Two years ago the Buckeyes had to deal with questions about a perceived late-season collapse that included losses to Michigan State and Clemson that ended a 24-game winning streak. This time around Ohio State players are dealing with the pressure to repeat as national champions.
Despite the euphoria associated with winning the national title, this offseason has actually been more difficult than last.
“I do think if has (been harder) because the spotlight is on us more than ever right now and people will tell you how great you are right now,” senior lineman Taylor Decker said. “You don’t want to start believing all that hype because that can make you think that just because we are Ohio State we are going to go out and win every game we play and we’ll forget the approach that we took is why we won those games. It’s not because of our name, our great players play great because of how we approach preparing for each game.”
Ensuring the Buckeyes take that same approach this offseason falls to Assistant Athletic Director of Football Sport Performance Mickey Marotti.
Constantly referred to by head coach Urban Meyer as his right-hand man, Marotti has been putting the Buckeyes through the wringer this summer, making sure the players are too tired to become complacent.
“They are really getting after us because of how much success we had last year and the fact that we have to put that in the past,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “I think things are going really well.
“He’s always tough on us. You just kind of go in there and let him do what he does, to say he is tougher, I don’t know if that is a good way to put it, but is he as tough as he has ever been? Absolutely.”
Perry added that the offseason is a time for players to be hurting, and it’s all the more important considering the hurdles the Buckeyes are trying to overcome in staying at the top.
The Buckeyes have come in atop all the preseason polls and are clear favorites to return to the College Football Playoffs, if not repeat as champions. While the team may be able to avoid a complacent approach, Decker acknowledged that it may be difficult to remain as dedicated as the Buckeyes were when they had something to prove.
“Being the preseason No. 1 team can kind of spark some complacency and that can be dangerous because obviously you don’t want to forget what got you to where you are at, you don’t want to forget how it feels to not be on top, to not be No. 1 because you work a lot harder than then you probably ever will,” Decker said. “From the head down, coach Meyer got that point across to coach Mick, he knew it anyway, and he got that across to the leaders and then the leaders on the team are going to drive the culture.
“That culture is going to establish all of the behavior. It’s been a good job of it coming down from the top and permeating throughout the team.”