Try as he might to focus on the task of beating No. 12 Clemson at Friday’s Orange Bowl, one can only imagine that at some point Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is going to divert his attention to the memories he built the last time he coached a game at Sun Life Stadium.
When the team bus pulls up to the stadium lot, when the team files into the locker room or when he leads the Buckeyes onto the field for kickoff, eventually it’s inevitably going to happen.
Meyer will relive his emotions from Jan. 8, 2009, the night he, as coach of the Florida Gators, won his second national championship with a 24-14 victory over Oklahoma.
“It was a great memory,” Meyer said. “I have Coach Smith [wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who was a graduate assistant at Florida] on our staff, some other people that were with us during that time.”
With that win, Meyer became the first coach to win multiple BCS national championships.
He also won it two years earlier at the site of the Fiesta Bowl against the school that currently employs him.
In six seasons as coach of the Gators, Meyer compiled a record of 65-15 to go with the two national championships.
Meyer has since had a medical leave of absence from Florida before ultimately resigning, a short stint as a college football commentator and analyst for ESPN, and now has a 24-1 record as coach at Ohio State — the one loss coming in the most recent outing, a 34-24 defeat in the Big Ten title game that kept Meyer out of the national championship game and instead set up a return to the site of one of his previous championships.
Meyer has made it clear to the media that he’s not in South Florida to reminisce.
“We’re just here to try to win a game,” he simply put when asked what it will feel like walking into the place then known as Dolphin Stadium.
The return to the state where Meyer had his greatest success as a coach and still owns a home in also benefits him for something else he still does in Florida — recruit.
He has one oral commitment from Florida in his 2014 recruiting class, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer wide receiver Johnnie Dixon.
He said the team will be visiting Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, where just last year he was able to pull starting freshman defensive end Joey Bosa.
While in many ways coaching is the same at Ohio State as it was at Florida, one aspect contrasts entirely — the weather.
Meyer is acclimating the Buckeyes to the Florida humidity — even in December. Practicing in temperatures in the 80s Monday afternoon is vastly different from the lows of 25 degrees in Columbus.
“I remember when I was at Florida, to get a player to go out and play in 30-degree weather in Vanderbilt, you had to beat him with a stick to get him out of the locker room,” Meyer said. “It’s a complete flip here.”
• In what is expected to be a high-scoring affair with two offenses averaging over 40 points per game, the Buckeyes picked the wrong time to have the status of three defensive starters in question.
Sophomore defensive end and sack leader Noah Spence was still not with the team at Monday’s practice after Meyer announced Sunday that Spence did not accompany the Buckeyes on the flight because of a personal issue and that he hopes Spence could rejoin the team at some point this week.
All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby practiced Monday. His status is uncertain though because of a bone bruise in his left knee sustained in the Big Ten title game.
Middle linebacker Curtis Grant continues to be hampered by back and ankle injuries, according to defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
• According to OSU spokesman Jerry Emig, a flu bug is going around the team but not affecting any starters.
The players who are being affected are being quarantined for 24 hours, Meyer said.