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Ohio State armed, loaded for title repeat

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Chicago — From the moment the Ohio State players began offseason conditioning after winning a national title, they knew they would not be allowed to coast.

Work had to be done to pursue the next title.

When the coaches preseason Top 25 was released Thursday, Ohio State was on top, thanks in part to a bevy of talented quarterbacks — J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones — and quarterback-turned receiver Braxton Miller.

That’s the good news.

But the bad news came the same day as Ohio State officials announced four players, among them All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, will miss the season opener at Virginia Tech for a violation of team policy.

“I think there’s an expectation when you come to Ohio State that you’re supposed to win every game you play in, but also I think that can be dangerous,” offensive tackle Taylor Decker said during the Big Ten media days. “Being the preseason No. 1 team can spark some complacency and that can be dangerous, because obviously you don’t want to forget what got you to where you’re at.

“You don’t want to forget how it feels to not be on top, not be No. 1, because you work a lot harder then than you probably ever will. From the head down, coach (Urban) Meyer got that point across. It was instilled the first day back in workouts.”

The players credit strength coach Mickey Marotti for making them understand the current team has to do more to repeat the success of 2014 and the run through the inaugural College Football Playoff to the national championship.

So when they were asked if they can duplicate the chemistry, they said that can’t be the goal.

They must instead try to build on last season.

“Duplicate is a funny word,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “I don’t necessarily want to say duplicate because when I think of that I think of an exact copy, and you just can do that with different chemistry.

“I think we can have something very similar to what we had going last year and that will be huge for us. You can’t force it. It has to be natural, but naturally there have been a lot of important things going for us.”

While the Buckeyes might have something similar to last season, they are starting from a different vantage point — at the front.

Coaches like to motivate teams by drilling their underdog status. Ohio State is, however, the frontrunner, and that’s a role they believe they can handle.

“I feel like we embrace anything they give us,” Perry said. “They want to tell us we’re not very good and we’re underdogs, we’re going to embrace that and run with it. And then they tell us we’re a really good team, and we embrace being a really good team and we like pressure, not to the point we’re going to be cocky and get complacent, but to the point we understand we can do some really good things this year as long as we follow the plan that’s given and follow it step by step.”

Perry said the players have complete trust in Meyer. And Meyer knows the dangers coming off a national championship, like complacency.

“Every coach is concerned about that,” he said. “There’s no perfect team. There’s no perfect program. Everybody deals with stuff.”

Perry said Meyer gives the team an unbelievable amount of confidence, and the Buckeyes feel if they follow his plan, success awaits. But that can only be achieved if they move on from last season.

“You’ve got to block out what’s going on outside the building, people downtown Columbus telling you how great you are, guy on the radio talking about all sorts of stuff,” Perry said. “Block that out.

“We have to focus on the journey not the destination. Everybody else is so focused on the destination, the repeat. We just want to play ball games, and we want to play at a high level.”