Meyer Demanding for More than Mediocrity
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer doesn’t have to yell to capture the attention of his football team.
That’s what he hired guys like Mickey Marotti, Kerry Coombs and Stan Drayton to do.
Meyer often speaks softly, but when he opens his mouth, everyone had better be looking at the man in charge.
“All eyes up here,” Meyer said firmly, finally raising his voice as he gathered his players in a circle before the start of Monday’s fall practice.
Urban Meyer gets his team's attention
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State’s first-year head coach wasn’t looking for energy or excitement from his players on what he called “the first real day” of fall camp. Those things should happen naturally.
“I’m not interested in the rah-rah stuff,” Meyer said.
“Every school in the country is going to show a ton of enthusiasm. They’re not lifting weights and they’re not running gassers, so they want to go play ball. They’re not getting hit, so I’m not looking for enthusiasm, that’s going to happen.”
What Meyer was looking for on Monday was a commitment to excellence from his players. He was looking for the guys on his team who won’t settle for mediocrity. He was looking for the players with the drive for greatness.
Guys like John Simon and Zach Boren. Guys like defensive back C.J. Barnett, who led the Buckeyes in tackles last season with 79 stops. He also had 49 solo tackles, which was 10 more than anyone else on the team.
Urban Meyer looks into the eyes of one his players.
Photo by Dan Harker
“I started watching guys’ faces, and it’s just so easy to be average — think about it, for all of us, it’s easy,” Meyer said.
“I don't know why, I was looking in their helmets, I saw the guys—C.J. Barnett's a guy that does not accept to be average.
"Then I looked a couple guys next to him and they do accept it. So it's our job as a motivator and a coach to not allow that.”
Meyer’s practices are more spirited than either of his predecessors. He doesn’t just ask for competiveness, he demands it. His assistant coaches walked around talking trash to players on the other side of the ball, then asking their guys to back them up.
No one does it better than first-year cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. He was riding freshman wide receiver Michael Thomas during warmups on Monday.
“Two hours in the hot sun not catching any balls. That's a long day, Michael,” Coombs said with a chuckle.
He also told Thomas that he was going to have to tell his mom that he moved all the way from California just to stand out in the sun for two hours and not catch any passes. Coombs then turned to his own group and called them the “quietest bunch of cornerbacks in the country.”
Monday was Meyer’s turn to do the talking, however, and his message to the team was loud and clear.
Urban Meyer urges his team on to excellence during practice.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Our thing is going two steps beyond what’s asked of you,” Meyer said.
“If we ask you to go 10 steps, go 12. If we ask you to go six, go eight. You hear the whistle blow, you don't anticipate, a lot of times you see teams play slow because they anticipate a whistle. We want to run through the whistle for two steps.”
Meyer told his players it would teach them how to win.
“It's all two steps,” he said.
“Keep going two steps. I've had some teams play like that. And this team, right now, doesn't play like that.”
A big part of the reason Meyer has been so successful as a college football coach is his ability to motivate players. A number of Ohio State’s players have even pointed out that their new coach has a rare ability to get the most out of people.
“We’re going to try to push you to maximize who you are,” Meyer said Monday.
“If you’re a 2.0 student but you really should be a 3.0 student, we’re going to really grind you. Same thing on the football field.”
In Meyer’s eyes, it’s easy to be average. It takes something extra to be special.
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