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:
- Play Great Defense
- Take care of the Football
- Score in the Red Zone
- 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…