Meyer Aims to Build Strong Core
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer only spent one year away from coaching after a quarter century of walking college sidelines across the country.
That was enough.
The 47-year old got to spend more time with his family and recharge his batteries. He took a long, hard look at himself—at what worked and what didn’t work during his 10 years as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida.
A lot changed in his thinking, but one thing remained the same. It was that one thing that was reinforced more than ever during his time away from the game.
“Hire great coaches, coaches of character and trust in alignment,” Meyer said during his appearance at the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association clinic.
“That’s my job as the head coach to make sure the alignment is very clear. If not, you’re going to have problems. Of all the staffs I visited, the one common denominator was alignment with the head football coach. You put all your agendas aside and fall in line. If you do that, you have a chance to be successful.”
Meyer got to visit with a lot of different coaching staffs during the off-season, especially when he was working as a college football analyst for ESPN. Many of them wanted to pick Meyer’s brain. After all, he did win two BCS National Titles at Florida. Others wanted to show off their own football knowledge, but the ones Meyer really grabbed a hold of did none of that.
“The best coaches I’ve been around, the conversation immediately goes to a player and gets off the cover-two or how they understand cover-two better than anyone else,” Meyer said.
“They have a genuine love of the game and they are teachers, not presenters.”
Ohio State’s first-year head coach credits his staff at Florida—which included current division I head coaches like Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong, Doc Holliday, Steve Addazio and Dan MaCarney—for much of the success he had during his six years in Gainesville.
“One experience I have over a lot of people in this room would be that I’ve had the ability to work with, I’ll fight for them, the greatest assistant coaches that ever coached the game,” Meyer proclaimed.
“We’ve had incredible success because of great players and great coaches.”
Also because of great alignment.
Meyer’s current staff at Ohio State does not include a lot of big names, at least not compared to some of the ones that were out there when he began his coaching search back in November.
Ohio State’s staff does include three current or former defensive coordinators on one side of the ball. That includes Luke Fickell, Everett Withers and Bill Sheridan—a former defensive coordinator with the New York Giants who will coach OSU’s cornerbacks this fall.
What his staff does not include is some big names like Mike Stoops, Greg Studrawa and Chad Morris, but Meyer is more concerned with how the group fits together in alignment with the head coach than anything else.
“How does a team like the New England Patriots go take a Randy Moss and it works? How the hell does that happen,” Meyer asked rhetorically.
“Because the core is so strong, the alignment is so strong because we all believe in the same thing.”
It is for that reason Meyer showed some interest in a few high school kids who don’t exactly fit the mold of what he looks for in a young man. The Buckeyes are not going to stray too far from what has worked for the program for the last decade.
“It's still about the right kind of people,” Fickell said.
“There's plenty of guys out there that can fit all kinds of programs at athletes, but you want the guys that fit your programs as a person, what your morals are, what you're trying to do.”
That is true for Meyer now more than ever. He has openly admitted that he gravitates more towards players like Zach Boren, John Simon, Jake Stoneburner and Braxton Miller, players who love to work hard and who respect the game of football.
“Is there a premium placed on character? Probably like never before,” Meyer admitted.
“I've noticed that in the last dozen years of recruiting, just because of all the negativity that can bring on a program. There's a couple red flags that show up: how do they treat females, any type of addiction issues?”
The reality is, there is no way to really know until you know.
“You try to ask those hard questions,” Meyer said.
“Sometimes you don't know.”
That is where he has to trust in his core.
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