After losing Tom Herman and Stan Drayton, a pair of talented and well-respected assistants, Ohio State has hired a pair of somewhat familiar newcomers to sustain the momentum that has thrust the Buckeyes back to the top of the college football world.
First, there is Tim Beck, the new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who spent the last six seasons at Nebraska. Then there is Tony Alford, the running backs coach and master recruiter who was poached by coach Urban Meyer after six seasons at Notre Dame.
Aside from the laundry list of general qualifications typically found in those who make their way to a place like Ohio State, which captured the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship, Beck and Alford (who were both born in Ohio) share a common thread in their connections with current staff members. Theirs are tangled paths that now come to a head in Columbus.
In 2007, before Beck jumped to the Cornhuskers, he was the wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator at Kansas, where he served on former coach Mark Mangino's staff along with offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
In his introductory press conference on National Signing Day, Beck, a Youngstown, Ohio, native said, "this is the place" when referring to the Buckeyes' transcendent adoration throughout the state. He also cited his relationship with Warinner and acquaintanceship with Meyer as precursors to joining forces with Ohio State's coach.
"We've always crossed paths and seen each other," he said of Meyer. "It's just how it worked out."
Alford, who played at Colorado State while Meyer was the team's wide receivers coach in 1990, coached alongside Warinner and Tim Hinton, the tight ends coach, while with the Fighting Irish in 2010 and 2011. Alford also worked with Chris Ash, the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, at Iowa State for five seasons (2002-2006).
“I’ve known Tony Alford for a long time and I am very pleased to be adding him to our staff,” Meyer said in a released statement last week.
“He is an exceptional person and coach who is going to work really well with our staff and who will be an outstanding mentor and teacher for this football program.”
Alford added he was looking forward to joining Meyer, whom he has "known for a long time. I know his family. And I know his coaches. I’ve worked directly with three of them and I’ve recruited against all of them."
For Ohio State, which has suffered its first taste of offensive coaching turnover in three years with the departures of Herman and Drayton, it would appear critical for the Buckeyes to hire coaches with similar ideologies — or at least the willingness to assimilate and adapt.
Beck and Alford have proven they can work with (and produce successful results) with the likes of Warinner and Hinton. In a way, there seems to be a hope that familiarity can ensure stability.
After all, Meyer has long talked of the importance of ideological "alignment" on a coaching staff and its correlation to success.
“That’s the essence of what we do and the essence of any successful organization,” Meyer said last February. He added: “Everybody's got great players."
And the Buckeyes, which hauled in another top-ranked recruiting class two weeks ago, have plenty of talent to go around. The difference, Meyer maintains, is "the alignment of staff and the chemistry on your team.”
This was something he lamented after a postseason collapse in 2013, where Ohio State lost back-to-back games against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Shortly after, in the offseason, Meyer hired Chris Ash, the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, and Larry Johnson, the defensive line coach, to help turn around a defense that finished 118th against the pass. And in the process of carefully plucking the pair to Columbus, Meyer said he needed to make sure they understood a culture he was trying to establish at Ohio State.
“They’re two very selfless people,” he said. “It was made very clear that there’s a certain way we’re gonna do it.”
With Beck and Alford, a similar disposition is needed even if the task at hand is different. Rather than being charged with fixing something broken, the two are responsible for making sure the Buckeyes don't miss a beat on an offense that's become one of the nation's most prolific outfits under Meyer.
Also at their disposal is a slew of talented quarterbacks to choose from (Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller) and Ezekiel Elliott, the sophomore running back whose electrifying postseason vaulted him to the Heisman Trophy favorite status, according to Las Vegas sportsbooks.
"I think the first thing you have to do is keep challenging the returning players. You've got to motivate them. You've got to keep pushing them. That's going to be probably the biggest ‑‑ besides that, developing the younger players. I think those two things are going to be very paramount to what happens."
"You strive for perfection," Beck said. "That's how I am.
"I'm going to strive for that. I know Ed is the same way."