What Buckeye fans should know about Urban Meyer

There is no punchline here.

I always get a kick out of people, Gator fans or otherwise, who lean forward with anticipation at the mention of Coach Meyer’s name when we speak it. It appears they are always waiting for the dagger or a punch line of some sort, and in this case… there is none.

I’ve written about my thoughts on Urban before. And my fellow Bourbon Meyer writer’s have too, this one specifically about our recent troubles and Urban’s recruiting. But I had planned on writing this post a while back and for some reason sat on it, thinking; “Well, maybe I’ll wait for just before their Spring game”. Then as time passed, I noticed how mad Gator fans were at Coach Meyer and thought perhaps our site isn’t the best place for this.

More time passed and both the Sport Illustrated and Sporting News stories dropped within a week or so of each other, and I thought; “Perhaps, I don’t want to write this at all”. After further reflection and consideration and reading both of those articles, I realized some things but would still like to provide some insight for Buckeye fans about Urban. So now, still in the undertow of your first Spring game under the Meyer regime, I give you all the first, and likely, the only post we’ll do geared toward another fan base that most Gator fans seem to struggle to get along peacefully with.

So, without further ado… Here are some things that Buckeye fans should know about Coach Meyer. The more engaged and diligent fan may already know much of this, but from the experience of a Gator Fan in what he did with our team and campus culture- here you go:

-          Student Engagement: I am not familiar with the student culture as it pertains to football at Ohio State; however, when Urban arrived at Florida, he immediately began some things to engage the campus and the students in the program. He (or the athletic department by his request) began a “naming of the student section” campaign, he spoke at a Residence Hall leadership event, started the Gator walk, and having the team sing the fight song at the student section after a win. The program he inherited from Ron Zook, and prior to that Steve Spurrier had a feel of “us and them” when it came to football players. This was illustrated by the Zook fighting at the frat house situation. Urban had the campus embrace football players as students and “one of us” on some levels. Urb would job on campus at lunchtime as well. Making himself visible to everyone. It really was a change from previous coaches. He’s been “knocked around” a bit by folks lately saying “he wouldn’t come speak at our club/event”. He said yes to EVERYTHING in year 1 and stepped back from all of that in year 2. The result: 13-1 and National Championship… but I don’t have to remind you of that (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Look for him to be active in this manner in Year 1 at Ohio State. There is a bit of damage control and trust building to be done in Columbus. He does this well, and will likely be exceptional at it as an Ohio born and bred boy.

-          “The Plan to Win”- OK… so cynics would say that Urban’s plan to win was not really invented by him, but probably by the first guy to actually coach more than 2 football games. It really is what 99% of coaches will say wins football games:

  1. Play Great Defense
  2. Take care of the Football
  3. Score in the Red Zone
  4. Great Special Teams

Not exactly football rocket science, right? But it’s the way he goes about doing those 4 things. Those four things are tested over time and infallible, but it’s how Meyer makes it happen where his genius lies. Here’s an example:

Joe Haden was a 2007 signee that was a Quarterback and Wide Receiver from Maryland when he signed with the Gators. In 2007, the Gators were stacked at WR with Percy Harvin and 5th year senior Andre Caldwell amongst others. Gators needed some skill, speed and strength on defense, so Urban and Charlie Strong moved Haden to cornerback. Joe Haden started as a freshman and got lit up like a firecracker as a first year player, but defended the run well and had all the tools and talent to succeed where the team had a need. Fast Forward to 2009: Joe Haden came out for the NFL draft as a junior and was the #7 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. Not bad for a WR that was moved to CB because there was a need there. (That same year, Freshman Mike Pouncey moved from guard to defensive tackle because the team was so dreadful defensively. Mike Pouncey later became a 1st round NFL pick at Center)

Urban will not hesitate to move his talent and use his talent and strengths where they fit best. That plan to win will result in you, as Buckeyes, seeing the following:

  • Recruits you were excited about at one position, playing another. Possibly on the other side of the ball. Cornelius Ingram was Mr. Football in the state of Florida as a QB. He was drafted to the NFL as a Tight end.
  • All of the running backs, receivers, and quarterbacks will carry the ball identically. Urban is a huge believer in having ALL the position coaches coaching ball security exactly the same. Stan Drayton has worked with Urban before, so this will not likely change. The technique will remain:
    • Claw the nose of the ball
    • Place ball against chest
    • Wrist above elbow
    • Lock elbow

So you’ll see a lot of ball carriers with the ball “high and tight”. ALL OF THEM. Or they won’t play.

