Finding Leaders Key For 2013 Buckeyes

The way Urban Meyer saw it, leadership was one of the key reasons Ohio State was able to post a historic 2012 campaign. If the Buckeyes want to continue their winning ways going forward, finding new players to lead the way will be key.

As Adolphus Washington was besieged by cameras and microphones after the Michigan game, he was asked plenty of questions about the game-changing fumble he caused to short-circuit a Wolverines drive in the Ohio State victory.

But the OSU defensive end was also asked one question that could go a long way in determining just how well the 2013 season goes for the Buckeyes.

That question was about the legacy of a senior class that had led the program to just the sixth unbeaten, untied season in school history, and Washington had a quick answer.

"Man, that was the hardest group of workers I've ever seen in my life," he said. "It gets the foundation to keep the tradition going."

Urban Meyer wasn't there to hear the answer, but he likely would have agreed with the sentiment.

The Ohio State head coach has been around plenty of winning football teams in his coaching career, and like any coach, he knows a strong leadership corps is essential for any team that is going to accomplish success.

The 2012 Buckeyes were no different, as the team's deep senior class piloted the squad through a variety of injuries, position switches, close games and more. Players such as Jacob Stoneburner, Reid Fragel, Johnny Simon, Garrett Goebel, Nathan Williams, Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino, Travis Howard, Orhian Johnson and others made their final season their best, helping lead a team that still boasted a ton of youth and a roster hurting from attrition through one of the most memorable squads ever to wear scarlet and gray.

"Make no doubt about it now, that was a huge part of our successful season," Meyer said. "It was the leadership of a John Simon but it was also the developed leadership of a Zach Boren, Garrett Goebel, Etienne Sabino and many others."

There are a number of candidates who could step up and fill those roles, and talking in early January, Meyer already had plenty in mind. The coach is happy to return running back Jordan Hall, who was named a team captain for 2012 before missing all but two games with various injuries, via medical redshirt, while offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, running back Carlos Hyde, wideout Corey Brown, linebacker Ryan Shazier and safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant were also named by Meyer.

Figuring out exactly who will take the reins, though, is important. When the Buckeyes got together in January to begin offseason work under the director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti, identifying leaders became a key component of offseason training.

"That question right there occupies a lot of my and Mickey Marotti's time," Meyer said. "We're in the evaluation phase of who can fill those roles."

An idea the coaching staff has already implemented is the creation of six teams, led by two "captains" each, who are graded on their offseason work. Meyer has often used competition before to bring out the best in his team, and that exercise is no different.

One of the goals is to find someone who can fill the shoes of Simon. The hard-working defensive lineman and weight room king was described as the heart and soul of the 2012 team by Meyer, and his heartfelt speech after playing hurt in the California game was one of the turning points of the season for team members.

When it comes to finding a Simon, Meyer thinks he has someone in mind in Mewhort.

"Jack Mewhort is already there," Meyer said. "He's already a leader. We're asking him to take over that position that maybe Simon took, and that's the overall heart. I love him."

For his part, the senior-to-be from Toledo St. John's seems to have a handle already on what it takes, and he knows leadership was one of the key reasons behind OSU's undefeated season. When asked late in the 2012 campaign about if he was surprised by the Buckeyes' success, the left tackle pointed toward leadership with his answer.

"I wouldn't have been surprised just because of the leadership on this team," Mewhort said. "Our seniors are the heart and soul of this team. They've led us so far to this point and they've done a great job."

The Buckeyes need Mewhort and his fellow upperclassmen to get to that point, especially given the fact that Meyer feels the team needs to make up for the bowl practices the squad did not get.

Players will be tasked with doing extra work on their own around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and leadership will be key in making sure the Buckeyes do the work necessary to produce another standout campaign.

"We have 15 practices to make up and we're not legally allowed to have our whistles around our neck and coaching, so if you want to be a very functional football team, there has to be some self-driven leadership amongst groups," he said. "It'll be interesting to see how it gets done because it's on the players. Coaches can't force them to do it."

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