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Meyer spends first day reading players

COLUMBUS (AP) — Urban Meyer spent Monday’s first full team practice at Ohio State not watching what players did so much as taking a peek inside their facemasks.

That may seem like a strange approach for a coach, looking at faces instead of plays. But Meyer, hired to take over the NCAA-sanctioned program last November, was looking for signs of effort, grit and competition.

“Think about it, for all of us: It’s just so easy to be average,” Meyer said after the workout. “It’s so easy to just be an average guy. Greatness isn’t exactly (being an NFL) first-rounder. Now, I wouldn’t mind a bunch of first-rounders, but greatness means we’re going to try to push you to maximize who you are.”

He gave as an example getting after guys in the classroom or on the field who just hope to get by. It’s something that rankles the former Florida, Utah and Bowling Green coach.

“If you’re a 2.0 student but you really should be a 3.0 student, we’re going to grind you,” he said. “And the same thing on the football field.”

So, during drills outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, he kept looking at faces.

He could tell by looking at defensive back C.J. Barnett that he was giving everything he could give.

“Then I looked at a couple of guys next to him and they do accept (being average),” Meyer said. “So it’s our job as motivators and coaches to not allow that.”

Average, he said, won’t be tolerated with this year’s Buckeyes.

Last year’s team wasn’t even that, going 6-7 overall and a dismal 3-5 in the Big Ten. This year’s team returns eight starters on defense and seven on offense and, with an NCAA bowl ban, has only 12 games to prove to others that it has taken a step toward erasing the defeats — both on the field and off — that have dogged the team over the last year.

Meyer said he can tell already that many players worked hard during the summer to get up to speed with a new coaching staff and a new system. One of them was quarterback Braxton Miller, who mixed brilliant moments with bad ones last year while he learned on the job as a freshman. Miller said he has worked long and hard on throwing the ball this summer.

“Just working in the offseason by myself and the receivers out here and indoors, working on my accuracy, stepping into my throws, things like that,” he said. “Simple stuff.”

At Monday night’s practice, Miller sidled up to Meyer.

“Braxton had a really good day. And he feels good about it. And he made the comment to me that he knows what he’s doing,” Meyer said with a slight smile. “Well, he doesn’t know yet. There’s still a lot more to go. I winked at him and said, ‘Yeah, right, pal.”’

Meyer also touched on several other players or groups of players.

— Linebacker Curtis Grant was not at practice, but was released to visit his ill grandfather in Virginia. He is expected to return for Tuesday’s practice.

— Running back Jordan Hall (cut tendon in his foot) and defensive lineman Nathan Williams (knee surgery) are recovering from surgery. Hall, figured to be a go-to guy on offense, and Williams, an anchor up front, are right on schedule but Meyer said the medical staff was taking a cautious approach. Neither is expected to be available until after the season is under way.

— Meyer said he believed that first-year players might see a lot of action when the Buckeyes open the season on Sept. 1 at Ohio Stadium against Miami, Ohio: “From what I’ve seen so far, there’ll be a bunch — OK, not a bunch, but a good chunk — of freshmen who’ll play in that first game.”

— Three players who ran into legal trouble this summer appear to have mended fences.

Bri’onte Dunn was arrested late last month for a traffic violation, and a small amount of marijuana and a marijuana pipe were found in the car. But police in Alliance, Ohio, reduced the charges to disorderly conduct after determining the drug and paraphernalia were not his.

“We gave him a series of tests. I don’t know if I’m allowed to give you everything, but everything came back (OK),” Meyer said. “He was honest with me. However, if there is some charge that sticks, then there’ll be a penalty like all kids that have a charge.”

Starting offensive lineman Jack Mewhort and first-team tight end Jake Stoneburner were arrested in late May for allegedly urinating on the side of a building. They were arrested by police in a small village outside of Columbus with obstructing official business. Meyer suspended them and took away their scholarships during the summer.

“I never felt that they did it,” Meyer said.

And he is prepared to back up those feelings. In fact, the two will be back on scholarship when fall semester begins Aug. 22. Asked if they had gotten more serious about being on the team after their arrest, Meyer laughed.

“I think the code word there is ‘stupid,”’ he said. “So are they less ‘stupid’ right now? I don’t know. We’re going to do the best we can to help them be less ‘stupid.”’


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