Meyer Expects Calls, Plans to Keep Staff Intact
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer knows the phone calls are coming. If they weren’t, he wouldn’t be doing his job.
Maybe they’re coming soon; maybe not until next year, but at some point Meyer knows there will be another team, another despondent program, another ambitious athletic director, on the other end of the line.
They won’t be calling for Meyer, who is back where he began his collegiate coaching career 25 years ago, at a place that has made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country.
No, Meyer isn’t going anywhere. At least not for a while. Meyer is just starting to settle in. For once, he’s happy, at least for the time being, and he’s got a darn good football team coming back next season.
The Buckeyes were a perfect 12-0 in Meyer’s first season as the head football coach in Columbus, and while there is no real downside to perfection in year one for someone as established and successful as the two-time BCS national champion, there could be a small price to pay for this team’s instantaneous success.
“The one negative thing about success and hiring good coaches is they’re hot items,” Meyer said Monday.
“If I have guys that people never call and want to hire them, it probably means I got bad coaches. I had a turnstile down at Florida of guys leaving to become head coaches.”
Turnstile of Coaches
Meyer’s coaching tree with the Gators has been well-documented. His first defensive coordinator down in Gainesville is the same guy who sparked a resurgence on defense up in Ann Arbor after three years as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
His two main protégés, Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong, are a combined 17-6 this season at Mississippi State and Louisville, respectively. They have been mentioned as candidates to fill some of the marquee job openings this offseason, such as Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Cal.
While none of Meyer’s current assistants are expected to be considered for any of those lofty positions, names like Tom Herman and Ed Warinner have already come up with lesser jobs like Western Michigan and Purdue.
“I understand the profession. I understand guys taking care of their families,” Meyer said.
“That part of the game is a business, so I understand that. I’d like to think at a place like Ohio State, you only leave here to become a head football coach. If a guy is leaving here to become an assistant here, I would look at him like ‘what the hell are you doing.’ But I get it.”
Meyer has been there before. He seen guys go their own way for all types of different reasons. His only steadfast rule is that he be involved in the process and not kept in the dark until the moment a guy decides to leave town.
“Oh yeah, I better know about it,” he said.
“But they’re good. I’ve always had very professional guys, ‘hey I got a phone, what do you think?’ You know what, one time I didn’t, but I wont get into that now.”
Meyer was smiling when he said it, but it was no laughing matter at the time. According to stories that have circulated, it was wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales – a guy who had been with Meyer at Bowling Green and Utah – who left Florida with a post-it note when he took a lateral position under Les Miles at LSU.
Gonzales is now the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Illinois under first-year head coach Tim Beckman, another Urban Meyer assistant who has gone on to become a successful head coach.
“This day and age of titles, people walk across hot coals for a title,” Meyer added. “I never had a title in my life, other than do a really good job.”
Keeping the Band Together
That’s all Meyer expects, or rather demands, out of his assistant coaches – which is why he was a little concerned with the performance of his new defensive staff back in late September and early October, when the Buckeyes were struggling against teams like Cal and Indiana.
“I did have the same concerns probably everyone in America had watching our defense,” Meyer admitted this week.
“There were times on offense I was very concerned, but you could see the steady growth of our defensive staff. The comfort level between Everett Withers and Luke Fickell –Mike Vrabel had never coached defensive line before. I’m very pleased with the way the last half of the season went, especially on defense.”
For that reason, Meyer said he has no plans to make any changes to his coaching staff for next season. Why would he? The Buckeyes have yet to lose a game under this current group, which all came together last offseason when Meyer said he was looking to build the best coaching staff in America.
“When I put the staff together, I never once thought there was any character flaws with any of our guys. I love them,” Meyer said.
“The No. 1 thing I look for first is a good husband and a good father. The ultimate responsibility here is to be examples to these young guys. I hear people make smart-aleck comments about coaches, that their only job is to win – that’s not true.
“Sometimes that overrules some things, unfortunately, but I believe it’s the opposite. Our ultimate job is to show high character and do things right.”
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