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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Less than 48 hours removed from capping off a perfect season in his first year at Ohio State, Urban Meyer met with the media to provide some closing thoughts on the 2012 Buckeyes. Speaking for over 23 minutes, Meyer touched on a number of topics, including the foundation that has been laid for the program and what changes- if any- he expects to see on next year's squad.
Reflecting on perfection
Having coached an undefeated team at Utah in 2004, and two national champions at Florida in 2006 and 2008, Meyer is no stranger to special seasons. The first-year OSU coach said that something different stands out about each of his more memorable teams, and this year's Buckeyes squad is no exception.
"This group is just incredible character, determination, and genuine love for one another," Meyer said. "For those of you who've played and covered it and been around those kind of people, it's real. I witnessed it, I saw it. I saw a team that had holes and filled holes."
Ineligible to play in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions stemming from violations committed by members of OSU's 2010 team and former head coach Jim Tressel, Meyer was asked, but declined to make his case for the Buckeyes to be considered for an Associated Press national championship, which they are eligible to win.
"I really believe we can play with any team in the country. That's all I can tell you," Meyer said.
Players turning pro?
Now that the offseason is here, many fans are wondering about the status of underclassmen like defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and third-year cornerback Bradley Roby and whether or not they'll declare for the NFL draft. Meyer did not have a timetable on either player's decision, but did say he would talk with them about doing so, if that's what they want to do.
"When they ask to meet about the situation, if we're heading in that direction," Meyer said.
Having seen multiple players leave early at his previous coaching stops, the 11-year head coach is no stranger to dealing with underclassmen declaring for the draft, and said that the process for players doing so has improved over the years.
"There's a football in place by the National Football League, that at first, I was very disappointed by the process. It was very vague and I didn't like it all," Meyer said. "I think they've done a better job. I'm not here to berate them, because I think think they do a fine job. It's a very imperfect system."
Coaching staff changes?
With the season in the book and results that speak for themselves, Meyer wasn't shy to reflect on some of the Buckeyes' more trying times this season, such as its closer-than-expected 52-49 win over Indiana in the seventh game of the season. The OSU coach admitted that at that point, he was concerned about defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and his defensive staff, but was impressed with how they rebounded in the final five games of the season.
"Yeah," Meyer said when asked if was worried about his defensive staff at the midpoint in the season. "You can see the steady growth of our defensive staff. I thought it was- I don't want to use the word phenomenal, but I felt the comfort level between Everett Withers and Mike Vrabel's never coached D-line before and it really showed his experience as that group developed."
"I'm not going to make a change," Meyer said. "That part of the game is a business, so I certainly understand it. I'd like to think at a place like Ohio State, you're only going to leave here to become a head football coach."
Although the Buckeyes' season has been in the books for less than two days, it's never too late to look ahead to 2013, which Meyer admitted he's already done. Without anybody turning pro, the Buckeyes will lose nine starters on both sides of the ball and special teams, and Meyer's even concerned about what one of his deeper units, the defensive line, could be losing in a year.
"I've been thinking about that, obviously, since that final whistle," Meyer said. "The line, I think there's some good young players, but I worry about losing a guy like John Simon and what he means to this program."
Ohio State's ceiling for 2013 could coincide with the strides that quarterback Braxton Miller makes in the offseason. The OSU coach liked the progress he made from his freshman to sophomore season, but also said he's not even close to having reached his potential.
"A quarterback, he has to run the show. And he did not a year ago. And he certainly did not early in this year. But he began. I saw him call the team together and say some things to them. So he still has a long way to go," Meyer said. "If he becomes the best fundamental quarterback in America, I think he'll be the best quarterback in America. I think it'll be comical what he'll do."
A better man
This week marks the one-year anniversary since Meyer accepted the Ohio State job, after taking a one-year hiatus from coaching due to health and stress reasons. Meyer believes that he's become a better man over the past 12 months, but credited a couple of his captains for that growth in his life.
"There's two guys that I learned an incredible amount from, and that was John Simon and Zach Boren. Just incredible, incredible people," Meyer said. "It really makes you self-evaluate."
Bound to a contract on pink notebook paper that one of his daughters made him sign before accepting his new job, Meyer also claims to have been a better family man, making it to all of his son's football games, even if it cost his wallet a few extra dollars.
"Every Sunday, I busted out of here at noon to watch my son play football. That would have never happened," Meyer said. "I got two running stop light tickets...that 50 bucks was worth it."
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