  • Red Zone offensive efficiency. This is how Tim Tebow was “born” into the offense. Meyer will also find a wide receiver who is fast and shifty and from the 15-20 yard line or so, run an option left that becomes a backside reverse to the slot receiver that was lined up left. It’s an electric play and you will grow to love it. It even worked for Florida with our awful 2010 offense.
  • You may have grown accustomed to special teams being played by guys who don’t normally play on offense or defense as often. Get rid of that thought. While a portion of your special teamers will be that; Meyer will not hesitate to put his starting running backs and wide receivers out there to block or return a kick. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were the fastest guys on the team and Meyer trotted them out there to block kicks when we needed one blocked. You will block a lot of punts during his tenure. A LOT OF THEM. Meyer coached special teams himself his first 5 years at Florida before passing it off. He let special teamers to the front of the line when it came time to eat. Another incentive and reward for doing what Meyer believes to be a huge part of the game as far as swinging momentum and disheartening your opponent.

-          “4 to 6 seconds of relentless effort”: This is a component of Urban Meyer’s “Plan to Win”. Urban is a firm believer in that if every player gives 4-6 seconds (about how long a football play lasts) of relentless effort on every play, you will come out on top. Obviously, giving this FULL effort every play is exhausting. He knows this, and so, his expectation is that when you get tired… you come out. The next guy in there has to be ready to play and has to be ready to contribute and trusted to do so. Urban famously stated when asked who was starting he would name about 15-16 guys. He would regularly say we had 6 starting Defensive Lineman and 5 starting linebackers. You will see a level of depth on your teams that you didn’t know you had. This leads us directly into:

-          “Competitive Excellence”: Defined by Coach Meyer as: “Being mentally and physically prepared to make the play when your number is called.” This premise espoused by Meyer may be the singular reason I don’t buy much of the Sporting News article about him “losing the team”. Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Spikes made plenty of plays in their time. But if we look at Florida’s signature games and moments under Urban Meyer who made the biggest plays:

  • 2006 vs. South Carolina: With South Carolina driving for the go ahead score with time running out, Ryan Smith (a guy you’ve never heard of) playing corner against Sidney Rice gets beat on a slant and somehow finds a way to get his hand inbetween Rice’s and strips away the ball for an incompletion. Two plays later, Jarvis Moss (a guy you never heard of until then) blocks his 3rd kick of the game. Florida wins 17-16.
  • 2006 SEC Title game vs. Arkansas: The critical play was back up corner Wondy Pierre-Louis fielding a fumbled punt in the end zone for a TD that completely unraveled Darren McFadden and the Razorbacks.
  • 2008 SEC Title game vs. Alabama: With Percy Harvin out for the game with a high ankle sprain, and Bama doubling Louis Murphy and focusing on Aaron Hernandez. Tebow had to look elsewhere. Carl Moore, David Nelson, and Riley Cooper got their chance in this game and all caught a TD pass against the #1 Crimson Tide.
  • 2008 National Title Game: With time running out and Florida driving, Tebow hit’s Riley Cooper for an 18 yard gain on 3rd and 12. Later that drive, he connects with David Nelson in the end zone on a “jump pass” to seal the victory.

These are but a sample of guys who were not stars, but are great examples of having that competitive excellence. It’s also an illustration of the depth of talent Meyer brings in and plays in big moments and in big games. David Nelson was NEVER used in 2008. Riley Cooper spent most of his PT against the Western Carolina’s of the world and in 4 TD blowouts. Both of those guys are in the NFL now, because they were competitive, but patient and waited their turn to play regularly (which was 2009 and 2010. A long time for 2006 and 2007 recruits to wait).

-          Avery Atkins: Not every Gator fan knows who he is, but Atkins was a 4 star recruit at corner and a part of Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class. Atkins started in 3 games in 2005 and was the projected starter in 2006 when everything fell apart for him. He was dismissed from the team and left the University of Florida after charges of domestic battery on the mother of his child.He enrolled at Bethune-Cookman College, where he played three games in 2006 before leaving the team.

In January 2007 he enrolled at Florida again, but dropped out after only a few weeks and returned to Daytona Beach. On July 5, 2007, he was found dead in his running vehicle in his garage.Autopsy later determined the cause of his death as drug overdose. Ecstacy, to be specific. Atkins life was littered with problems stemming from some emotional and financial distress connected to his young child and the child’s mother.

