Should Urban Meyer Start Following His Own Rules for a Change?
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The saying "rules are rules" has been around forever and has been used by everybody at one time or another. It's generally put into play when somebody is tired of being argued with and they want to end the discussion the easiest way they know how.
"Hey, rules are rules. Now can we please move on to something else?"
In theory, the rules themselves have a purpose rooted in logic, or else they would have never become rules in the first place. The idea is that each rule helps you achieve an assigned goal, and the closer the rules are followed, the surer the path to that goal is maintained.
For Urban Meyer, one rule that he has long had, and yet strayed away from at Ohio State, is "we don't redshirt".
This rule was chided by Buckeye fans as they witnessed nearly half of his 25-member 2013 signing class redshirt despite being healthy enough to play. That number doesn't even include the five others who redshirted due to injuries.
All told, only 10 members of the 2013 signing class saw the field last year, and three of them were lost to injury early enough in the season to be able to redshirt.
That still left a dozen highly-thought of signees who could have provided some help where Ohio State needed it most.
To make matters even more complicated, Meyer also redshirted sophomore receiver Michael Thomas and sophomore running back Bri'onte Dunn. While there wasn't necessarily a need for another running back, another talented receiver would have been welcomed by quarterback Braxton Miller.
Obviously, there comes a point in the season where a coach decides that it's too late to play somebody if they haven't played yet. They don't want to waste an entire season just to play somebody for the last half of the year. That makes sense. What I'm suggesting is that maybe Meyer shouldn't box himself in like that in 2014.
If a player plays early and then doesn't play late, is that worse than needing him at the end of the season but not being able to use him?
Over the final three games of last season, the Ohio State wide receivers caught 20 total passes, and 13 of those came from Philly Brown against Michigan State and Clemson. Aside from Brown, the Buckeyes other two starting receivers – Devin Smith and Evan Spencer – caught a total of four passes for 69 yards, and all four of those catches belonged to Smith.
Could the likes of redshirted receivers like Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Jalin Marshall have helped? It would be hard to argue otherwise.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, by going against one of his universal rules, Meyer locked himself out of those three receivers, and the production at the position was lacking more than it ever should at Ohio State.
The situation at linebacker was similar. All three of Curtis Grant, Joshua Perry and Camren Williams dealt with injuries, and were at times forced to play through them. Meanwhile, watching from the sideline was Mike Mitchell, who would later earn raves during bowl practice.
Had Meyer subscribed to his own anti-redshirting beliefs, Mitchell would have been able to help get the Buckeyes through those tough moments, and he'd be a more experienced player heading into 2014.
Even if Mitchell would have only played in seven or eight games, would that be worse than him not playing in the games where his team needed him most?
Further, given the problems the Buckeyes had defending the pass last season, do you think Meyer would have preferred to have access to redshirting cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley? Sure, they may not have been the answer, but they weren't even allowed to hear the question.
I don't want this to sound like I am second guessing Urban Meyer. Rather I am first guessing his stated preference to not redshirt players. I very much agree with him and absolutely think he should get back to doing what he believes in .
Sure, there will always be players who need a year to develop, and those players are pretty easy to pinpoint. But if there's a chance that the Buckeyes can use a player, then they should probably plan on getting him ready.
Given the rare air that Ohio State football is planning on playing in under Meyer, there is no reason to hold players back for a year. Even if they're not ready in September, they could be ready in October. Put the onus on the coaches to get the players ready.
Even if a year is "wasted" by playing somebody in a handful of games, they will be further along as sophomores, which is when they're likely to be needed more than they were as freshmen.
Nobody likes "losing" a year, but at the rate that Ohio State is recruiting right now, those losses will be written off in the talent that is brought on board over the next three or four years to follow.
I am guessing that Urban Meyer will use this past season as a lesson and learn from it. He was already upset with himself halfway through the year for the decision to redshirt so many players, and I wouldn't expect him to go through that again.
It will always be better to not need a player and have him, than to need a player and not have him. Meyer was reminded of that the hard way last year, which is why it's time for the Buckeyes to stop with the redshirting, and start getting back to playing the players.
After all, rules are rules.
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