Like the name of the state just to the north of Toledo, the word “defend,” as in defending national champion, will not be part of Urban Meyer’s vocabulary when Ohio State’s football team reports for preseason practice today.
“We don’t use the word defend. It’s a whole different year. We have 20 players who weren’t even a part of that,” Meyer said at Big Ten Football Media Days.
After checking in today, the preseason No. 1-ranked Buckeyes, who have 16 returning starters from last year’s national championship team, will hit the practice field for the first time on Monday.
While following up a national championship is new for Ohio State’s players, Meyer has done it twice before. Florida went 9-4 in 2007 after beating Ohio State for the 2006 national title and was 13-1, with a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, in 2009 after winning the 2008 national title.
Even though talking about defending a national championship has been excluded from the game plan, it’s obvious defending against any complacency because of last season’s success has been included.
Senior offensive tackle Taylor Decker said that message has been emphasized ever since the beginning of winter workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti.
“He established that right away – we’re not going to give you anything, nothing is going to be any easier than what you did last year. That’s over. It’s cool but it’s done,” Decker said.
“Obviously, the spotlight is on us more than ever. People will tell you how great you are but you don’t want to start believing all that hype. That can make you believe that just because we’re Ohio State we’ll go out and win every game we play,” he said.
Ohio State opens its season Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech, the only team to beat the Buckeyes last season.
HOME RUN CONTEST AND SLUMPS: Todd Frazier denies it. So does his manager Bryan Price. But some people look at the Cincinnati Reds third baseman’s .173 batting average since he won the All-Star Game home run contest and wonder if that messed up his swing.
Frazier was hitting .290 at the All-Star break, but is 13 of 75 since then.
A look at how all eight participants in the home run contest have performed at the plate since then doesn’t prove or disprove the theory. Four of the contestants have slumped, two of them have raised their batting average and two have kept their average around the same level.
The Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, the runner-up to Frazier, also has struggled, hitting .185 since the All-Star game after coming in at .230. Prince Fielder’s .253 post-All-Star average is dramatically down from the .340 he was hitting before the contest.
Cubs rookies third baseman Kris Bryant has hit .169 since the All-Star Game after hitting .269 the first half of the season.
But Toronto’s Josh Donaldson (.302 after, .293 before) and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels (.263 after, .255 before) have raised their averages. And Baltimore’s Manny Machado (.295 after, .298 before) and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (.278 after, .298 before) have kept theirs around the same.
OHSAA AND ENROLLMENT NUMBERS: A one-class system like Indiana used to have might be starting to look more and more appealing to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Not really. But after years of arguments and hotly disputed referendums over competitive balance, last week the OHSAA announced another adjustment to how it determines what division a school will play in during tournaments in the 2015-16 school year.
Faced with the threat of a lawsuit by the Columbus City Schools, the OHSAA reversed its earlier policy of counting charter school students when determining divisions.
Columbus school officials said they have lost 4,000 students to charter schools and that only around 20 students from those schools participated on city school teams last year. Urban schools were generally hit harder when charter school students were included in their enrollment figures.
Under the old classifications, Lima Senior, the biggest school in this area, was solidly in Division II in football with 453 boys, 31 over the high end of the Division III enrollment figures.
BEER AND OHIO STADIUM: Ohio State is studying the possibility of selling beer at Ohio Stadium, though not this football season, athletic director Gene Smith told the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Beer sales could bring in an extra $1 million per season, Smith estimated. Minnesota and Purdue are the only Big Ten schools currently selling beer at their games.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.