There is a new sheriff in town, and in case you haven't noticed, he isn't playing games. To some of us this is more than a little surprising.
I have to confess that when Urban Meyer was hired at Ohio State I didn't expect him to be such a strict disciplinarian. Truth is, I figured Meyer was a guy who recruited great players...and then gave them a long leash. I don't know why I thought he was soft on punishment, but for some reason that was my perception.
Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled when Urban was announced as the new head coach at OSU. I knew he was a terrific recruiter, a good X and O coach, and a proven winner. But Meyer was often portrayed as being smarmy and at times, borderline sleazy. And, especially after Florida crushed my beloved Buckeyes in the 2007 National Championship Game, I dismissed him as being just another SEC coach. Translation: I figured Urban looked the other way when his players skirted the law. Man was I wrong!
Flash forward five years, from my jaded view of Meyer to present reality. Since taking over as Buckeye chief, he has acted like an old school Texas Ranger, more than ready to show his sliver star. Consider the following examples:
-Dominic Clarke: The swift defensive back was dismissed in January, after being charged with drunken driving and arrested for disorderly conduct for firing a BB gun on campus. Clarke was a solid contributor, too, who was expected to be in the 2-deep again this season.
-Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort. This pair of returning senior starters was expected to throw their names into the "captain" hat in 2012. Instead, in the well documented "pee and flee" scandal, the pair wound up being arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstructing official business. Most fans yawned at the whole thing, or castigated the police, but Meyer thought it serious enough to suspend both players indefinitely. While everyone expects them back on the squad this fall, the guess is that it has not been an enjoyable summer for this duo. Extra wind sprints in 100 degree weather sounds almost like a "chain gang" tactic!
-Storm Klein - The coup de grace of Urban's Reign of Terror came a couple of weeks ago, when Storm Klein was arrested following an incident of domestic violence. Showing his zero tolerance for such things, Urban kicked Klein off the team the day after he was arrested. Don't expect for him to reverse the decision, either.
So, what, if anything, have we learned from Meyer's tough discipline thus far?
1. He is wisely establishing a harsh approach at the outset. Any parent knows that it is easier to loosen up and lengthen the leash than it is to get tougher. If you start out soft on discipline, good luck ever getting things under control in the future.
2. He has made it clear that some things won't be tolerated. Word is that Urban was appalled at how common the smoking of marijuana had become among Ohio State football players. He let it be known that he would not tolerate pot smoking in the future. And, according to multiple sources, Meyer also told players that the one unforgivable sin was any kind of physical violence against women. Klein found out quickly that he wasn't joking around.
3. He is a lot tougher than his predecessor. Here is where I admit to being surprised. I always assumed Tressel would be a tough disciplinarian. It fit his conservative, no frills image. But in truth, JT was pretty soft. We saw it early on in regard to Maurice Clarett. We saw it pop up from time to time with players like Lydell Ross and Alex Boone. And of course we saw it in living color with Terrelle Pryor and the Tat Five. Don't get me wrong. Jim Tressel was a great coach who not only won on the field but mentored a lot of young men in positive ways. His teams succeeded in the classroom too, which couldn't be said of John Cooper But Tress seemed to believe that he could guide wayward sons to the straight-and-narrow through a loving approach. I am sure it worked some of the time. But it bit him in the butt at the end of the day. And, it sure seems like Meyer is coming in with a tougher approach.
So there is no "three strikes and your out" for the Urban Legend. At least early on he is laying down the gauntlet and letting it be known that he isn't messing around. And I like it!