Meyer Plans to Open Things Up Offensively Against Familiar Foe
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Urban Meyer decided he was going to take the coaching job at Ohio State last fall, the first call he made was to an old friend.
Mickey Marotti had been Meyer’s Director of Strength and Conditioning at Florida, and the two had worked together for a number of years at Notre Dame before Meyer became the head coach at Bowling Green.
He even tried to recruit Marotti to Ohio back in 2001, but it was not the first call he made when he decided to make the move from Provost to Gainesville back in 2005. No, the guy a the other end of that phone call will be on the opposite sideline Saturday when Meyer’s Buckeyes host Michigan in the annual season finale in Columbus.
“He was the first phone call I made when I got the job at University of Florida to find out if he'd go with me,” Meyer said of current Wolverines’ defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
“We lived next to each other at Notre Dame for a long time. I know he's a great recruiter. We recruited together for many, many years. I've just got a lot of respect for him as a coach.”
Mattison, now 62, was coaching the defensive line in South Bend when he answered the call from Meyer, who had worked with the Irish receivers before he became a head coach.
Together with current Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, Meyer and Mattison put together one of the most formidable defenses in the country at Florida. By the time they faced Ohio State’s high-octane offense in the 2007 BCS National Championship game, Mattison had the Gators chomping on all cylinders.
“That enhances it a little bit, but once again, it's about players,” Meyer quickly added.
“Probably the way it enhanced it, I know we've spent a lot of time now having conversations about how they'll play us, and that's probably the only thing that really matters now.”
In his two years since returning to Ann Arbor, where he had worked hand-in-hand with Brady Hoke on the defensive side of the ball in the late 1990s, Mattison has completely transformed Michigan’s previously lackluster defense.
The Wolverines went from 110th in total defense under Rich Rodriguez in 2010 to 17th in the country a year ago under Mattison. They are up to 12th in total defense this season, and Meyer knows his offense can’t afford another game like the one they played up in Madison over the weekend.
“It was bad,” he said Monday during his Michigan Week press conference.
“We didn't play very well, and we didn't coach very well. We could have done much better.”
The Buckeyes had bad field position in the second half, but even that doesn’t explain the fact they managed just 36 yards of total offense in the third and fourth quarters combined. Quarterback Braxton Miller practically knocked himself out of Heisman Trophy race with his worst offensive output of the season.
“We started the game great. I mean, we had a 10‑play drive, eight‑play drive, eight‑play drive, plus field position, doing great, and then just backed up,” Meyer said.
“Then we kind of tightened down a little bit because we figured a turnover would lose that game.”
In other words, Meyer and Tom Herman resorted back to some good ol’ fashion Tressball on the road against the Badgers, but that’s not going to get it done against a Michigan team that can put points on the board in a hurry.
Especially when No. 16 is on the field.
“Obviously, I've got to take responsibility because Tom and I called that game, and it was not the…” his voice trailed off.
“We want to open this thing up. We have to against this team we're playing. We have to open this offense up and trust that good things are going to happen.”
They certainly have for most of the year. After 11 straight victories, why stop now?
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