Asked about the contrast between his first set of spring practices and his second as a coach at Ohio State, Tim Beck let out a noticeable sigh.
"Oh my gosh," Beck said Thursday. "It's been unbelievably different. I understand expectations, I understand the offense better. I remember last spring just trying to wrap my arms around it on top of trying to coach the quarterbacks."
Urban Meyer hired Beck as Tom Herman's replacement in January 2015. Two months later, he stepped into a quarterback room that included Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller and Stephen Collier. Miller eventually moved to wide receiver for his senior season, but it was Beck's responsibility to coach Jones and Collier in spring practice with Barrett on the mend from a broken ankle — all while in the back of his head knowing what waited come fall camp.
Meyer eventually made the decision to go with Jones Labor Day Night at Virginia Tech, but Barrett played too. A back-and-forth continued into October, but Meyer then named Barrett the starter after he ripped up Penn State in the second half of a 38-10 victory.
Then, Meyer suspended Barrett for receiving an OVI citation Halloween night, a week after the quarterback and Ohio State eviscerated lowly Rutgers, 49-7. Jones started and beat Minnesota, but Barrett returned as the starter to beat Illinois. A week later, Ohio State's College Football Playoff and Big Ten chances were all but dashed with a stunning 17-14 loss to Michigan State on Senior Day.
A week later, Ed Warinner accompanied Beck in the press box for the first time all season to have a better vantage point for calling the plays as the team's offensive coordinator. The Buckeyes trounced archrival Michigan, 42-13, then beat Notre Dame 44-28 with both Beck and Warinner remaining up top and a powerful rushing attack leading the way.
“You ask yourself, ‘did I prepare our guys well enough to go out and beat those guys?’ Probably not. Obviously, we didn’t beat them. I always start pointing the finger on me.”– Tim Beck on the Michigan State loss
That's a noticeable and long list of changes for not just Beck, but all involved. Beck drew ire and blame for fans for the loss to the Spartans too, a day Barrett attempted just 16 passes (completing 9) for a mere 46 yards.
"You try not to revisit those things. You try to move on. There’s no doubt," Beck said. "Just have to be aggressive and play to win and we didn’t execute. They did.
"You ask yourself, ‘did I prepare our guys well enough to go out and beat those guys?’ Probably not. Obviously, we didn’t beat them. I always start pointing the finger on me."
Beck added that he "loves" sitting alongside Warinner in the press box to call the plays—"I think we’re a good team"—and the results from the last two games of 2015 provide enough evidence that Meyer's decision to keep it so is the correct move.
"Our offense was as good as it was all year with coach Warinner and coach Beck together in the box," Meyer said in a press release in January, when he announced the hire of new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa among other changes to the staff. "So keeping those two in place during games is something I think our offense will benefit from as we move forward."
That remains to be seen for the simple fact Ohio State hasn't played a game since the Fiesta Bowl, but Beck has personally moved on to spring in 2016. The Michigan State game—and the end of the season as a result of the loss—didn't go as planned, but he is past it and working at getting the quarterbacks better.
"I can look myself in the mirror and say did I do everything I can for this team and these kids and the coaches for Buckeye Nation and just work as hard as I can do," Beck said. "We’re all human. We’re all gonna make some mistakes now and then. Nobody’s perfect. But the goal is to try to shoot for that. And that’s what I do."
Meyer was content with a 12-1 record and Fiesta Bowl victory to go over a win against Michigan in Jim Harbaugh's first go at the rivalry, but knows an opportunity was missed with so much NFL talent on the roster.
He owned the blame after the loss to Michigan State, but Beck did the same Thursday when he described how the loss was a representation of not having his unit ready to beat an excellent team.
But he's beyond it and ready for 2016, his second season in Columbus.
"It's a lot easier to coach the quarterbacks now because you kind of have a better understanding of the offense," he continued. "That part's been, rest assured ... Knowing the players, all the players better and the coaches and how things work and operate. The terminology, it's night and day compared to last year."