Withers Expected to Join Meyer’s Staff
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer’s coaching staff at Ohio State is almost complete, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
The Buckeyes lost co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Paul Haynes earlier this week after he was hired as the new defensive coordinator at Arkansas, but Meyer appears to have found his replacement.
We reported earlier in the week that Meyer could be on the verge of hiring former North Carolina defensive coordinator Everett Withers, and Meyer confirmed those reports Tuesday during his appearance on WBNS radio in Columbus.
“He’s in the picture,” Meyer said during his appearance on 97.1 The Fan’s Big Show with Anthony Rothman and Demetrius Stanley.
“But I don’t know if it’s official yet or when we can close the door on that.”
The 48-year old Charlotte native spent the 2011 season as the interim head coach with the Tar Heels after Butch Davis was fired amid NCAA investigation of academic misconduct and allegations players received improper benefits from agents.
Withers, who played his college ball at Appalachian State, had served as UNC’s defensive coordinator from 2008-10, but he will likely work under Luke Fickell on Meyer’s defensive staff at Ohio State.
“Luke Fickell will have the (coordinator) title,” Meyer said Tuesday.
“It might be a co-, it might not, but at the end of the day, he’ll be calling the defense.”
Fickell had been serving as Ohio State’s linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel since 2005, but he was promoted to interim head coach when Tressel was forced to resign back in May.
There was no guarantee Fickell would be retained by the new head coach in Columbus, especially after the team’s 6-6 season in 2011. Fickell had a desire to remain on staff, but only if the fit was right for Meyer, who took over after Ohio State’s first loss to Michigan in eight years.
“It had to be right for him, and it had to be right for the program,” the 38-year old Fickell said.
“That’s the first thing I said to him when I sat down with him, ‘You don’t need me. If it’s right for you, and it’s right for what you think is needed moving this program forward, then it will be right for me.’ ”
It was that exact approach and the manner with which he handled himself during some of the toughest times in school history that made Fickell a clear choice for Meyer’s defensive coordinator position.
“He’ll call the defense. All the other titles in this day in age, I know Luke’s not worried about it,” Meyer said during his radio appearance.
“That’s probably the most impressive thing about Luke is he’s a man’s man. He loves football, he loves Ohio State and he loves his wife and kids. We talk about his wife and kids as much as we talk about football right now, which I really enjoy that.”
Meyer and his wife, Shelley, met with Fickell and his wife, Amy, for nearly four hours the night before Ohio State announced him as the 24th head coach in school history. It made sense for the program to keep Fickell on staff, especially for the current players, but that is ultimately not the primary reason he will be a major part of Meyer’s staff in Columbus.
“There’s a perception that Luke Fickell is still on our staff because he did a really good job for Ohio State, he’s loyal, he’s a Buckeye and he won the state wrestling heavyweight championship,” Meyer said.
“All that is really true and it’s great. That has no bearing on why he’s at Ohio State still. He’s at Ohio State still because he’s a great football coach and he’s got a great track record of developing top defenses.”
The same can be said for Withers, who underwent similar circumstances in Chapel Hill this year, albeit under a much dimmer spotlight. Before joining the staff at North Carolina, Withers was the defensive coordinator at Louisville from 1995-97.
He coached the defensive backs at the University of Texas from 1998-00 and with the Tennessee Titans under former head coach Jeff Fischer from 2001-06. He will likely coach the defensive backs in some capacity at Ohio State, although Meyer is expected to retain Taver Johnson, who has coached the cornerbacks since 2007.
The addition of Withers, along with Fickell, would seem to eliminate Mike Stoops from the picture at Ohio State. The former Arizona head coach did meet with Meyer in Columbus about the defensive coordinator job, but the fit was never right.
He could be a leading candidate for a number of other jobs, including the defensive coordinator’s job at Nebraska, where Bo Pelini’s brother, Carl, left to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic University.
Assuming Meyer’s comments are accurate, Withers will likely serve as an assistant under Fickell, who will take over for Jim Heacock as the head coordinator on defense.
“He’ll call the defenses, and we’re still trying to finish up our staff,” Meyer added.
“But it’s in pretty good shape.”
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.