COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer came into the Ohio State job with his eyes wide open about what Buckeyes fans demand from their new coach.
"Win it all," he said of the expectations.
He's done that twice, capturing two national championships at Florida before coming to Ohio State on Nov. 28 to take over a bedraggled program hit by suspensions, NCAA investigations and major violations that could lead to severe penalties.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said he's not naÏve about the size and scope of the program he now leads.
"This is a monster. Ohio State is a monster. I just came from a monster," he said. "I get that. What's the expectation level? It's real clear. It was the same at the other place. There's about five of them (schools) that that's what the expectations are. But as a coach you have to keep it in centerfield. You can't worry about left field or right field."
Meyer twice resigned at Florida due to health reasons, returning almost immediately after the first announcement and then sitting out a year before taking the Ohio State job. He said he has learned that he must not micromanage every aspect of the football program. He knows there will come times when the stress and the pressure will mount.
"It's when you hit the speed bumps," he said. "Obviously, we haven't hit any speed bumps yet. The speed bumps are losses or other things that show up in your program that you're not real proud of. That's going to happen. How I handle those situations is going to be key. I'm in a much better place now. And it hasn't happen yet."
Since his hiring, Meyer has spent most of his time recruiting. He has obtained a couple of verbal commitments from acclaimed players who were afraid of impending NCAA sanctions that Ohio State could receive any day now. The school has already vacated the 2010 season, repaid its share of Big Ten bowl money from last year, offered to go on NCAA probation and to give up five scholarships over the next three seasons.
Most of the headlines emanating from Columbus revolved around other losses. Successful head coach Jim Tressel admitted in March that for months he was aware that some of his players had most likely taken cash and tattoos from the subject of a federal drug probe. Yet he didn't tell his superiors or the NCAA, and played the players anyway. After weeks of pressure, he was forced to resign on May 30. Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of several players suspended for their role in the tattoo-related violations, jumped to the NFL.
Meyer said he has received no assurances about additional penalties for the football program. He does know that he's willing to forgive what happened.
"I trust that what happened here was a series of legitimate mistakes," he said. "I don't want to get into it now, but they were mistakes. Were they willful, intentful, violations? I don't believe that. I know the people who were here. I know them very well. I know what this place stands for. I'll fight that, even though I wasn't here."
Luke Fickell took over on an interim basis and coached the Buckeyes to a 6-6 record. In an odd coincidence, Meyer's new employer plays his old employer in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. He said he hasn't been keeping a close eye on the Buckeyes in bowl practice and may not even watch the game against Florida because of how he feels about both schools.
Fickell, who has interviewed for the vacant Pittsburgh job, has been offered a spot on Meyer's defensive staff. So has another holdover, cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson. Stan Drayton, who coached wide receivers last season, will shift to running backs in 2012. Meyer hired Iowa State assistant Tom Herman as his quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He said he's still deciding on other spots on the staff.
"I want a hurricane to hit," he said of the impact when he announces his staff in early January.
The spread offense was a staple at Meyer's previous head-coaching stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. He acknowledged that Ohio State does not have the same kind of speed that his Gators teams did, but that it has other attributes.
"The one point that's lost in this whole (spread offense) conversation is, Ohio State's still Ohio State," he said. "We're going to turn around and smack (teams). This has been around (for years). You have to be aware of where you're at, the weather, the environment, and so we have to be able to turn around and hand that ball off. That will be a part of who we are, probably more than ever."
He said he has purposely stayed away from the current players because he wants everyone to start with a clean slate during winter conditioning and spring practices.
"Every young person has an opportunity to re-establish who they are," Meyer said. "I'm not discounting everything that's been done in the past, but can you imagine how good it is for a 19-year-old to say, 'I'm going to push redo'?"
Meyer said he won't be afraid to try different things in terms of enforcing NCAA rules at Ohio State.
"If you see something doesn't look right, you go like a torpedo and go blow the whole thing up and then you put it back together," he said.