One way to avoid a barrage of questions about the position battle between the two most prolific college football quarterbacks in the country, who both happen to be on the reigning national championship team, is to announce one-game suspensions of four players on that same team.
Mere hours before Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was slated to speak at the 2015 Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, the athletic department released a statement that read as such:
“Four individuals from the Ohio State University football team will miss the Buckeyes’ first game of the season, Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech, for violating Department of Athletics policy. The individuals involved are junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson.”
The news continued to unfold as various coaches took the stage for their 15-minute media sessions. Iowa head coach Kirk Firentz, who was scheduled to appear just before Meyer, was asked a few spaced-out questions and in between those was silent suspense and a fair deal of fidgeting, like antsy students waiting for their normal teacher to replace an easy-going substitute.
By the time Meyer stepped up to the podium, in a crisp gray suit and red-and-white striped tie, it had been reported by ESPN’s Joe Schad that these three players, three of whom are eligible receivers and the other is considered the best defensive player in the country, were being suspended for marijuana and academic reasons.
“... The way I’ve always done in the past is internal is internal, and external is external,” said Meyer smoothly, when asked the reason behind the suspension. “So if it was a legal something, if you have to address externally, then I do that. But internally, it was a violation of team policies. And that’s as far as I’ll go.”
So, he wouldn’t say.
But what Meyer did say was that he’d known of the incident for a while.
“All we can do is watch the indicators,” he said. “Watch it closely, and then dive into it with a sledgehammer if we start to see something that’s disrupting the team. And we’ve dealt with one. And I knew this was coming for a while. And at some point, we’re going to have to address it and we did.”
Meyer said the goal is to “push forward.” That the players in question were remorseful.
“Whether it’s a sprained ankle or stuff,” he said. “You try to create a culture where teams know how to move forward and not concern yourself.”
But, how could you “not concern yourself” considering the magnitude of the loss of Bosa’s presence on the field, even for one game? The junior had 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks last season — or stuff.
Not quite something to just brush off.
He re-traced his thought a few minutes later.
“Obviously, when you lose the big defensive end, that everyone knows where he’s at, that’s a concern,” Meyer said.
And then, Braxton Miller played band-aid, albeit unintentionally.
The subject of the receiver was a perfect way of framing this stain on the reigning national champions’ offseason-to-preseason journey, one in which they’re trying to sustain a culture that will foster a repeat of their previous season. Some home-cooked perspective, if you will. The light at the end of the one-game-suspension tunnel, installed by Meyer himself.
While three receivers will be absent while opening the season against the only team that beat Ohio State last season, Miller will get his shot at the position after news broke earlier this month that the former quarterback was making the switch.
Wait — that’s an “internal” decision, right?
“I think that (reports of Miller switching positions) was somewhat premature,” Meyer said, when first asked on Thursday. “I think Braxton will play receiver.”
And then, when asked to confirm what Miller’s role will be, he added, “We’ll know more as we get involved. And I’m not sure I’m going to really share that with you until after week one or two or when the country sees it.”
You don’t say.
Meyer has not actually seen Miller catch a pass. Meyer knows Miller is a smart player, Meyer knows Miller is athletic. Quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have both said Miller can catch.
“I’ve not seen him do that,” said Meyer. “I’m anxious to see him do that.”
Meyer was once a tenured receivers coach and said he’ll begin work with Miller on “day one” of fall camp.
What he did see, and what he did say was that Miller was an “impact player.” But what exactly is his plan for him? And what is his plan for the rest of the players who will now face heavy scrutiny?
Well, Meyer didn’t specifically say.
After all, that’s internal.