COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- What's brewing with the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes ...
BUCKEYES BUZZ: Same state, same line of work, different paths.
Cleveland Browns LBs coach Bill Davis stood up for best friend Urban Meyer at Meyer's wedding to the former Shelley Mather more than 20 years ago. Davis has coached in the NFL since 1992, while Meyer has always been around the college game.
They remain close.
Davis, a QB and WR at the University of Cincinnati, met Meyer when he was a freshman. Meyer, a shortstop in the low minors with the Atlanta Braves, blew out his elbow and couldn't play baseball anymore. He walked on to the football team, but was so anxious to get into coaching that he couldn't wait.
"We kind of hit it off from the start and we started running around and hanging out a little bit," Davis said. "After one year of him playing, he had one more year of eligibility, but he had such a bug to get into coaching."
At about this time, Meyer was introduced to current Illinois coach Tim Beckman through Davis.
"(Urban's) roommate in college at the University of Cincinnati is my close, close friend Bill Davis," Beckman said. "That's when we first met."
Meyer got a job as an intern at St. Xavier High School in 1986, the same year he graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology. A year later, he got a job as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce. In due time, he coached at Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame before becoming the head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and, last November, Ohio State again.
Davis and Meyer have stayed in touch over the years -- usually during the offseasons -- and remain good friends.
Meyer got out of coaching, citing health concerns and family responsibilities, two years ago after spending six seasons and winning two national championships at Florida. He spent a year as a college football analyst at ESPN before returning to Ohio State a year ago.
"This is the only job he would have come back for. He's always been a huge Ohio State fan and Earle Bruce was a huge mentor of his," Davis said. "He grew up in Ashtabula and so he was always a Buckeye fan and he worked there and that was the biggest thing ever for him, and for him to come back and be the head coach is just his dream job."
It's his dream job because of games like Saturday's matchup with archrival Michigan.
"Oh, god. He is so wired. I wouldn't even reach out to him right now," Davis said. "We talked two weeks ago, during the bye week. He was up here recruiting so we talked and he was all geeked up for Wisconsin and Michigan."
Meyer says he's closely monitoring his health and is fine. Just two weeks ago, he spent the Saturday of Ohio State's bye week watching his daughter's volleyball game at Georgia Tech.
Davis can't imagine Meyer would ever end up in the NFL.
"He loves the college game; it's suited for him. He could easily be a great head coach (in the NFL) but I just think his passion is with that age group," he said. "He's a great recruiter and he loves getting in the living rooms and spending time with the families. He has always been all in with the college game."
DOWN TO THE FINISH: Jim Lachey was an All-American OT at Ohio State in the 1980s. He went on to a glittering All-Pro career in the NFL.
Now he works as a radio analyst on Buckeyes games.
Here's his insight into what this season has been like for the Buckeyes.
"The light at the end of the tunnel is real big. They took 11 hurdles and were successful," he said. "The coaches don't have to ask much now. They're all believers. It's real easy for all these guys to buy into what coach Meyer wanted out of them. If they're not doing something like they've done each and every week, if they're not physical enough in practice, you'll probably see the captains step up and say something like `Hey come on guys, lets finish this off. This is it. This is your last opportunity."'
Lachey never had a season without a postseason trip during his days at Ohio State, 1981-84. Each year the Buckeyes played in a better bowl: Liberty, Holiday, Fiesta and then Rose.
He's not sure how the players, who are not permitted to go to a bowl because of NCAA sanctions, will react when the season comes to an end on Saturday afternoon.
"I don't know if anybody ever in the modern era of football dreams about going undefeated and not going somewhere. But that's the price we pay," he said. "It's going to be weird after that Michigan game, once it's all said and done."
The 2002 Ohio State team will be honored during Saturday's game. Lachey reflected on then -- and now -- remembering Ohio State radio voice Paul Krebs' call after the win over Michigan.
"Ten years ago in 2002, Paul was on the radio screaming about `Hey, we're heading to the desert!" Lachey said. "Now I don't know where we're headed. Headed to High Street, I guess."
TRESSEL'S RETURN: No one expects a terribly negative reaction when Jim Tressel returns to Ohio Stadium on Saturday to be honored along with the 2002 national
championship team. It'll be the first time Tressel has been at a Buckeyes game since he sat on information about money and free tattoos for players that led to major violations and heavy NCAA penalties.
The people he recruited, however, can't wait to see him again.
"I would hope there would not be an awkwardness," P Ben Buchanan said. "I was recruited and played for coach Tressel for three years and just love him. I hope that Buckeye fans would welcome coach Tressel back. The things that he did for this university were amazing. I have the utmost of respect for him and, for a lot of these seniors, we feel very honored that the man that recruited us and brought us here and developed us when we were younger players is going to be able to see us off in our final game."
