Ohio State coach Urban Meyer isn’t just rolling with the punch of firing receivers coach Zach Smith less than two weeks before preseason camp. He expects the receivers, with a new coach to be named, to come out swinging.
“I have not been in this situation before, but I am not one bit anxious about moving forward. Not one bit,” Meyer said. “I’m very confident about our staff.
“And really what makes the situation (easier), this is the most mature group of receivers I’ve ever had in 30 years of being around the game. When I say that, I mean academically, socially and (in football-related activities). … These guys are the leaders of the team.”
Among the nine returning receivers are two team captains, fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, along with fifth-year senior Johnnie Dixon. As soon as Campbell heard about the firing of Smith — the only remaining member from Meyer’s original Ohio State staff in 2012 — he said he knew that leadership was going to be key the next several days, especially for the younger players in the group.
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“I am considered one of the leaders of the room, so I feel like they just need to hear a voice right now,” Campbell said. “What better way to hear that than from a fifth-year guy, experienced guy, a guy who is looked up to.”
Within 24 hours of hearing the news, Campbell said he had already reached out to the other receivers. The key the next few days is to meet and have “real dialogue,” he said, to reassure the commitment to one another and the program as the start of camp approaches Aug. 3.
He said he, McLaurin and Dixon must show the way.
“It’s just having three old heads and three different perspectives,” Campbell said.
Through Wednesday, Meyer had yet to announce a replacement for Smith. Among the primary candidates are former Ohio State and NFL receiver Brian Hartline, who joined the staff as a program assistant last year, and three-year graduate assistant Corey Dennis, who has worked with the receivers and is Meyer’s son-in-law.
“Both of them are definitely possibilities,” Campbell said. “Ultimately, it’s Coach Meyer’s decision, and I stand behind him 100 percent.”
Being able to adapt to a new coach quickly, “I think a lot of it comes from the maturity that we have, so we feel like whoever is in that position, that we’ll be fine because we have experience,” Campbell said. “Coach Meyer has been a wideout coach, so I think we’ll be OK.”
All will be dealing with the sudden change brought about by Meyer’s firing of Smith after his ex-wife sought a civil protection order against him last week. It was the latest revelation to come out of their relationship, dating all the way to a 2009 incident at Florida, where Smith was also working under Meyer.
“Five years in a program, who wouldn’t be stunned?” Campbell said. “It is what it is at this point. … The main focus for me and the wideout unit is to get around each other and lean on each other at a time like this, because the time is hard, especially because it’s tons of different scenarios.
“You’ve got fifth-year seniors who have been here for (going on) five years. That’s been our guy. You’ve got freshmen that are just coming in who built that relationship in recruiting, and now it’s not there anymore. So I think the most important thing is just to get around each other and lean on each other.”