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Ohio State set to embrace 'The Grind' in order to prove critics wrong in national title defense
By James Vogel
 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer is known as a multitude of things in the college football world.

Along with Alabama’s Nick Saban, Meyer is seen as one of the best recruiting closers in the game when it comes to bringing in elite talent. He’s seen as a master motivator, picking at the soft spots of his players so they prepare hard to perform their best on Saturday afternoons. Don’t forget about his ability to pull the right strings on game day, either.

So that’s why it should come as no surprise that Meyer hardly wasted any time switching out one of the banners that hangs on the walls inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Ever since Meyer arrived at Ohio State prior to the 2012 season, his biggest motivational tactic has been “The Chase.” The Chase to bring a championship back to Columbus, to improve each day and re-establish a culture of winning that appeared to be missing after former coach Jim Tressel’s ugly departure amid the Tattoo-Gate scandal that rocked the program.

Now, that banner hangs out on the other end of the practice field, replaced with a brand new one. This one gleans the mantra for the 2015 Buckeyes: “The Grind.”

“The Grind is a lot of things, it’s what our program’s about,” senior linebacker and soon-to-be team captain Joshua Perry said Tuesday. “We sharpen, we shape, we pulverize, there’s a lot of friction. That’s how you develop players, that’s how you get the best out of people.”

Perry said Meyer and strength coach Mickey Marotti were the ones who came up with the team’s new motivational ploy, hardly a surprise considering what those two men do for a living.

Marotti molds the athletes Meyer brings inside the weight room, then the head coach pushes them on the field to represent Ohio State and win football games.

“The Chase” was there to motivate the Buckeyes to win a championship. “The Grind” is all about defending it.

Meyer and Ohio State will battle complacency all season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

“Complacent and entitled teams can be really, really bad,” Meyer said Tuesday. “A team that somehow has a chip on its shoulder like this team did is going to be the essence of the season.”

That’s typically the case with teams coming off a national championship season: the sense of entitlement of being on top makes it extremely difficult to stay there.

“I don’t think last year we had that sense around here at all. This year, I’m watching it and I don’t feel like it and if I did, we’d dive right into it,” Meyer said. “There’s not a whole lot of whispering, we’d dive right into what the problem is. That’s something to watch real closely.”

Meyer knows all about that, having won BCS national titles at the University of Florida in 2006 and 2008. In the respective seasons following each title, the Gators went 9-4 and then 13-1, losing in the Capital One Bowl in 2007 and thrashing Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl in 2009.

The Buckeyes downed Alabama and Oregon in the first ever College Football Playoff this past season with an extremely young team. While they lost some key contributors, expectations from a raving fan base are as high as ever for Meyer and company to repeat as champions.

“We’ve got a target on our back so we’ve still got something to prove every day we go out there,” Perry said. “It’s just a bit of a pride thing being here knowing what we’ve done and knowing the guys that we have and we know we can be special this year.”

Ohio State certainly can be with key players like Perry, Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, Jalin Marshall, Braxton Miller and others returning for another run, but the need to combat the complacency that comes along in a title defense will be crucial.

“You don’t want guys to be entitled to winning games,” said senior left tackle Taylor Decker, another soon-to-be captain. “There’s a reason we won games and a reason we had the season we did. There’s a culture that’s been building here and that’s what helped us have the season we did.”

Decker said the team knew exactly where the national championship banner would hang in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center once the Buckeyes won it, because Meyer told them where it was going way before kickoff against Oregon in January.

“To know that you’re kind of immortalized here at such a storied program is pretty unbelievable,” Decker said.

In order for this Ohio State team to also write its name down in history, it must embrace “The Grind” as it sets out to again prove its critics wrong and show its run last season wasn’t a fluke.

“I love that part of the game, honestly, especially at a place like this where we know how good we can be,” Perry said. “It gives you extra energy. It wouldn’t be as fun if everybody was just cheering you on the whole time. You need those doubters to give you a little bit of that extra edge.”

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