COLUMBUS: LeBron James declined Urban Meyer’s first invitation more than 10 years ago. He was happy to accept Meyer’s second.
James watched Saturday’s Ohio State’s 31-24 victory against Wisconsin from the Buckeyes’ sideline Saturday night wearing a red OSU sweatshirt and a gray knit cap. He addressed the team prior to the game and also spoke briefly at the team’s pregame Skull Session in St. John Arena.
James was introduced by Meyer at Skull Session to a raucous ovation, but as James began to speak, boos could be heard throughout the arena.
“I say this all the time: If I had one year of college, I’d have ended up down here at Ohio State,” James told the crowd. “So no matter where I go in the world, I will always rock Ohio State colors.”
While he was the receivers coach at Notre Dame, Meyer tried recruiting James to play football and even offered him a scholarship during his sophomore year, not knowing of James’ vast basketball potential.
Meyer has admired James from afar for years and told the Beacon Journal shortly after taking the Ohio State job that James could’ve been a first-round pick in the NFL with Hall of Fame potential, going so far as comparing him to legend Jerry Rice.
“I love athletes that handle their business,” Meyer said following Saturday’s win. “I love athletes that live right off the field and show incredible leadership. And I’ve always been a LeBron fan.”
Meyer became emotional while discussing senior Christian Bryant’s broken ankle, which will require surgery and presumably end his final season with the Buckeyes prematurely. While it’s too early to predict his recovery, there seems to be a chance Bryant might be able to return for a bowl game, but Meyer left the impression Saturday night that he won’t play again during the regular season.
“Doggone it!” Meyer shouted while pounding the podium with his fist. “Hard part of the game.”
Bryant broke the ankle in the second quarter while making his only tackle of the game. He entered the night second on the team in tackles with 21, seven behind team leader Ryan Shazier.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. “He’s a great friend, a great football player and a great leader.”
Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown and Ron Tanner split snaps in his place and now Meyer will have a week to figure out how to replace a defensive captain and a leader in the secondary prior to another night game next week against Northwestern. When he was asked what concerns him about the Wildcats, Meyer was more focused on Bryant.
“My leader, our leader is in an ambulance right now going to the hospital to have surgery on his leg,” Meyer said. “That’s the concerning part … and he’s just devastated.
“So that’s concern No. 1. Concern probably one, two and three is who is going to fill his spot. Who is going to assume the leadership obligation and responsibility that he has shown. Incredible young man.”
After rushing for at least 159 yards in two of Ohio State’s first three games, tailback Jordan Hall’s diminishing snaps are directly related to the return of Carlos Hyde from suspension.
Hall carried the ball just once Saturday after getting just four carries in last week’s blowout of Florida A&M. Hyde, meanwhile, carried 17 times for 85 yards in the first game both Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller have been available this season.
Meyer said Hall’s lack of touches Saturday was simply a coaching decision and there was no hidden injury or discipline issue.
“He deserves to be more involved in that game,” Meyer said. “So I’m going to evaluate that tomorrow.”
Meyer said backup quarterback Kenny Guiton deserves to play, too, but he couldn’t find the right opportunity to play him.
“I’d like to get Kenny in the game,” Meyer said. “Those are two guys (Guiton and Hall) that I’ve got to make sure we handle the right way, because they deserve to play.”
Hall of Fame class
Former coach John Cooper and former basketball star Scoonie Penn were among 14 inductees enshrined into the Ohio State Hall of Fame.
Cooper won 111 games in 13 seasons with the Buckeyes, including three Big Ten championships and five final rankings in the top 10.
Penn played only two years for the Buckeyes after transferring from Boston College, but led the Bucks to the Final Four in 1999.
Shazier led the defense with nine tackles. … Former OSU basketball star Mike Conley donated $500,000 to the Schottenstein Center building project. The weight room will be named the Mike Conley Jr. Strength and Conditioning room. His donation matches the $500,000 Michael Redd gave the school in 2009. … The Buckeyes extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games. … The Badgers were held to 104 yards rushing after entering the night third in the nation, averaging 349.8 yards per game.