Meyer says 2012 Buckeyes Transformed From Awful to Unbeaten

By Kyle Rowland on April 11, 2014 at 3:36p

Ohio’s long shared a rich history and influence on the sport of football.

The NFL’s first league offices were in Columbus; legendary head coach Paul Brown won championships at Massillon, Ohio State and with the Cleveland Browns, and founded the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals; the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton; and, of course, Ohio State receives nonstop attention from adoring fans.

Football is the state’s pastime.

With that in mind, Urban Meyer decided the annual high school football coaches clinic at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center should be a tribute to the “Great State of Ohio Football.”

“I started thinking about the great state of Ohio, and I think people sometimes forget that Ohio is the birthplace of football,” Meyer said.

Over two days, Paul Brown and Larry Kehres were honored and Marvin Lewis and Mike Pettine spoke to hundreds of Ohio high school coaches.

Said Kerry Coombs: “My dad played high school football in Ohio, I played little league, high school and college football in Ohio. Every day that I have coached at the high school or college level has been in Ohio. Everything I have and everything I am, I owe to the men who coached football in Ohio.”


  • Meyer spoke for about 30 minutes, providing details on leadership, values and team management. A bulk of his speech centered on his Ohio State tenure and how he’s revamped the culture inside the locker room.
  • “I’ve always believed in leadership, but never quite understood it,” Meyer said. “I thought leadership was a quote from Winston Churchill that you slapped on a wall and by osmosis it permeated through the team. I was guilty then. I made tactical errors through the years.”
  • Meyer: “When you really think about our jobs, leadership is key. …If you’re a blame, complain and defend guy, you have a serious problem within your team.”
  • On the 2011 Ohio State season: “Ohio State was 6-7. Ohio State lost seven games, think about that. Was it because of bad players? Hell no. Was it because of bad coaches? Heavens no. All those coaches won a national championship. We have great football coaches. So what was the problem? After being here for a couple years I know exactly what the problem was. It’s called leadership on that team. I witnessed it. At my first team meeting, is guys didn’t show up, so I gave them a chance to come back the next morning. Four or five of them showed up five minutes late. Got a little problem, don’t we? We can fix it. We jogged out that morning at 5 a.m. in 10-degree weather and had a little chat. We ran a couple people out of here because they didn’t need to be here. But I wanted to see who was going to make a commitment to be part of the team, and I wanted to find out who would be the leaders of the team.”
  • On Zach Boren: “One of our great leaders ended up being Zach Boren. That day Zach Boren was screaming, 'You guys can’t break us!' First off all, we can break his ass in about four minutes. I got a whistle around my neck. You want me to break you, I can break you. That’s not the intent. That’s just the mentality going around the older players on that team. I whispered in his ear, “Zach, don’t say that, because if we wanted to break you, you’re broken. We need to develop guys who can pull this team together.”
  • “I walked in front of the podium deep in my gut knowing we’re horrible,” Meyer said, referring to the 2012 season-opener against Miami. “We had a horrible football team, but I couldn’t tell the media that, I couldn’t tell the public, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re God awful. We have a major problem at Ohio State.’ So we kept working and kept working.”
  • Meyer on his thoughts after the UAB game: “I accepted the fact that we were a bad football team, we’re looking at a 6-6 season and I’m going to go recruit my guys to get those guys the hell out of here. I was at Ohio State in 1986 and ’87, and that was not what I was used to.”
  • The end of the story is known: Ohio State went undefeated because of “some of the best leaders I’ve ever been around,” according to Meyer. Boren, John Simon, Etienne Sabino and Garrett Goebel were “undervalued” in Meyer’s eyes.
  • Meyer said Philly Brown was one of the biggest anti-establishment players he’s ever coached. But Brown developed into one of the top leaders on the 2013 team.   
  • “There’s no way we win 24 straight without what happened that day,” Meyer said about meeting motivation speaker Tim Kight, the brains behind E+R=O.
  • On playing for the national championship last season: “Quite honestly, I don’t think we were ready. We weren’t good enough on defense. You can’t play defense the way we did. You have to fix it. You don’t blame people, you go fix it. And, by the way, you can’t fix it in one day. Not when it’s some deep-rooted stuff. ”
  • On Ohio State’s culture of four to six seconds, point A to point B: “You either adhere to that culture, or you got to go. You won’t be involved anymore.”
  • Meyer said he now calls assistant coaches unit leaders. “Anyone can coach, who can lead?” he said.
  • When Christian Bryant broke his leg, Meyer said he knew Ohio State’s national championship hopes could be dashed. He thought the Buckeyes had a championship offense, but thought the defense would have to overcome adversity.
  • “Our objective at Ohio State is to beat That Team Up North, get to the Rose Bowl and win a national championship,” Meyer said. “Tough job description, but we all selected to come here.”
  • Meyer said if all nine units are in sync and have great leaders, Ohio State shouldn’t lose this season. 
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