Ohio State Football: What We've Learned so Far This Offseason
It is hard to believe that almost 12 weeks have passed since Ohio State loss a heartbreaking game to the Michigan Wolverines up in Ann Arbor.
Needless to say, a lot of activity has been happening surrounding the Buckeye football program since that day. Ohio State hired one of the most successful college football head coaches, NCAA punishments were handed down after the scandal from 2010-2011 and the recruiting process has come and gone for the 2012 season.
Clearly this has been one of the busiest and most hyped offseasons in recent Ohio State history. Here is what we have learned so far.
Ohio State Opened Up the Checkbook
Ohio State made a huge splash in November by hiring one of the top coaches in college football in Urban Meyer. It comes to no surprise that by hiring this type of talent, that a hefty price tag would also be attached. Meyer will earn more than $4 million next year, making him the highest paid coach in Ohio State history.
Not only is Meyer receiving a nice payday, but his new coaching staff is as well.
Their combined salaries are just shy of $3.5 million. This would make the OSU coaching staff the fifth highest paid staff in the NCAA behind Texas, Alabama, Auburn and LSU, respectively. What do these four schools also have in common?
They have all combined to win five National Championships within the past seven seasons.
Ohio State has clearly shown that it is financially committed to assembling a top-tier coaching staff in order to compete with the other top programs in the country. With the knowledge the coaching staff possesses as well as the talent coming to Columbus from recruiting, the hiring of all these coaches will turn into a wise investment for Ohio State.
Urban Meyer Has Not Missed a Beat
After the completion of the 2010 season, Urban Meyer announced his resignation as the head football coach at the University of Florida. Meyer enjoyed 2011 by spending more time with his family, getting his health back in order and commentating college football games.
Following Ohio State's loss to Michigan just two days prior, Meyer was introduced as the next coach at The Ohio State University on November 28. Meyer did not waste any time and went straight to work forming his coaching staff and getting highly-rated high school recruits to play for the Buckeyes.
Meyer assembled a mix of veteran coaches with college and NFL experience, along with some up-and-coming coaches that have a lot of potential. Meyer and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard and assembled a top-five recruiting class.
He may have taken a year off, but the new Buckeye coach has not missed a beat since his hiring back in November.
The Bowl Ban Did Not Hurt Recruiting
When the NCAA finally handed down its punishment after the scandal that involved numerous players receiving impermissible benefits, Ohio State took one more shocking blow by discovering they were assessed a one-year postseason bowl ban with a scholarship reduction.
Ohio State officials were caught off-guard—they did not think the NCAA would levy such a penalty based on their studies of previous cases.
After the news broke, the Ohio State coaching staff went into “damage-control” mode with their recruits.
Meyer and his staff had to overcome an extremely difficult situation by still convincing recruits to come to Ohio State without the chance of winning a conference championship or playing in a bowl game for their first season.
The top five recruiting class that resulted showed what a fantastic job the coaching staff did weathering through the NCAA penalty storm that loomed above Columbus for over a year. Many thought that the postseason ban would turn recruits away to other teams that could compete for championships immediately.
Obviously, Urban Meyer had other plans.
Every Recruit Is Fair Game
Fans around the country found out very quickly that Urban Meyer did not come to Ohio State to make friends. He came to Columbus to win, period.
The blueprint to any successful college football program starts on the recruiting trail. This trail is where Meyer seemed to ruffle some feathers, most notably with the head coach at Wisconsin.
The day after National Signing Day, it was reported that Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was upset with Meyer for targeting recruits that had already verbally committed to other schools, according to the Star Tribune.
This also happened to be the day after Kyle Dodson decided he would be attending Ohio State after previously verbally committing to go to Wisconsin.
Bielema cried foul to his athletic director stating that Meyer used “illegal” tactics and violated a “gentlemen’s agreement” within the Big Ten that other coaches did not pursue recruits that had already verbally committed to another school. Meyer was not pleased about the comments directed at him and responded that Bielema should try a little harder next time to hang on to his recruits.
No illegal tactics were found to be used, and the coaches who had issues ended up looking like sore losers. Wisconsin was not the only victim of Meyer’s relentless and aggressive recruiting strategy— Michigan State, Penn State and Notre Dame all lost verbal commits who ended up signing letters of intent at Ohio State.
The Rivalry Is on the Upswing
The Ohio State rivalry with Michigan has been and always will be one of the best rivalries in all of sports.
Before 2011, however, the rivalry seemed to be fading in the eyes of some fans. Ohio State had won seven straight versus the Wolverines, who were going through a down period in their program.
Then came the hiring of Brady Hoke in early 2011.
Say what you want to about the new Michigan coach, but he understands the meaning of the rivalry. Hoke installed a countdown clock for the next game against the Buckeyes—he will not wear red (scarlet), and he referred to Ohio State simply as “Ohio.”
Urban Meyer was born and raised in Ohio, so he also understands the importance of “The Game.”
He has countered Hoke’s “Ohio” gaffe by not referring to Michigan by their name whatsoever. On the schedule located in the team meeting room, the opponent listed for the November 24 matchup reads “that team up north.”
Name-calling aside, the main reason the rivalry is on the upswing is the respect these two coaches have for each other as well as the upward trend both programs are showing. Michigan went 11-2 last year which included a BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech, while Ohio State hired one of the most successful college coaches in America. Also, both programs assembled top five recruiting classes for 2012 according to Scout.com.
Look for these two powerhouse programs to be competing with one another for future Big Ten championships and more importantly, bragging rights.
Ohio State Is Not Sitting Idle
A lot of fans would say they have been very satisfied with the job that has been done by the coaching staff so far this offseason. They produced an outstanding recruiting class while dealing with NCAA penalties and have kept Buckeye football players out of the media headlines for disciplinary issues.
However, this does not mean Ohio State is sitting idle waiting for spring ball to begin.
Mickey Marotti, the new director of football performance, has kicked his offseason condition program into high gear. Players are currently working out five days a week and getting in shape for the upcoming football season.
Although Meyer and his staff had a great recruiting class in 2012, they haven’t let off the recruiting throttle. The Ohio State coaching staff has already gotten four recruits to verbally commit for 2013.
The new Ohio State staff is not wasting any time in reshaping the way this football team operates. The entire program is being evaluated from top to bottom, looking for any areas that can be improved. All Buckeye fans can do now until the season begins is to wait patiently—something the coaches and players clearly are not doing.
Follow me on Twitter @KyleWinklerOSU for Ohio State football information.