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March 4, 2013

Spring practice preview

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even before Ohio State went 12-0 in 2012, Urban Meyer set the expectations for his second season in Columbus at an all-time high. And why wouldn't he?

In his three previous stops before arriving at OSU last season, Meyer's second seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida all saw the now 48-year-old head coach earn considerable success.

It started at Bowling Green, where Meyer led the Falcons to a 9-3 record just two years after they endured a 2-9 campaign prior to his arrival on campus. Two seasons later, Meyer guided Utah to a 12-0 record in his second year in Salt Lake City, and in his second season at Florida in 2006, the Gators won the BCS National Championship Game.

All in all, Meyer compiled a combined 34-4 record in his second seasons at each of his three stops. And he doesn't expect his fourth second season to change that trend.

"Year Two's kind of a definitive year," Meyer said. "There used to be a time where you could go build a program and that really doesn't exist anymore. You gotta go win."

Thanks to last season's undefeated debut, the expectations for Meyer's encore in 2013 have only increased. And the first official preparation for the highly-anticipated season kicks off tomorrow with the start of spring practice.

The Buckeyes may have been perfect record-wise last year, but there is still plenty that they could have improved on. OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks Tom Herman admitted that his unit was far from a finished product in 2012, and he's looking forward to seeing the progress that it will make in Year Two.

"We might have been the most flawed undefeated team in the history of college football," Herman said. "We're in the process right now, as we do every year, of going through and watching every play from last season offensively and studying it in cut-up form, where you can see each inside zone, play after play after play after play and all that. There's a lot to improve on. We got a lot of work to do still. It's exciting knowing what we accomplished last year, but being as not even close to the potential that we think we can be."

The growth of the Buckeyes' offense starts with their quarterback, Braxton Miller. The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was a Heisman Trophy candidate for the better part of his sophomore season, but admittedly needed to make gains as a passer, where he completed just 58.3 percent of his passes.

In an effort to do so, Miller has already spent a part of this offseason working with quarterbacks guru George Whitfield Jr. and is eager to get back on the field with the Ohio State coaching staff.

"I had bad mechanics last year," Miller admitted. "I want to focus on it this year."

Defensively, the Buckeyes will have their work cutout for themselves, where they'll be attempting to replace seven starters, including 2012's Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, John Simon. Ohio State returns star cornerback Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier and has a talented class of sophomores ready to fill in on the defensive line, but Meyer seems more concerned about the leadership lost from the likes of Simon and linebacker Zach Boren.

"It's a huge void," Meyer said. "Make no doubt about it. That was a huge part of the successful season.

Having not been allowed to have contact from a football-standpoint with his team since the end of last season, tomorrow will give Meyer the first chance to see which players have truly emerged as leaders this offseason. Should that missing ingredients be found, even bigger things could be in store for the Buckeyes in 2013, but the OSU coach also knows that any talk of a national title run is premature at this point.

"You have a good season and there's a lot of conversation about things that shouldn't be discussed, because it's not true," Meyer said. "For example, 'Are you guys going to go do this next year?' No, probably not, unless we get a lot better. Like a lot better."



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