better win-loss record will not be easy. Being a better team this season, however, could lead to opportunities to play in the Big Ten Football Championship Game or a BCS bowl – opportunities the Buckeyes did not have last season because of their postseason ban.
The Buckeyes will continue to strive for improvement Tuesday, when they take the field for their ninth practice of the spring football season. The Buckeyes have six remaining spring football practices prior to the LiFESports Spring Game, which will be played April 13 at 1 p.m. in Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.