|Urban Meyer (AP)|
CHICAGO — Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer addressed reporters on Wednesday in Chicago during the first session of Big Ten Media Days, and the second-year mentor spoke about being eligible to play for a national title, his "humble" star quarterback, as well as replacing some key defensive talent.
But, of course, before he could speak on those football-related items, Meyer had to address some off-field issues which have arisen in Columbus over the past few days — most notably, the suspension of star tailback Carlos Hyde, who was named in a Columbus police report surrounding an assault of a woman at local night club over the weekend.
Although Hyde will not be charged with assault — after video surveillance proved he didn't attack the female in question — Meyer didn't say whether Hyde would be officially reinstated, as his quarterback Braxton Miller had hinted earlier in the day to reporters.
"I didn't receive the good news," Meyer said. "I guess I'm not a big social media guy. We just have to evaluate the facts. And once I evaluate the facts, then we'll make some decisions."
Meyer decided to shift focus on the good things that have happened, and not the off-field issues which have plagued the program in recent years — and days.
"Tough couple of days," Meyer said. "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."
One of those "positives" is his Heisman Trophy contender Miller.
The junior signal caller, who was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 as a sophomore, has garnered huge respect from his head coach not only for the way he has performed, but also his role as a leader.
"We return a bunch of experience, including one of the best quarterbacks in America, Braxton Miller," Meyer said. "(Miller) has really grown as a quarterback, has grown as a leader. Very humble young man that I have a lot of respect for."
While Miller is hands down the strength of the Buckeyes' offense, Meyer expects others to step up and help the star passer — most especially the wide receiving corps, who return their top two pass catchers in Corey Brown and Devin Smith, as well as a couple of new faces.
"Receiver is probably the one area we were weakest at last year," Meyer said. "I think this year, with the injection of some speed in the recruiting class and also development of the guys we have, that I'm really counting on them to become one of the strengths of our offense."
Meyer went even further, stating that he expects huge seasons out of his starting tight ends, Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett.
"The two guys that really developed throughout the year last year, two very good tight ends in (Jeff) Heuerman and (Nick) Vannett," Meyer said. "We've not traditionally been known as a two tight end offense. However, with these two talented players, you're going to see some 12 personnel, which they're two guys we have to find a way to get them on the field at the same time."
The defensive side of the football is where the Buckeyes have the most question marks, losing leaders like John Simon, Zach Boren, Johnathan Hankins and Nathan Williams.
Again, Meyer pointed to two players — sophomore defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington — as possibilities for having major breakthroughs in 2013.
"We lost our entire front seven," Meyer said. "I believe we recruited well. Mike Vrabel (Defensive Line Coach) has done a very good job developing a little bit of an esprit de corps with our defensive line, our linebackers. Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington are two guys that if they continue to develop will become All-Big Ten candidate players as they continue in their journey and their career."
Of course, the main thing on every mind in Buckeye nation is the opportunity to play for a national title, something they were prohibited from doing last season.
Meyer said although they are now eligible for post-season play, the message remains the same ... take it one step at a time.
"I think last year I spent all summer worrying about how to approach that if that happened, where there were questions why no Bowl game, why no championship," Meyer said. "If you have a good group of leaders, that never comes up. You're going to go try to play the game and try to win the game. So I'm hoping we're taking the same approach.
"There's been zero conversation about anything other than competing for a championship in November, which we were able to do last year. We were able to compete for the Leaders Division championship a year ago. That's the only conversation we have. We try to make training camp so focused on getting to the next day. If you do that, then that's really all you can worry about.
"We're certainly not worried about November, December anything past that."