I introduce you to Avery because he is likely a strong reason for the way Urban Meyer handles discipline on his teams. It is important to know that, some of the kids Meyer recruits don’t come from great backgrounds or neighborhoods. Moving to a campus and University culture is a huge adjustment for some of them. Meyer’s record of player behavior while at Florida is, at best, unflattering in its sheer numbers. However, if you look at what the instances and allegations are, you can see that some things are just “things college kids do”, and some are crazy stuff. The kids who did crazy stuff were typically suspended or removed from the team.

In a moment of truth, Urban might tell you that he wished he could have done more for Avery. He did all that he could by allowing him to come back and enroll at Florida and get a second chance at it, but Avery was too far gone.

Meyer’s philosophy is that, while not pretty all the time, some of these guys are better off on campus and under the supervision of himself, coaches, and advisors at the University with all of it’s resources, than they would be left to their own devices at home, where they may be nothing productive for them. Ever since Avery died, Coach Meyer has had a significantly more difficult time removing a guy from the program. Unless of course, it’s crazy, crazy stuff (like firing AK-47’s on Univ. Ave or stealing your teammate’s deceased girlfriend’s credit card and running it up)

-          Bad News about your tailbacks: Maybe things will be different as Meyer transitions into the B1G, but Buckeye fans, be cautious about how excited you get about any running back that Urban recruits and signs. Urbs won a lot of games with Florida using the running back as a tool, but either never used the tailback as a feature in the offense or never recruited a 20+ carry per game guy. Florida just graduated his two best tailbacks: Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Combined, they likely weigh less than Jake Stoneburner.  Don’t believe me? Florida’s two best “running backs” in Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville were a Quarterback (Tebow), and a Wide Receiver (Percy Harvin). Personally, I’m interested in seeing how this pans out in the B1G.

-          Being hurt is not an excuse to not work: When Urban took over at Florida, the team lacked toughness, and Meyer didn’t shy away from saying that publicly. During the Orange and Blue debut in 2005, Meyer had players who were injured doing stuff “in the pit”. Calesthetics, push ups, wind sprints, tire rolls, and other activities were going on on the sidelines. I’m not sure he still does this, as I don’t remember it in any other year under Urban, but in Year 1, he may do this.

-          The Meyer Women: Urban’s wife Shelley is a fantastic first lady of football for any program. She is present, engaged, and was the perfect tandem with Christine Donovan as big sport coaches wives go. She will bring a class, intelligence, and involvement to the Buckeye community that is uncommonly warm and welcoming. Meyer’s two daughters Nicki and Gigi are volleyball players at Georgia Tech and Florida Gulf Coast University respectively. They are gorgeous, smart, and love their dad. Don’t hassle them.

-          Fun: In Year 1, there will be times you will look at your offense and go, “What the hell are they doing out there?!?!?!” There will be a lot of those times. But don’t fret… Meyer’s offense is a run first, physical offense. It just looks different. You will be crying for a full back at times. On short yardage, you’ll be crying for your QB to get under center and hand it off. You will sacrifice a win or two in Year 1 to get better at “what you do”, but Meyer knows better than to sacrifice certain games. Meyer did some uncharacteristic things against Georgia in year one so we would win. That was very important to beat our rivals.

In year 2, both sides of the ball will come around and since it looks like you have the QB that will fit Meyer’s offense… LOOK OUT. It is a blast watching Meyer coached teams. Enjoy the Urban experience. As a friend of mine from Ohio, who now works at a University in Salt Lake City, Utah… “Enjoy him!! You will love him! He will love you! And he will… eventually, but most certainly… leave you, and BREAK YOUR HEART!”

Lastly, amongst all the drama between Urban and Florida fans, it has become clear that he leaves behind (or continues to carry) one of the most complex Coach/Former Team relationships that I can think of (Pitino/Kentucky is another). We at BourbonMeyer.com have been supportive of his decision, but the recent quotes and info has bothered us. But we realized it all boils down to this…

With all due respect to Gisela Meyer (Urban’s actual mother).

Urban Meyer is a S.O.B. All the way up… and all the way down.

But it’s GREAT when he’s YOUR S.O.B.!!!

