Urban Meyer's Passion for Special Teams Stems From His Days At Notre Dame

By James Grega on September 21, 2017 at 8:35 am
Urban Meyer

Ever since Jim Tressel was hired at Ohio State in 2001, the Buckeyes have had an increased focus on special teams play.

That added focus didn't change when Urban Meyer came to Columbus at the end of 2011, and hasn't changed, as Meyer continues to take pride in Ohio State's special teams units. 

Meyer said Wednesday he didn't always enjoy coaching special teams, but found a passion for it after being forced into a new role while he was an assistant at Notre Dame. 

"Back when I was at Notre Dame, Bob Davie came in and said, 'I am going to make you special teams coordinator.' I said, 'No, I don't want to do that.' But it was either that or get fired, so I'll do it," Meyer said. "I went on a journey. I went to visit Frank Beamer, the Kansas City Chiefs, the New England Patriots and some of that was on my own penny. I learned how valuable it was. I love it. All the biggest wins we have ever had, the special teams have had a major impact. I just love it."

To play for an Urban Meyer-coached team, players have had to earn their stripes on kickoff and punt units in the past. 

Meyer mentioned names such as Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Thomas as players who made their first contributions as Buckeyes on Ohio State's kickoff unit in their early years. 

"Mike Thomas started as our center on kickoff return, Zeke Elliott was our No. 6 on kickoff," Meyer said. "He had a great play against Purdue one year. Knocked the guy out of bounds like a missile. That is when I knew we had a good player."

The play Meyer mentioned can be seen below, in a November 2013 game against the Boilermakers. 

Ohio State kicker Sean Nuernberger has been around since 2014, and has experienced plenty of highs and lows as a Buckeye. Nuernberger was the starting place-kicker for Ohio State during its national title run in 2014, but has twice lost his job to Jack Willoughby and Tyler Durbin before earning his job back in 2017. 

Nuernberger said Wednesday that people now come and watch Meyer's team for special teams tips and marvel at how much time goes into Ohio State's preparation on that side of the ball. 

"I think a lot of people that come in from the outside and watch how we do special teams are really surprised how much time Coach Meyer spends on special teams compared to other head coaches," Nuernberger said. "He is in every single special teams meeting. Coach (Kerry) Coombs and Coach Meyer run the meeting. They are really involved in every single phase."

On Monday, Meyer voiced his displeasure with Ohio State's kickoff unit and said he was having a hard time finding someone he trusts to kick the ball downfield. 

"Kickoff coverage is a mess right now. We don't have a kicker that can kick the ball," he said. "If you notice, one almost went out up in the seats."

Meyer has hinted that Nuernberger, who has been primarily a place-kicker in his time at Ohio State, could get a chance to kick off if freshman Blake Haubeil doesn't improve. 

Nuernberger, who said he has started practicing kickoffs again for the first time in about a year, added that any time an issue arises on any special teams unit, Meyer is the first to try and fix it. 

"When there is a problem, Coach Meyer is the first one in there," Nuernberger said. "It's cool, until you mess up and he is right there."

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