Stability has its perks

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike the regular season, the six weeks that followed it might not have been entirely perfect for the Ohio State football team.

There was still the lingering disappointment of a bowl ban, and the practices missed because of it still bug Urban Meyer.

The Buckeyes coach also lost a literally huge piece of a defensive line that was already facing significant renovation before Johnathan Hankins elected to skip his senior season and declare for the NFL draft.

But those issues had either already been accepted and processed by the Buckeyes or were anticipated. And when everything else that happened between clinching an unbeaten record with a win over rival Michigan in November and reporting last week for the first day of the strength and conditioning program, the positives had a decided edge over any negatives for Meyer.

"I'm very satisfied with where we're at right now," Meyer said during his first news conference of the new year on Friday. "A year ago at this time we were getting ready to start our 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., whatever it was, conversations outside after people were late for meetings. We were still trying to finalize our staff, and we had a group of offensive linemen that we didn't really have much confidence or trust in.

"A year later, a lot of good, positive things."

The Buckeyes had no shortage of them to feel good about as the calendar flipped and Meyer started preparing for his second season with the program.

The momentum from the end of the year spilled over on the recruiting trail, as Ohio State picked up a few more valuable commitments at positions of need as the overall class climbed to No. 4 in the country.

The Buckeyes also retained the services of cornerback Bradley Roby and running back Carlos Hyde, who both flirted with the idea of following Hankins to the NFL before electing to come back, improve their stock and compete for a championship.

Perhaps most importantly, the entire coaching staff will be returning despite four assistants at least having conversations about leaving to take over their own programs elsewhere, honoring the two-year commitment Meyer asked each of them to give when he took over the Buckeyes.

And while those things just scratch the surface of everything Ohio State will have to do over the next eight months as it returns to life as a team eligible to compete for postseason hardware, for starters there wasn't all that much to complain about.

"There's a lot to be done," Meyer said. "The next three weeks, there's going to be a very strong emphasis on closing a very good class. At this time, we like our class. As with most classes, how you finish is what determines if you love the class. You have to hold on to what you have. There's a lot of chaos with a lot of new staffs, new coaches trying to take your players and all that kind of stuff. We just have to keep recruiting our players and get going.

"And we've got to get better in a lot of areas. However, it's just a whole different approach. Our mantra is going to be truth and it's going to be fundamental improvement. ... But it's been good, I'm very pleased -- the last six weeks have been very productive."

The Buckeyes will obviously need a lot more like them with so long to go before the season. But the work for Year 2 is already well under way.