When the Ohio State football captains approached their individual tables to speak to the media on Tuesday, there was one thing on the minds of every media member in attendance.
Ohio State was going into the first game of the 2018 season without its head coach, Urban Meyer, who was suspended for the first three games of the season and will not be able to coach his team in practice until Sept. 2.
Questions regarding the status of Meyer or about the investigative findings were returned with this answer by members of the Ohio State athletics communications team: “Football-related questions only.”
Still, the questions poured in to the players asking about their reported meeting with Meyer on Thursday prior to the start of the suspension.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell was asked what was discussed in the meeting between the suspended head coach and his players. Campbell was told he did not have to answer the question, but responded, “He talked about being 1-0.”
Many players talked about how, in Meyer’s absence, the routine of fall practice never really changed, with acting head coach Ryan Day bringing a similar intensity and motivation that made them feel like it was normal.
However, there was a clear underlying message, an idea that Ohio State has something to play for.
In the eyes of redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin, this is nothing really new for the returning members of the roster.
“You kind of have a target on your back, but you are Ohio State Buckeyes,” McLaurin said. “If the things weren’t going on that were going on, everybody wants to beat you.”
Ohio State came into the season with the expectation to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten, vying for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff at the end of the season.
Even given the drama the team has faced over the past month, that expectation, even without Meyer, has not wavered in the slightest.
“There is pressure to win every game here at Ohio State. That’s our goal,” McLaurin said. “Whether he is here or not, we have to perform at a very high level because really, at the end of the day, Buckeye Nation only cares about ‘W’s’ and no matter who the players are or who the coach is.”
Junior defensive end Nick Bosa said he views each game the same, no matter who is on the sideline.
“I mean we have to win every game every year,” Bosa said. “So that’s the focus every year.”
There is still some added motivation to succeed in the games before Meyer returns to the sideline. However, Campbell thinks that is not the only motivation that this particular group has.
“I think we are very angry, just with all of the adversity that we have gone through, everything that has happened in the past, you know, us not having our head coach, us being a man down, I think there are a lot of variables going into it,” Campbell said. “But I think we are also angry because we are great, a desire to be great and a desire to be better than last year.”
Heading into the season opener, it is clear Ohio State is using motivation to its advantage.
“Hate always drives you,” Bosa said. “When people are hating, then you just want to prove them wrong even more.”