Urban Meyer Enters Year Three With a Team Built in His Own Image

By Patrick Maks on August 11, 2014 at 8:15a
Urban Meyer enters year three at Ohio State with a team he really likes. Be scared, college football. Be scared.
38 Comments
Eleven Warriors' 2014 Ohio State Football Season Preview

On a cold, dark morning three Januarys ago, Urban Meyer officially assumed the role of head football coach at Ohio State University. He was charged with guiding the Buckeyes, a proud team that had fallen on unprecedented hard times, back to a place among college football’s elite.

And with one of the nation’s most lucrative athletic departments, a deeply passionate fan base, and the means to attract the nation’s finest recruits, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Meyer tasted success in Columbus. He did. But there were growing pains. There still are.

Meyer’s first year, 2012, was about blowing up bad habits and stabilizing a program rocked by an improper benefits scandal and consequent NCAA sanctions a year earlier. It was about reshaping a sloppy offensive line, about turning the talented, but raw, Braxton Miller into a quarterback and about creating an identity with a group of someone else’s players. It was about establishing a new culture at Ohio State.

Urban Meyer at Ohio State
Year Overall B1G Finish Bowl Coaches AP
2012 12–0 8–0 1st (Leaders) N/A N/A 3
2013 12–2 8–0 1st (Leaders) Orange 10 12
  24–2 16–0        

Meyer’s second year came draped in Big Ten and national championship hopes. Ohio State rolled during the regular season again, but collapsed against Michigan State and Clemson in the only two games that actually mattered. Internal dissent led Meyer to believe that something woven deep inside the team’s fabric was off. “I want to make sure there's clarity of purpose at Ohio State," he said in March. “I want to make sure the culture is clear.” But it was also just as much about getting his players re-buy into a blueprint for success that crumbled apart last season.

It’s why Meyer’s third year as Ohio State’s head coach is an intriguing intersection of what happens when lofty expectations meet the first team truly built in his own image. The first two years were about building infrastructure for the future. Success came, but it didn’t necessarily have to. It wasn't necessarily supposed to. It might’ve been premature.

In Year Three, Meyer and Co. apparently have the pieces in place to legitimately challenge for championships — or at least the Buckeyes hope they do despite questions about Miller's health and inexperience at various position groups. To get to that point, though, Meyer had to lay a foundation of tenets in his first two years. Now he's tasked with building key relationships with the players who bring such standards to life. 

“I think when he first got here, he had to like establish his foundation for his effort thing, that 4-6 effort thing. I think just as the years have gone on so like two years ago to now, I think everybody kind of understands that, so he doesn’t have to stress it because it’s kind of demanded, it’s a given,” redshirt sophomore safety Tyvis Powell said at the team’s Media Day Sunday.

Because for a while, Meyer had to be grumpy, mean-spirited, no-nonsense coach with the intent of making sure his players knew what was expected of them. The culture had to be firmly set to yield results. After all, rebuilding a program — even one like Ohio State — is hard work nor does it happen overnight. Meyer’s iron first, though, seemed to backfire a little bit.

“When he came in, he wanted to clean out Ohio State. He thought we weren’t very good guys and wanted to get rid of all the refuse. Now he has kind of slowed down on that warpath thing. He’s starting to get to know the guys a lot better,” senior defensive lineman Michael Bennet said at Big Ten Media Days, according to a Columbus Dispatch story exploring the difference between Meyer now and then.

“I remember that last year, he didn’t want anybody to ask the question, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Just do it. It wastes time to ask why.’ This year, he’s like, ‘We’re going to teach you the why so you are more open to it and you accept it.’”

Because players don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. They want to know things like why. A coach who gives them a reason is a coach who cares about them. Year Three will showcase and test Meyer’s ability to foster better, deeper relationships with his players who he spends so much time with.

“I think he can take his focus and switch it to basically taking care of us and doing things to get us ready for the game and stuff like that. I would say this year, he’s taken better care of us — our bodies — than he ever did,” Powell said.

A team like that’ll run through a brick wall for its head coach. A team like that is dangerous.

It’s obvious too. Athletic trainers are found constantly running around with water bottles during practice. Players say they’re stretching during downtime in team meetings and there’s a greater emphasis on recovery in respect to sleep habits and other nutritional frontiers.

Meyer’s also taking care of the team in ways that have nothing to do with football. As part of an effort to build chemistry and camaraderie, he sent it to Columbus water park Zoombezi Bay and hosted a cookout at his house afterwards in mid July. Individual units are spending their free time by going to big group dinners, reading the same books, or playing dodgeball and paintball on the weekends. It's about creating a sense of cohesion and family. The players have to trust Meyer has their best interest in mind. 

