CHICAGO — “Ohio State” and “Urban Meyer” were names rolling off just about everyone’s tongues in the opening sessions at Big Ten Media Days Wednesday.
Buckeyes coach Meyer wasn’t the only one swimming in questions about OSU players recently involved in legal issues. Coaches from Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin and others fielded questions as well.
Meyer looking ahead with optimism
Despite the football program being shone in a negative light lately due to legal trouble involving some of Meyer’s players, including running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby, Meyer had a message of optimism for the team’s potential.
“It’s been a great year,” Meyer said in his opening statement Wednesday. “Tough couple of days. But I’m going to focus on the positives, positives created by tremendous momentum from last year’s team to an excellent recruiting class, positive spring practice and one of the best academic performances in recent history at Ohio State.”
He said while speculation surrounds the legal trouble of this players, he tries not to get involved in what people are saying.
“I think people need to get facts before they start just making accusations and those type of things,” Meyer said. “I’m human and I think that is something that I’m constantly evaluating and making sure we are doing the right thing.”
Meyer said he’s looking to move on, as the negative attention tends to overshadow positive things happening in his current and previous programs.
“I’ve had incredible coaches, incredible players,” Meyer said. “And I think the focus a lot of times when it gets taken away from those great players who are great people and great coaches on my staff, it just bothers you a little bit. But you have to move on, and we certainly have.”
Meyer has dealt with several players facing unrelated legal issues this summer.
Hyde was named a “person of interest” in the reported assault of a woman at a Columbus bar Saturday, according to a Columbus Division of Police report. Hyde has since been suspended from all football team activities pending the outcome of the student code of conduct and criminal investigations.
Roby was scheduled to attend Media Days, but senior safety Christian Bryant was tacked on as a replacement after it came to light that Roby was arrested Sunday in Bloomington, Ind., and charged with misdemeanor battery.
Bryant said he wasn’t surprised to be called on to replace Roby at the conference.
“I actually knew I was probably (going to) be here maybe like a week and a half now,” Bryant said. “Last Monday I knew I was coming.”
“I initially thought all four of us (were coming),” he said, but since each team brings three players, he added, “So I guess in place of Roby last Monday.”
Meyer said Roby’s lack of attendance was originally related to academics.
Meyer said his goal moving forward is to work on just doing everything he can to push his players in the right direction.
“Our coaching staff is on a mission through things like job fairs and Real Life Wednesdays and these other workshops, leadership workshops to make sure that with all the powerful and resource — all the powerful people and resources at universities, that these kids should be getting as much education, as much direction as possible,” Meyer said.
“Real Life Wednesdays” were instituted by Meyer to help his players adjust to life after football. In spring semester, speakers were brought in to talk to the team each week about a variety of issues that players will have to deal with in their lives after college football.
Players ready to lead, dominate
Meyer wasn’t the only one focusing on staying optimistic for the 2013 season.
Senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said he’s looking forward to being a leader on the team and is working to look past negative attention the Buckeyes have been receiving.
“It’s hard to let this stuff slow you down when there’s so much positive stuff going on,” Mewhort said.
He added that being detail-oriented will be crucial for the team.
“Obviously we can’t let complacency set in, we do a good job of reminding everybody that it’s no longer 2012, it’s a completely different team,” Mewhort said. “I think that’ll be our biggest struggle is just taking everything game by game and not looking down the road because that, when you get ahead of yourselves that’s when details slip.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller, who is entering his junior year, said his personal goals include being a strong leader on the team. He added that remaining focused, “working hard and striving for the best” is key.
Meyer stressed the importance of leadership from players like Mewhort and Miller in his opening remarks.
“This year’s team has high expectations, riding off the coattails of what those kids did last year, and it’s very simple that if we get tremendous leadership from our coaching staff, but most importantly our players, then we’ll have a success,” he said.
Miller added that the team has a different approach to the season.
“It’s a different mentality,” he said. “I feel like everybody knows what they’re doing (to win).”
Mewhort said the team’s goals have changed for the upcoming season.
“Last year we had important goals but you know it’s the same thing but our focus kind of shifts a little bit to playing after the regular season. I think the guys are looking forward to that.”