Ohio State Football: 4 Ways Urban Meyer Has Changed the Buckeyes so Far
A little less than two years ago, the outlook for the Ohio State Buckeyes football program was pretty dismal. Their quarterback and team leader Terrelle Pryor had just declared for the NFL draft after an NCAA benefit rules violation scandal in which he and some of his teammates sold memorabilia to a tattoo parlor was uncovered.
The Buckeyes were hit hard with bowl bans, scholarship reductions and many more penalties. Former head coach Jim Tressel was forced out after it was uncovered that he knew about the violations and did not report them.
After an abysmal 6-6 regular season that culminated in their first loss to arch-rival Michigan since 2003, the football program determined that Tressel's replacement, Luke Fickell, was no longer to be their head coach. Enter Urban Meyer, he of the two national championships at Florida, the architect of Tim Tebow's meteoric rise, one of the best recruiters in the world and one of the best spread offense coaches out there.
What exactly has been his secret in turning around the one-year demise of the Ohio State football program?
Meyer made his coaching philosophy clear on the day he was introduced as Ohio State's head coach:
I want a bunch of coaches that coach like their hair’s on fire, and I want a football team that goes four to six seconds of relentless effort. [If] You do that, you have a chance to win in every game you play.
That message has clearly resonated with the players and the coaches as they are 8-0 and with their bowl ban are only four games away from a perfect season.
Although the Buckeyes cannot play in postseason games, he called on his staff and team to be angry and play with a chip on their shoulder all season. The goal was simple: Forget the bowl games and critics. Go 12-0 and no one will question what this team is capable of.
So far, so good, Coach Meyer.
2. The Spread Offense
Attention Michigan fans: The spread offense can work in the Big Ten. No, not Rich Rodriguez's Big East version where he tried to make up for his recruiting deficiencies with "extra speed" and gimmick plays.
It's bogus to call Rodriguez's offense one with "extra speed" when everyone that ran the spread in Urban Meyer's Florida attack and now his Ohio State attack are faster, bigger and stronger. After spending time in the SEC and winning two national championships with Florida, Meyer realizes the importance of size and athleticism.
In the Big Ten, Meyer will essentially turn Ohio State into an SEC team playing in an easy conference. Recruiting his players for his offense will mean big offensive lines, fast running back/receiver types like Percy Harvin and dynamic quarterbacks who will kill teams with their arms and legs.
Braxton Miller is breaking out in his sophomore season and will attempt to be Ohio State's version of Tim Tebow. Meyer's up-tempo spread and quick play calling will fully take advantage of Miller's athleticism as defenses will be off balance and his decision making either with his arm or legs can easily capitalize on that.
I've mentioned it multiple times already, but the success of a program hinges on how well it recruits. Good teams come and go, but the ones who hang around are the ones who consistently bring in the nation's top high school players.
Meyer does that about as well as anyone in the world. He was able to take a sub-par Luke Fickell recruiting class and end up with three of the nation's top-15 defensive ends, including five-star recruit Noah Spence (above).
This season, the focus is still on defense. Meyer seems confident that he can win for a few more years with the players he has on the offensive side of the ball, but defense could be an issue. After locking up defensive line depth last season, this season Meyer has focused on the secondary.
Eli Woodard and Cam Burrows, the nation's No. 3 and No. 4 cornerbacks, respectively, will be a deadly duo that will torment Big Ten quarterbacks for years to come.
Meyer's 2013 class so far has a five-star recruit (Woodard), 11 four-star recruits and 11 overall players in the ESPN Top 300 with six in the Top 150.
4. Raising the Bar
It would be easy for Ohio State to go away for a few years and come back after their sanctions are in the rear-view mirror with a clean slate. Urban Meyer doesn't care about sanctions nor does he want to hear complaining from his team.
Meyer is all about maximizing his players to be the best they can be and achieve greatness. The bar has always been high at Ohio State and losing has never been tolerated, but fans were ready to excuse the few years of misery they would have to endure in return for NCAA violations.
With Urban Meyer, no such mediocrity will ever be tolerated and no such excuses will ever be made. Meyer is a world-class motivator and demands excellence from every single person associated with the program.
After winning his first eight games as the Buckeyes' head coach and with a chance to run the table, Meyer is an easy candidate for Big Ten coach of the year.