A team like that’ll run through a brick wall for its head coach. A team like that is dangerous. And most of all, that kind of team might be able to do things last year’s couldn’t.

38 Comments

Comments

JFKBuckeye's picture

This team is on a mission! We're going to attack this schedule with pure unadulterated fury and any team that even thinks they can stop us will be destroyed and sent into purgatory!

buckeyepastor's picture

Interesting article.  More and more is coming together in terms of explanations for where we fell short (mentally and in terms of team cohesion) in 2013.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+2 HS
YTOWNBUCKI's picture

The greatest teams win when they have purpose.  Teams of Buckeye past would have relished at the opportunity to save face when they gave up 30+ in consecutive games.  I didn't see that in last year's team.  They seemed to play and win on superior talent and never really had that desire to lay their ass on the line for the greater cause, Carlos Hyde being the lone exception IMO.  Meyer is a driven man who has always seemed to have purpose and it seems that it's finally come to this Ohio State team.  Time will tell gents but I'm excited as hell to see it all play out regardless of the outcome.

+6 HS
Gametime's picture

How dare you not mention Ryan Damn Shazier, that guy put it on the line ALL the time, but I concur with your message!

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

+4 HS
acBuckeye's picture

Guapo, RDS, and the entire O-line were the guys who came ready each and every week. They laid it on the line the entire season. Braxton also showed a lot of balls during the Orange Bowl when he got blasted about 4 different times and picked himself up off the grass each time to continue to fight. I don't think 2012, or early season 2013 Braxton would've done that. Just my observation.

+3 HS
cinserious's picture

Braxton's been laying it all out on the line since he got to Columbus. Re-watch the Michigan game his freshman year or the MSU game his sophomore year.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+1 HS
acBuckeye's picture

I won't disagree with that. I guess what I was trying to say is that during the Orange Bowl, he seemed to take a bigger beating in that game than any other I can recall (minus the Purdue game where he got his bell rung), and kept dragging himself back out there to compete. Earlier in his career, it seemed that shots like that would've put him on the sideline, at least for a series.

+1 HS
apack614's picture

It's good to see everything is coming together on and off the field, I love seeing coaches spending quality time with their players doing things other than just football.

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

Tater_Schroeder's picture

I can't wait to see what that table "Urban Meyer at Ohio State" reads when it's about rows long!

How Firm Thy Friendship

Nutinpa's picture

Not surprising to see that something was 'rotten in Denmark' regarding last year's team especially by November.

When a team comes out flat (especially on Defense) against Michigan, Michigan St and Clemson, you know that mental preparation is missing.  I also think that when Alabama lost to Auburn, the Buckeyes thought they had a cake walk to the NC game and mailed in their preparation eerily similar to the 2006 team with the NC debacle in the desert.  That...and the "Chase" bull shit had finally worn thin. .

As others have posted...this year will be truly interesting to watch.  My expectations are not nearly as ambitious as many of my fellow posters, but my anticipation for the season is just as great.

+4 HS
My2Sons's picture

One of the better posts I've read in quite a while.

+2 HS
acBuckeye's picture

I almost completely agree with everything. Although I will say, after Bama lost, I don't think the team thought they had a cake walk into the NC game, but I wouldn't doubt the fact that knowing the outcome of that game already may have caused them to lose a little focus on Sparty. 18-22 year old minds do tend to wander off.....

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Agreed.  Well said and probably more accurate than my comments.

Amalgamate's picture

I suspect you're wrong re: the "The Chase" - otherwise Meyer wouldn't have renewed that mantra for this year. 

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Fair enough.....but I suggest something in Meyer's passion had lost traction by year end.  It also appears that the Defensive lapses created some finger-pointing and lack of team cohesion.  While I am at it,  I think Bradley Roby's stripping of his captaincy left a rough edge with him that lasted throughout the season and may have rubbed off on others. There was obvious friction with Withers and I don't hear any of the D Linemen wishing Mike Vrabel were still here.  Michael Thomas' calling out of the WR corps may have been simple frustration over his lack of playing time...or something more deep seated.  So.....something was wrong in Mudville regardless of the source.

In short...while Meyer is keeping the "Chase" theme...it is only because the team has now bought into it..albeit the hard way. By the end of last season, his grip on the team had frayed. I am clearly no insider...but I don't think I - or anyone else would need to be to see it.