Best of luck Buckeyes. Until next time…

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18 Responses to What Buckeye fans should know about Urban Meyer

  1. TJ says:

    Random thought. When Urban first came to Florida, he would talk a lot about “last 5, first 5.” That is, winning the last 5 minutes of the first half and the first 5 of the second. In 2006, the Gators won or tied “last 5 first 5″ in almost every game except the Auburn game*, where Auburn won that stretch 13-7. And that was essentially a 4-point game. At some point, this stopped being something Urban stressed, at least publicly. I really have no insight as to why, but in his second season, stressing the gametime surrounding halftime seemed to make the difference in a lot of close games.

    *The only other game the Gators lost “last 5 first 5″ was the Arkansas SEC Title Game, a game where one of Urban’s other focus points–special teams–bailed the rest of the team out in a big way.

  2. Jeff Nicks says:

    Great artical and spot on for Buckeye fans expections. As a diehard Gator Fan I to was at first angered at Coach for taking another coaching job. I came to realize it was a jealous anger because I know how good a Coach, Urban Meyer is and didn’t want another team to have what he brought to Florida. Wish him well until he crosses paths with the Gators then he’s Gatorbait

  3. Aaron Breeze says:

    As a diehard gator fan living in Ohio, I made the choice to attend the OSU spring game yesterday. Its funny how all the buckeye fans that proclaimed their hatred for urban were the same ones giving him a standing ovation when he first came out of the locker room. I recommend reading his book “Urban’s Way”to every OSU fan, including my brother. This is an excellent article with great insigh that I will also recommend to him.

  4. DRU2012 says:

    Here’s what they should know, but will refuse to see, will get angry at anyone for trying to tell them, until it’s WAY past “too late”:
    It’s all a smokescreen, a fog of BS, a BIG PILE OF FANCY-SOUNDING SH*T.

    The more cynically realistic will say, “Who cares, if it brings US two Championships in the next few years?”…but I don’t think it will, this time. He doesn’t have that remarkable braintrust, an amazing collection of brilliant Assistants who had his back, that he’d put together over the years back in the hinterlands, when he arrived at UF. Moreover, the “spell” is long broken–”The Emporer has no clothes!”–everyone knows he can be beaten, has seen him beaten DOWN, including Meyer himself. Finally, for these and many other reasons, he is alone now, alone and not committed to the long-term as he once was, as you HAVE to be in this game. You watch: things will seem to improve at first, they’ll have a “promising year”, but there’ll start to be problems, player issues, whispers surfacing–much sooner than before, and Urban’s not ready to “defy the world” anymore. He is too much enamored of his image, “The Dean of Coaches” now. As that gets challenged, he will find a “way out”–how about “Oh, my heart! Oh, my family!”–ActII?

    • Drew says:

      Sounds like sour grapes.

    • Jonny says:

      The way he’s grabbing elite recruits from all over the country, I’d say he’s well on his way.

    • Rob says:

      Doesn’t have that brain trust of great assistants? Are you high DRU? Fickel has been at OSU for 12 years. With the exception of last year OSU defensively has consistently been in the top 10 in scoring defense nationally. Wither was the brain trust running UNC’s defense also a top tier defensive program. Mike Vrable has thus far proven to be an exceptional young defensive coach and has a pedigree next to none.

      He has assembled some of the very best, well regarded offensive coaches in the country. After watching the spring game comparing last years offense to this its a night and day difference. Heck if OSU is merely MARGINALLY better on offense they will be a nightmare for opposing teams….

    • cm quest says:

      Wow, Dru … some people are more ready and able to receive new truth than others. Someday, you will be at that point.

      I never hated Urban Meyer, though I did hate Florida fans through 2007, and most of 2008. Then I gradually realized that they were just growing up, as I had done in the 1980s, after being spoiled by the Buckeyes’ success from 1968 until things seemed to collapse in the late 70s.

      Either way, there are always several angles from which to view another human being, and no matter which we choose, we’ll always see some good, some bad. Some angles have more good than bad, others much more bad than good. You seem to be looking from a very slanted angle. Did Urban hurt you in some way personally? There might be profit for you in examining that.

      Florida, but much moreso Ohio State’s fattened players and rather lackadaisical coaches, helped me to see this truth in early January, 2007. Urban, being back home now, seems ready to do things in an intense but balanced way, and I’m pretty optimistic.

