Championship Hopes Begin With Coaching Stability
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Change can be a good and productive thing, but in the world of college sports, consistency is what teams strive for.
It is hard to maintain consistency in any program as the players shuffle in and out over a three or four-year period. One place where it is possible to keep stability is in the coaching staff, yet this is easier said than done.
As programs develop and succeed, all members of the staff become more desirable to other schools. Head coaches at small schools are approached by those with more to offer. Assistants and coordinators are sought after to take over as the head boss elsewhere.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have managed to avoid this issue so far. Despite only being in year two since Urban Meyer assembled this group of coaches, an unexpected 12-0 season in 2012 could have easily seen a premature breakup of what Meyer has hopes of being “the best coaching staff in the country.”
“That's huge,” said wide receivers coach Zach Smith regarding this staff remaining intact.
“Just because everyone has kind of a shell in life, you have that protection of being yourself and you don't truly know a guy when you first sit down in a room with them. But a year into this business, that shell is completely gone.”
Removing that shell allows all the coaches to be comfortable with each other. The coaches are then able to be completely honest with eachother, as opposed to having to avoid stepping on each other’s toes.
“We walk into a staff meeting as an offense, there's no holding back, there's no reservation,” Smith said.
“It is truly five guys that know each other very, very, very well and are going to let it all out and work together because we have that chemistry and history of 12 months of working together, which is awesome.”
Year one for the Buckeyes could not have gone better, but that does not mean there wasn't some initial resistance when these coaches were brought together. With a talented staff coming together and little experience with each other, there was the potential for egos to get in the way.
“What happens at this level at Ohio State and programs of this magnitude, is that you hire nine of the best coaches in the country,” Smith discussed.
“They've been very successful to get here, so they have a way of doing it. So it's just the process of molding every individual coach and their philosophies and how they teach into an alignment with the program.”
Assistant coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers believes the coaches are molding into one cohesive unit.
“Philosophically, we’re better and more comfortable with each other [than a year ago],” he said.
“There’s not a sense of agendas. We all are saying the same things.”
This unified message in turn helps the players to be better prepared and focused on the team’s goals. They don’t have to worry about hearing different things from different coaches and trying to figure out whom to listen to. Cutting down on confusion can make things easier in difficult times.
The staff’s comfort with each other and a united message to their players will be important for 2013, as there are high expectations for this season. Due to sanctions and a poor 2011 season, the 2012 Buckeyes had little pressure on their shoulders on their way to a perfect season. This year, every opponent will be gunning for them more than they have before, and the potential championship carrots at the end of the season are now present.
The burden of these expectations on the players will be lessened by coaches they are comfortable with. Not only will they hear the same message from all of their coaches, but they are also listening to voices with whom they are familiar. This helps with trust and understanding, making things easier throughout the grind.
In 2012, Ohio State saw what can happen when the combination of great talent and great coaching come together. The Buckeyes can do nothing about losing players to the NFL or graduation, but they did mange to keep the staff together and that will go a long way.
Just imagine what great talent, great coaching, and now another year to gel in the system could mean for the 2013 Ohio State football team.