Buckeyes appear loose as they practice
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When it was pointed out to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer that a small town in the state was changing its name to honor him, he thought it was a joke.
Told that the village of Urbana, in western Ohio, was dropping its last letter in his honor — becoming Urban on Monday, when the Buckeyes play Oregon in the national championship game — Meyer was temporarily taken back.
"You're kidding," he said with a grin. "They're dropping the 'a'?"
Assured that was the case, he smiled and added, "Wow. That's very nice."
That was just one of many amusing vignettes on Tuesday when Meyer and the Buckeyes faced questions on Ohio State's media day.
At one point, quarterback Cardale Jones did cartwheels, laughing loudly. (It should be noted, he did them with no coaches in sight.)
It's clear the Buckeyes are a loose bunch heading into the biggest game of their lives.
During 30 minutes of a light practice open to reporters, the Buckeyes stretched and went through their paces — just like a typical workout inside the Woody Hayes facility. A four-inch snowfall overnight forced everyone indoors.
H-back and kick returner Dontre Wilson, out the final six games with a broken foot, sat on the sidelines in a compression boot. Still, he's listed as probable, along with tight end Jeff Heuerman (leg).
Despite the grind of a long, 14-game season and playing in a winner-take-all national championship game just 11 days after playing another game that was win-or-go-home, the Buckeyes were in good spirits.
Meyer won Bowl Championship Series titles after the 2006 and 2008 seasons at Florida, so he is a grizzled veteran when it comes to huge postseason games. But none of his players have ever participated in anything even remotely like this.
Meyer was asked about his two previous titles (the first coming in a 41-14 rout of then-No. 1 Ohio State in Glendale, Arizona).
"I just went back — practices were a little different," Meyer said. "Those days, we had 37 days to prepare. I remember in '06 it was 37 or 47, some ridiculous number. So that's much different.
"This is a one-game shot. You have four practices in shoulder pads. And tomorrow we're going to give our guys a day off of practice. You just can't go the tempo we went the last three days. You just can't. You're going to break them down."
The Buckeyes fly out on Friday. They'll be taking a jumbo, double-decker jet that will accommodate all the players, support personnel and everybody in the travel party, instead of taking two planes.
Jones threw with receivers during practice on Tuesday. Later, after the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder had shown off his acrobatic skills, he laughed while playing catch with an Ohio State employee.
The Buckeyes' third-string quarterback — he took over after first Braxton Miller (shoulder) and then J.T. Barrett (broken ankle) went down — said he never feels terribly nervous before or during a game.
"There are little jitters before the game," he said. "When you're out there, it's just you and your guys. You're doing something you've done basically all your life, and something you've prepared with your guys. That eliminates all the nervousness."
Offensive tackle Taylor Decker spoke for most of his teammates about the Buckeyes' work leading up to the big game.
"Right now my focus is really on my preparation," he said. "Because it is nice to be in this game, but it won't matter at all unless we win."