COLUMBUS – Ohio State’s football players are taking what might be the toughest final exam they will face all year.
And it has nothing to do with their academic standing.
Part of playing football for Urban Meyer is going through a yearly evaluation. And if Meyer sees a problem, there is nothing subtle about his description of the nature and size of a player’s shortcomings.
The first step is the players having a meeting with their position coaches after spring practice. The coaches grade them on a one to five scale and the players give themselves a one to five grade and the two are combined.
The scores fall into three categories – players who are at a level that would get OSU into a national championship game or a semifinal, those at a mid-level bowl game level and an unlucky few who are at a no bowl game level.
“It’s very much ‘Here it is.’ The worst thing you can do is have mixed messages sent to them,” Meyer said earlier this week.
“Some people don’t like that and can’t deal with being told, ‘Hey, you’re not very good,’ or ‘Here’s what you need to work on.’ But that’s not our concern whether you like it or not,” he said.
“I change it a little bit each year but it’s pretty accurate. If you’re between 90 and 100, that’s a player who is a college football national championship caliber player. Those are guys who handle their business academically, socially and athletically.”
Meyer also involves the players’ parents in his evaluations. “There are some great examples over the years of parents who have helped us,” he said.
“Corey Linsley and Reid Fragel come to mind. What great transitional stories of guys who were lost for three or four years and made their way back. It’s because the parents dived knee-deep into it. Michael Thomas, there is no chance that happens without Keyshawn Johnson and his father.
“Those were uncomfortable meetings, but they’re honest,” Meyer said.
Some other thoughts from Meyer:
—- MUST BE THE NAME: Freshman offensive lineman Michael Jordan, who enrolled early in January, has made a big impression in a short time.
“Michael Jordan, right now, is running with the ones (first team). We have a junior college player (Malcolm Pridgeon) coming in June who may stir things up for us. The line is not set, but Michael Jordan will play for us this year,” Meyer said.
“He’s tough as nails, he’s smart, he’s serious. He comes from a really good high school program. He was coached the right way. He goes about his business as a pro.”
Meyer said he has had only one freshman offensive ever start for him, Maukrice Pouncey at Florida.
Ohio State has two returning starters on the offensive line, Pat Elfein and Billy Price, and Jamarco Jones has won the left tackle job. Meyer said Isaiah Prince is also “very close” to being named a starter at right tackle.
—-MAKING PROGRESS: Meyer called the practices early in spring practice “nasty” and “not very impressive” but said he liked the way the Buckeyes came out of the spring.
“We’ve played at a very high level for two years now,” he said. “I worried ‘Are we going to drop?’ I’m very pleased with the way it ended.”
—- CAREER OVER: Defensive Donovan Munger will no longer be able to play football because of blood clots in his lungs.
It is a condition Munger battled earlier in his career which has returned. “He came back and it was clean. But then, all of a sudden, it returned,” Meyer said.
Munger had not played since the 2014 season, when he appeared in 11 games and had five tackles.
—-MORE COACHING: Because of the large number of inexperienced players who will be playing next season, Ohio State’s coaches will spend less time recruiting and more time working on player development in the next few weeks.
“For the first time, we’re taking the guys actually off the road recruiting. I am taking one day a week for them to come back, for academics, for leadership training. I’ve never done that before,” Meyer said.
“For the next five weeks, the coaches will be in on Fridays. I made a decision, talked to (player personnel director) Mark Pantoni about it, talked to strength coach (Mickey Marotti), and we’re going to do it every Friday.”