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At No. 9 Ohio State, the Urban Meyer legend can flourish anew

The Buckeyes are now led by a coach who won two BCS titles at Florida. But their larger dreams must be deferred a year because of NCAA sanctions on OSU.

August 21, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Urban Meyer led the Florida Gators to two BCS titles, but NCAA sanctions on OSU will defer their larger dreams.
Urban Meyer led the Florida Gators to two BCS titles, but NCAA sanctions… (Jay LaPrete / Associated…)

With Urban Meyer rejuvenated after a self-imposed health exile and paid ESPN internship, it is only a matter now of Ohio State's serving out a jury's sentence before he leads it back to the Big Ten Conference title and beyond.

Meyer tried to stop and smell the roses, but they reminded him too much of the bowl game. Every opened jar of peanut butter, to him, was a variation of the spread.

The worst-kept secret in sports was that Meyer would take over in Columbus after Ohio State fired Jim Tressel for lying to the NCAA.

Meyer said stuff like "I was convinced I was done coaching," but the tug to return was tectonic.

This, not Florida or Notre Dame, was the dream job a kid from Ashtabula, Ohio, could not turn down.

Meyer had to sign a contract with his family to promise he would not become the man he'd been at Florida, a sleep-deprived grump who missed his kids' growing up as he battled the Southeastern Conference and a diagnosis of esophageal spasms.

The guess is Meyer might breach the contact should the Buckeyes fall behind Miami of Ohio in the Sept. 1 opener.

It is no given that this Meyer who eats granola bars for breakfast can be the same Meyer who guided Utah to an undefeated season and Florida to two national titles.

During his Walden Pond reflections, Meyer spoke to coaches who actually said it was possible to win and sleep. "Believe it or not, there's a lot of quality coaches out there that are still able to have a little bit of balance," he said after he accepted the Ohio State job.

Meyer was duped on one front: He was assured forthcoming NCAA sanctions were going to be only mosquito bites. Instead, the NCAA issued a one-year bowl ban that Meyer said was like getting hit by a two-by-four.

So Ohio State's larger dreams are being deferred for a year. Some are calling it Meyer's redshirt season.

Though the Buckeyes are not permitted to win the Big Ten this year, they are allowed to be good. Meyer has already hauled the kind of recruiting class that can start to make Ohio State competitive with the champion-caliber squads he led at Florida.

Meyer gets three years to work with sophomore Braxton Miller, a perfect spread-option quarterback he can form into an Alex Smith or Tim Tebow.

Miller, without Meyer, ran for 715 yards as a freshman last season. He also threw for 1,159 yards but needs to improve his accuracy.

Meyer's record of 104-23 isn't an accident. He is the rare college coach who possesses a Nick Saban-like ability to command respect as he brilliantly synthesizes the objectives.

It would be just like Meyer to lead Ohio State from 6-7 last year to 10-plus wins while he pleads his poll case to Associated Press voters not bound by probation rules.

Ohio State can't win the Bowl Championship Series title this year, but it gets California, Michigan and Nebraska in Columbus. The Oct. 27 game at Penn State has been dubbed "the Probation Bowl" even though it's clear one sanctioned school is going to emerge from the darkness years in advance of the other.

The countdown so far: 25. Notre Dame; 24. Texas Christian; 23. Utah; 22. Kansas State; 21. Louisville; 20. Boise State; 19. Clemson; 18. Stanford; 17. Michigan State; 16. Oklahoma State; 15. Wisconsin; 14. Nebraska; 13. Arkansas; 12. West Virginia; 11 Florida State; 10. South Carolina; 9. Ohio State.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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