Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer's Perfection Proves Importance of Coach in CFB
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Everybody knows the story: When Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor were forced out of town, Luke Fickell and Braxton Miller forced them into positions they weren't quite ready for and the Buckeyes went 6-7.
Going into 2012 season, the good news for incoming head coach Urban Meyer were that the team was returning most of their starters from the previous season. The bad news were that those starters were the backbone to the seven-loss team in 2011.
Fast-forward a year and here are the Buckeyes celebrating a 12-0 season and likely top five ranking in the AP poll at the end of the season. But how did it happen?
I would be remiss if I didn't give credit to the Buckeyes' players, especially the seniors, for turning around their careers and putting Ohio State back on top of the Big Ten.
But the key to Ohio State's turnaround was the man that came out of retirement just to lead the biggest program from his state back to national title contention. In doing so, Meyer showed how vital it is to have the right coach for a team to have success.
"Urban Renewal" is Nothing New for Meyer
Looking through Meyer's coaching history it should come as no surprise, he has enjoyed quick and successful turnarounds at every one of his other three stops as a head coach.
In his first year at Bowling Green, the Falcons were coming off a 2-9 season in 2000.
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After two years at Bowling Green, Meyer headed west to Utah where he took over a team coming off a 5-6 season. All Meyer did was lead the Utes to a 10-2 record, a Mountain West Conference Title, two wins over the Pac 12, a win in the Liberty Bowl and finished No. 21 in the AP poll.
In his second year at Utah, Meyer took his program to the next level.
Meyer and the Utes finished in the Top 25 both years he coached, the program had only one Top 25 finish before that.
Once again after two years Meyer left to take the job in Florida where the Gators were coming off three consecutive five-loss season under Ron Zook.
At Florida Meyer went 9-3, 13-1, 9-4, 13-1, 13-1 and 8-4 with two national titles and three other Top 15 finishes in the AP poll.
Just as a note to the Big Ten and the rest of the country, in Meyer's first season he has averaged 4.75 more wins than the previous season.
In year two, he has averaged another 2.33 more wins. That's a good omen for Ohio State, who, with the two-win bump, would finish 14-0 next year.
Accountability and Expectations
As Arkansas figured out this season—after the firing of head coach Bobby Petrino in April—,the man in charge makes all the difference in the world.
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Last season, Ohio State football team had little accountability.
They were playing for a coach that had interim in front of his name. They were playing for a senior class that had several of its members sidelined due to suspensions for much of the year.
Meyer wiped the slate clean and gave his team a fresh start.
He put pressure on his coaches and the seniors to lead and most importantly made everyone in the program accountable.
Meyer didn't stop with private team meetings either, he would tell the media exactly where each player stood.
Meyer was one of the last people in Columbus to jump on the "Miller for Heisman" bandwagon. He called out players who weren't preforming as well as he thought they could, but also encouraged his players through the media as well.
Along those lines he made himself and his coaches accountable to the team.
Meyer was never afraid to admit his mistakes or the coaches' mistakes in front of the press, and that certainly helped him to win the team's trust.
Meyer the Motivator
Meyer's motivational skills showed early.
In the spring game, when Meyer huddled his team up after warm-ups and had them do their "hoot'n'holler" drill to excite the team before the scrimmage.
During ESPN's All-Access coverage of Ohio State's practices, fans got a glimpse of Meyer's passion in encouraging the Buckeyes to be an angry football team with a chip on their shoulder.
Perhaps the best example of his motivation during the season was the Michigan State game. Even though Ohio State didn't play their best game in East Lansing that day, it was easy to see something special was building between the players and the coaches.
That became even more apparent when Meyer joined the team in celebrating.
It came out later that Meyer's speech to the team before the game was focused on getting them to open their hearts and play for each other. That made the superman-like more the team and Meyer were doing after the game make more sense.
Adjusting on the Fly
Meyer didn't recruit the guys like John Simon, Zach Boren, Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller, but that didn't keep him from adjusting his system to fit the pieces he had.
Meyer was lucky to have a QB with the athletic ability of Miller to bail the team out occasionally and seniors like Simon and Boren to lead. But it still takes a special coach to realize his normal way isn't the only way to win.
Likewise, Meyer and the coaching staff repeatedly showed their ability to diagnose a weakness one week and have significant improvement in that area the next week.
For example they couldn't tackle against Cal and then shut down Michigan State and Miller had poor mechanics against Penn State. In the next three games, he completed 65 percent of his passes—seven points higher than his season average.
Once again, having players with ability is the most important factor when trying to build a great team. But a team with all the talent in the world without a good head coach could end up like the 2011 Buckeyes or the 2012 Razorbacks.
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