+1 HS
cinserious's picture

I understand the 'something wrong in Mudville' reference but what does 'something rotten in Denmark' mean? Is it a 60's movie title starring Audrey Hepburn? 

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

"Something Rotten in Denmark" was a Bugs Bunny reference :-P

I don't believe Coach Meyer lost control of the team at all. I just think our weaknesses were exposed and our opposition were smart enough to know how to exploit them. Even the best of the best crumble when 1 key player goes down. In OSU's case last year you had the entire secondary go kerplunk in the ocean. I take solace in knowing that even with all the problems last season OSU was still close to the NCG game. Coach Meyer gets it right watch the hell out. He doesn't? I don't want to think about it.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Ha ha.  Am guilty as charged of "reference excess"!

MN Buckeye's picture

Blame is easy, but when everyone is on the same page they pick each other up.

And at 50, Meyer is older and wiser, with the perspective that winning is more than being driven.

Hovenaut's picture

Nice review of where things stand, and where things may be going.

I know we still have two and half to go, chomping at the bit, curious if the staff will offer up their season predictions prior to season's start?
 

I am not very smart, but I recognize that I am not very smart.

BierStube's picture

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+19 HS
Onionballz's picture

Love this but have no upvotes to give.

Yeah Baby! - KK

+6 HS
cinserious's picture

That is one badass poster!

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

Rocket Man's picture

That image is worthy of stealing -- so I will

I didn't go to engineering school to be a 'people person'

Buckeye06's picture

Not to be a buzzkill but I recall buckeye fans laughing when Gardner and co. were doing these activities last year 

+5 HS
BierStube's picture

True, but the difference is we can back it up!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

Jabba the Hoke's picture

I was thinking the same thing. We all gave Gardner crap for his statements about bonding by playing video game and watching movies.

1967Buck's picture

Very nice write up Patrick. The train is moving and its gonna be a Hell of a ride. Peace.

Horvath22's picture

Nice job, Patrick. While this year's team may be one built in his image, I don't think we will see the full effect of Urban Meyer's image until the team is comprised entirely of his recruits. I would guess that at least 25% of the 2014 team is comprised of the previous regime's recruits. 2012 recruiting class had only a handful of Meyer's late recruits. It won't be until 2017 when 5th year seniors from the previous regime are gone. I am looking forward to the day when the entire team were recruited, committed, and signed under Urban Meyer.

By the way, I don't know if you are Ohio born and raised, but the correct name of the university is: "The Ohio State University."

Poison nuts's picture

I am looking forward to the day when the entire team were recruited, committed, and signed under Urban Meyer.

Is it so horrible to have kids still there that Tressel recruited on board? Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, John Simon, Ryan Shazier, & Kenny Guiton. All were/are Tressel recruits. All were stars. I don't understand how people get so crazy about wanting the team to be only Meyer's players & how much better they will be then. Is UFM recruiting on another level? Hell yes! But it's not like OSU was stocked with bums. This year it will truly be Meyer's team. I look forward seeing what it'll look like.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+2 HS
Horvath22's picture

Not a knock at all on Tress or Luke or their recruits. I fully appreciate all the studs that were already here when Urban took over. What I was saying is that in order to give a fair evaluation of a team built in his image, we need a team made up of his recruits.

+1 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Fair enough. I'll look forward to what his teams look like then too, I just feel like year 3 is the year that it's truly new coach's team. Even with the last guy's players. I took what you said as wanting the old guys all gone, but I can see what your getting at.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Buckeye-in-pitt's picture

Meyer just needs athletes and guys with the right mindset. If he has that, then it doesn't matter who's recruits they were.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Meyer is one of those rare individuals in a leadership role who really learns from his mistakes, corrects what didn't work, and constantly looks for improvements in his approach. We are getting him at the right time in his life as well. All the tumblers are clicking into place this year and the results will be epic.

+1 HS
BenArazi4's picture

This is our year.

 

 

 

-1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

I'm really enjoying seeing Meyer's personal evolution as well as the team's. He's always been highly motivated, and a wizard when it comes to motivating his asst coaches and players, but above all else, he's a super intelligent guy. I love seeing evidence of his own personal growth in figuring out how to manage all the aspects of a championship caliber football team, while adding to that, how to manage his family time and life, overall.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

There's still at least another 2 more recruiting seasons to go before OSU has a completely Urbanized team. Although, not that it really makes a difference, I think things are just fine and can tell there's definitely been an impact with Urban at the helm.

+1 HS
RKilbane20's picture

Great article. We will see how much of that NCAA rule change pays off with allowing more contact in the summer with players.

Class of '14 & '16