Storm Brewing? Not Really
August 28, 2012
Like seemingly everyone in Buckeyeland, you are geeked for the start of the 2012 Ohio State football season and the onset of the Urban Meyer era.
But there’s a troubling undercurrent – a brewing Storm, if you will.
As a Buckeye fan you’re not sure how to feel about the reinstatement of linebacker Storm Klein.
You may have certain emotional feelings about anyone accused of domestic violence and assault, especially a 6-2, 240-pound football player being involved in an incident with a young woman. But rightly or wrongly – OK, who are we kidding? Wrongly. – you are likely more concerned with the overall appearance of the OSU football program.
After all, you’re a fan. And you don’t want national media hounds harping on Ohio State’s off-the-field troubles. Plus, you certainly don’t want the Meyer era to begin with anything but clear skies after a dark cloud hung over the program for the last 20 months.
So you are conflicted, apprehensive and afraid this latest scrape and other summer screw-ups are an omen of the price tag that may come with Meyer’s ferocious, SEC-like approach to coaching.
Well, while those fears are based on somewhat disheartening data and no coach at any major program can fully promise a squeaky clean existence, there is no reason to be up on the ledge right now. So come on down and enjoy the beginning of the season, which kicks off Saturday vs. Miami University (noon Eastern, Big Ten Network).
Go ahead and get out your scarlet and gray gear and blow up that inflatable Brutus for the tailgate party. Klein is not going to play right away anyway. This is not an example of a coach simply looking the other way to plug a key player back into the lineup. (More on that in a moment.)
Bri’onte Dunn appears to be in the clear and actually is listed as Carlos Hyde’s backup for the season opener. Jack Mewhort and Jake Stoneburner, key offensive starters, have paid their dues and are ready to put their boneheaded evening behind them as well.
It’s time for Ohio State football, and a clean slate for Meyer, who often was left to explain the more than 30 arrests that shadowed him in his six years at Florida.
Meyer didn’t recruit the vast majority of the current players at Ohio State and he certainly held Klein, Mewhort and Stoneburner, veterans all, to a high standard of behavior. He also came down with swift punishment.
After Mewhort and Stoneburner were arrested in early June for urinating in public and then eluding police, Meyer didn’t even wait to see what misdemeanor charges stuck. He suspended both players indefinitely and then later announced he was taking the pair off of scholarship aid over the summer.
When Klein was facing charges a month later, Meyer dropped rapid justice again by dismissing the linebacker from the team, although he left the door open by saying he would reconsider his position if Klein’s situation changed.
The alleged victim in the case, Klein’s former girlfriend and the mother of their child, recanted her story in the past couple of weeks, which enabled Klein on Wednesday to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. He was put on 18 months probation and immediately sought reinstatement with the OSU football program.
His attorney, Larry James, told reporters that Klein couldn’t afford to pay for his last year of school unless he was put back on scholarship. He no doubt made that same pitch to Meyer, who came down with his ruling on Thursday.
“I have spoken extensively to members of both families and that has prompted me to re-assess his situation and allow him back,” Meyer said.
“As I had indicated previously, if there are any changes in the charges against Storm, I would re-evaluate his status. The charges that would have violated our core values have been totally dismissed.”
Added James, “Storm did not do what he originally was accused of doing. That’s what public really needs to understand.”
Klein started 10 games last year but this is not a case of a coach picking up a lawbreaker by the scruff of the neck and placing him back in the starting lineup – even though that appears to be the national perception.
Klein still has to serve at least a two-game suspension and meet other certain criteria before he is even allowed to get back on the field. Plus, there’s no guarantee he’ll have much of a role at that point. The two-deep roster OSU release yesterday is littered with freshmen – 10 true freshman and four of the redshirt variety – a clear indication that the new coaching staff is not wedded to utilizing veteran players.
Sophomore Curtis Grant is pegged as the new middle linebacker and will be flanked by classmate Ryan Shazier and senior captain Etienne Sabino. The listed backups are all promising freshmen – Conner Crowell and David Perkins behind Shazier, Camren Williams behind Grant, and Joshua Perry behind Sabino.
Klein is behind all of them after dealing with nagging injuries in the spring, being off the team in the summer and essentially missing all of preseason camp. The team is now in pregame mode for the opener with the RedHawks.
The Dunn situation also looked bad at first. He was pulled over by Alliance (Ohio) police on July 28 and cited for alleged disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. However, his mother, Donna Hatcher, insisted that the pipe and less than 200 grams of marijuana were already in the car, which is registered in her name, and that her son was unaware of their existence.
Magistrate Jean Madden ruled that there was not enough evidence to support those charges, although she did find Dunn guilty of two minor traffic violations: insufficient license plate illumination and failure to wear a seatbelt. The police report noted that Dunn was polite and restrained while being cited.
Dunn is a true freshman and among the 25 members of Meyer’s first signing class. However, he was a topflight national running back prospect and two-time first-team all-state performer at Canton (Ohio) GlenOak. Lots of schools chased him hard. In fact, the Michigan coaches thought they had him until Meyer interceded.
Dunn enrolled in January and put together an eye-opening spring, lending credence to the idea that he would find his way onto the field as a frosh. Then his fast start hit a speed bump with the incident in Alliance, which is near is hometown.
Still, one could term the matter as a freshman mistake, which is apparently how Meyer chose to view it.
Even with Dunn avoiding charges, Klein rejoining the team and the Mewhort-Stoneburner mishap falling out of the news, the perception that Meyer may be running a bandit program began to swell.
I was a recent radio guest of a show aimed at an audience that follows a fellow Big Ten school and the host greeted me with immediate “what’s going on?” questions about “all the lawbreaking,” etc.
This particular Big Ten school has had it’s share of brushes with the law over the years. The same can be said of many, many major conference programs, if not all of them,
But sometimes it’s very difficult to shake a perception.
Meyer is no dummy. He knew this was an issue when he was introduced as the new coach at Ohio State back in late November. In fact, it was a concern of some of high stature at OSU while Meyer was emerging as the frontline candidate, including Alumni Association president Archie Griffin, who stewarded a search committee appointed by athletic director Gene Smith.
Reports indicate Florida endured at least 31 player arrests in Meyer’s six years there as head coach. Of those, 10 included felony charges – but they were either reduced to misdemeanors or dropped altogether in nine of those cases.
When asked at the introductory press conference to explain his policy on discipline, Meyer said, “I know there’s been some issues that we’ve had that I’ve had to deal with, not that we’re proud of. We have a set of core values. Honesty, respect. Number one, treat everyone with respect. Number two, no drugs, no stealing, no weapons. Those are core value issues. You’re either dismissed or you miss a good bunch of time playing the game.
“Most everything else are mistakes. Sometimes you’re in a college town where things get … all of a sudden it’s on the front page of the paper. So the issues we had, I see numbers of arrests and the numbers I see are exaggerated.
“I know what we’ve had to deal with. If we had one, that’s too many. Our job as a coaching staff is to mentor, to discipline and to educate young people. And we’ve had a pretty good track record. We ran some bumps in the road at the University of Florida. Does that mean we had bad kids? I’ll fight that forever. No, absolutely not. We did not have bad guys. Did they make stupid mistakes? Yeah. I’ve made a few stupid mistakes.
“We’re going to correct them. We’re going to go really hard and try to recruit really good people to represent Ohio State. That does not mean we’re going to give up on kids. So that’s kind of the belief we have here.”