RT Reid Fragel said he also was anxiously awaiting greeting Tressel.
"I am looking forward to seeing coach Tressel," Fragel said. "He's a great person who I admire very much. I don't really think it will be awkward, I think everybody is kind of looking forward to seeing him since we haven't really seen him in a while."
It was Tressel's inaction -- the NCAA specifically referred to his "unethical conduct" -- that led directly to the seniors not getting to play in the Big Ten championship game, not going to bowl and not being in the conversation of the national championship game despite being one of only two major unbeatens left in the country.
"I don't think there's any bad blood with him and the guys on this team at this point," Fragel said. "What's done is done, it happened, and I think everybody has kind of moved on. Not really thinking about the ban situation or anything like that, just looking forward to seeing him."
A reporter wondered if he wanted to ask Tressel what he was thinking when he covered up the violations.
"No, I talked to coach Tressel many times after the situation happened," Fragel said. "So I don't have anything to ask him about at all."
THEY SAID IT: Meyer, on whether he needs to ramp up the emotion this week: "The pregame speech isn't going to get these kids fired up to play this game. That's where a lot of people get confused, saying, `Hey, what are you going to do special for this week?' We've got to get really good at offense, defense, and kicking. That's what we're going to do special. It's not going to be a whole bunch of conversation because it is what it is. We have more conversation about games that aren't quite as appealing because you're dealing with the competitive spirit of kids. If we have to motivate them for this one, we wouldn't be 11-0."
HESITANT TALKER: Michigan coach Brady Hoke isn't exactly in love with reporters, nor are they with him.
Asked during his Monday news conference what his favorite part of Ohio State game week was, he sarcastically replied, "This moment right now."
When media persisted, asking him his second favorite thing about rivalry week, he replied, "Second favorite is when this moment is over with."
HOMETOWN GUY: Michigan's fifth-year senior starting RG Patrick Omameh is a Columbus native who played at DeSales High School.
He grew up in the rivalry and has a unique appreciation of it.
"I'm a guy who has always been very aware of the rivalry and what it means to the people who are connected to it," he said. "For me, it's just exciting to be a part of something that I've always been very aware of and close to, and it's great to finally be a part of something that is bigger than me. It's so much bigger than just playing football with the emotions that people tie to this game and the significance every year."
HE LOVES B1G EXPANSION: Count Ohio State P Ben Buchanan as one of the big fans of Big Ten's announcement this week that it would add Maryland and Rutgers in the next couple of years.
"I think it's cool," he said.
Buchanan is in graduate school studying sports management. His classes have included AD Gene Smith as a guest speaker, so he's well aware of much of the expansion discussion and questions.
"I think it's a good move," he said of the latest two additions. "It's all about money, it's all about the TV time. Those are a lot of the things that go into a move like that. Adding those teams on the East Coast (add) a nice market. These conferences are just big into expanding right now and I think those are two quality universities to add to the program."
Buchanan's hope is to someday be an AD himself. He has a feel for what college sports might be in 20 years -- superconferences swallowing up all of the smaller ones.
"That's where I see it going. That's what it's all about, creating the biggest and best matchups," he said. "You want the best teams in the same conferences so they're playing each other year after year. It'll be neat to see how this playoff system works coming up (in 2014). I know that was big when that got put through. It'll be interesting to see how the landscape of college football changes in the years to come."
LOYAL SENIORS: Meyer cannot say enough good things about his
21-member senior class. But it was the seniors who showed loyalty to Ohio State before Meyer ever returned the favor.
"It's tough. I usually get emotional talking about those guys," he said.
The NCAA permits players at schools who have been banned from playing in a bowl to transfer immediately to another Division I school, without sitting out a year before playing.
So when the word came down last December that the Buckeyes were staying home after the 2012 season, many of them could have bolted.
"I still remember that day when we walked in, and (AD Gene Smith) said, `You're not going to a bowl game,"' Meyer recalled. "I thought, `We're not what?' And then my mind started thinking about this year's team. Those seniors, if I read the rules right, they can pick up and go without punishment. So I called a team meeting and within 15 minutes, we had one. I kept the seniors after. I had no idea who they were, and they didn't know me, so it was a leap of faith."
No one left because of the bowl ban.
"We were all kind of heartbroken," LB Etienne Sabino said. "We didn't know what to expect. There was a lot of uncertainty. (But) there was nothing we could do about it."
It's a moment that sticks with Meyer.
"When you look at these kids, now that I know them, I know exactly why they stayed -- for the love of Ohio State," he said. "It's really cool in this day and age to witness that. We're forever indebted to them because they didn't have to do what they did."
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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