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  6. Matt says:

    Great article. As a Buckeye fan, I can confirm that Urban has instituted the sand pit for injured players approach, and I actually think the players appreciate it. Another dynamic to this change is that, in many ways, Jim Tressel — the most successful Ohio State coach since Woody Hayes, who practically built the program — is the polar opposite of Urban, and the fanbase is still coming to terms with the ramifications of that change. Tressel had a grandfatherly affect to him, and he was more likely to reward loyalty than actual talent. For instance, Tressel hated pulling seniors in favor of more talented underclassmen, and he had a horrendous track record of hiring and retaining loyal assistants from his previous coaching spots, regardless of whether they were actually good coaches who could recruit well (the vast majority of them were not, excepting the assistants that Urban retained on staff).

    I recognize there will be growing pains, but the B1G is a much weaker conference top to bottom, talent wise, than the SEC, so the growing pains will be less pronounced. Only Michigan, with its recent surge to the top of recruiting world, will present a consistent challenge, talent wise, within conference play. The real measure of Urban’s success will be whether he can field teams that can end the SEC’s MNC dominance. Judging by the early recruiting returns — OSU’s 2013 class is arguably one of the best, if not the best, when you account only for average star rating — Urban is going to have the tools to challenge the kings of the college FB world.

  7. Almighty God says:

    DRU2012 speaks the truth.
    I have spoken.

  8. Dave says:

    I will be the first to admit, I hated Urban when he was at Florida for the simple fact that I’m a Buckeye. His team pounded what was the best Buckeye team I have ever seen. (32 years) I would also be lying if I didn’t admit to getting a little giddy when I heard Urban was coming to OSU. It’s part of being a fan.

  9. Johnny says:

    Matt is a typical Buckeye fan that doesn’t know his ass from his elbow…he doesn’t appreciate what Tressel did. We have ass hole fans as well.

  10. Dal says:

    Johnny,

    Remember to spit when your head comes out of the sand. I was ecstatic when Tress was hired. I thought he would go down as the greatest head coach OSU ever had (yes, ever), but he did not seem to progress and grow with the job. Initially, a number of his assistants went onward and upward because they were dynamic and talented but as time went on, no one seemed to go anywhere. The performance last year indicates just how bad they were. A sense of entitlement seemed to settle in throughout the program, which led to stagnation. Yes we dominated the Big 10 but it was a weak Big 10 with the team up north in shambles and State Penn coached by an aged legend-in- his-own-mind. Wisky was the only real competition in the entire league. Tress had a great run, but don’t kid yourself into thinking he was a genius. He was a traditionalist who played it safe, beat most of the teams he should have beat and kept opposing teams in games they had no business being in, which occasionally bit him in the butt. And don’t tell me what a great person he is; great people don’t lie and cheat, nor are they hypocritical. Now we will see how dominant OSU can be, something I have not seen in my 62 years of existance. Can’t wait!

  11. Jake says:

    I believe Urban plans to use his running back different then he did at Florida. The reason is he is using bigger back. B Dunn was a recruit that committed to OSU when Tressel was still around but there were rumors of a switch to Michigan. Dunn visited Michigan a couple of time. When Myer accepted the job Dunn was his first contact. Quickly Dunn cancelled another visit to Michigan and assured Buckeye Nation he would be a Buckeye. He enrolled early and play in the Spring Game and had a decent game. I heard Urban plans to recruit bigger back and use the spread and the I.

  12. Gino says:

    So it seems like everywhere you go people hate Buckeye fans, which is understandable because our fans are really into the program and the program is typically successful, but it’s always been my goal to challenge the perception that we’re all assholes. It’s articles like this that I love, fans from different teams sharing relevant information in a benevolent way. Never really hated Florida, even after they whooped on possibly the best team Ohio State’s ever had. The only fans I really hate are Michigan fans and fans that promote ignorance and blind hatred. Florida fans are usually respectful and good people, and its usually Wisconsin and Alabama fans that are the shittiest.

    As far as Tressel goes, honestly glad to see him go. While he did have some good aspects and a great reputation, his management of the talent he had was poor and his unwillingness to let someone else call plays was frustrating to know end given that he lost us almost every big non-conference game post-2007 with bad play calling.

  13. Matt says:

    What a bunch of sour grapes! The point of this article is: “you should hate Urban Meyer because he will win a lot of games.” That would be terrible!!! This could very well be a long-term relationship. Ohio State is a destination job. There is nowhere to go from here except NFL. In fact, Urb’s favorite place since he was a young Buck as a kid or rookie coach. We can argue top college coaching jobs for ever, but if OSU is not in your top 5 you really don’t know college football. OSU coaches do not quit, they are fired. 2 for conduct, 1 for failure to beat meat-chicken, and Earl.

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