COLUMBUS - Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer spoke at the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Clinic at Ohio State on Friday.
His talk to the high school coaches from around the state emphasized leadership. He said it was something he has learned a lot about in recent years and something he is stressing now to change the culture of the football team.
He turned the clock back to his first season at Ohio State to illustrate the power of leadership.
After a lackluster win over Miami of Ohio in the opener, he said he thought Ohio State was "a God-awful football team."
Four games into the season after a close call against Alabama-Birmingham, he still thought the Buckeyes were "an awful football team."
"After that game, I accepted we were a bad football tam and we were going to go 6-6 and I was going to recruit my guys and these guys the hell out of here," he said.
Instead, Ohio State finished 12-0, then won its first 12 games last season before ending the season with what Meyer calls "a couple of speed bumps" in losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
He gave much of the credit for the 2012 turnaround to senior leaders on the team.
"These great kids began surfacing," he said, singling out John Simon, Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino and Garrett Goebel as the key leaders on the 2012 team.
With those leaders gone in 2013, Meyer picked out 19 potential leaders and had them take leadership sessions with a Columbus motivational speaker.
For 12 games, the Buckeyes repeated the success of the 2012 team.
"We were an eyelash away from playing for the national championship. To be honest with you, we weren't good enough on defense. You can't play defense like that and do that," Meyer said.
The loss of safety Christian Bryant to a broken ankle in the Wisconsin game was the first warning that shaky defense could be costly.
"When we lost Christian Bryant, one of the best safeties in the country, I knew deep in my heart - when I saw his leg break - there was a chance we wouldn't be able to go play for a national championship," Meyer said. "I thought with the offense we had that there was a chance.
"When I saw that leg snap in front of me on the second-last play against Wisconsin, I knew we had a problem. I thought we might be able to overcome it, but we did not."