Buckeyes seniors must steer motivation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer hasn't downplayed the gravity of Ohio State's postseason ban in 2012.

He called it "a shot" and said on national signing day that Ohio State faced a "two-week assault" from opposing coaches who used the ban to recruit against the Buckeyes. Meyer survived the recruiting flurry and signed a top-5 class, but the impact of the ban will linger in the coming months.

Motivation takes on a different tone for Ohio State this fall as the team knows it can't win a Big Ten championship, a Rose Bowl or a national title.

Is Meyer concerned about the Buckeyes' motivation?

"Sure," he told ESPN.com on Thursday. "Hell yeah."

Meyer remains fully immersed in spring practice and all that goes with it, but soon enough he'll turn his attention to the M-word.

"I'm going to spend a lot of time on that," he said. "Yeah, that's a big concern."

Meyer and his staff will do all they can to keep the players on track this fall despite the circumstances. But Meyer has no doubt which group matters most in the mission.

Ohio State's senior class has "everything" to do with whether or not the team remains motivated this season.

"We're really the only ones who are suffering from it," senior tight end Jake Stoneburner said. "Everyone else gets another year, and next year, they get to play for a bowl game. So basically us seniors have to make sure the team stays together and realize we still have a lot to play for."

Buckeyes players had a short meeting after hearing about the bowl ban. And not surprisingly, they were down about it at first.

"A lot of guys were pretty disappointed, like, 'Aw, man, what are we going to be playing for?'" Stoneburner recalled. "But that's left a lot of guys' minds. I really don't even think about that bowl ban. We just want to win every game next year, especially the Michigan one."

Ah, Michigan. The Game. The most important and anticipated contest for both sides. It takes on a different tone this year for Ohio State, which knows its season will end Nov. 24 against its archrival at The Shoe.

The Buckeyes should have no trouble getting revved up for Michigan, especially after last year's loss in Ann Arbor. A bigger concern is how the team handles its first brush with failure, knowing there's no bowl.

"The seniors really set the foundation pretty fast that there's nothing we can do about it, we're going to make the best out of this situation," senior defensive end John Simon said.

Simon and his classmates expect pride to be a driving force this fall.

"The motivation is just to win," Stoneburner said. "You don't want to go out there and look sloppy and lose a bunch of games and have a lost season. It's my last year here, so why not play and try to win every game?"