He has only held the title of Ohio State Head Coach for a little while now, but Urban Meyer has already put his stamp on the Ohio State football program. Taking over for Jim Tressel, Meyer has brought enthusiasm, excitement, and a renewed sense of optimism to Columbus even though the Bucks can’t play in the Big Ten Championship this year and are not eligible for postseason play after being punished by the NCAA for the scandal that cost Tressel his job.
Meyer’s first recruiting class was a huge success. He was able to change the minds of some big-time recruits and the minute he arrived in Columbus, players that weren’t even considering Ohio State, were all of the sudden seeing scarlet and grey. His determination, pride, knowledge, work ethic, and hustle might be unmatched by any other coach in college football. It caused other coaches in the Big Ten to question Meyer’s tactics, even going as far as using the word “illegal.” Without even coaching a game yet, Urban Meyer has flexed his muscles, raised the stakes in the Big Ten, and the conference has already started to take notice. After a down year a season ago, the Buckeyes are back.
Urban Meyer joined ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland with the Hooligans to talk about how he celebrated the success of his first recruiting class, on making sure things are done the right way at Ohio State, on evaluating players beyond the football field, if he learned anything from taking a year off, if he was mad at the comments made by Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio, what he has to do to close the gap between the SEC and the Big Ten, and the biggest difference between coaching at Ohio State and Florida.
What he did on Saturday night to celebrate the success of his first recruiting class:
“Saturday night? Saturday night? Oh I went to my man’s concert. (Host: that’s what I thought. You were in Margaritaville right?) Yeah I’m a huge Jimmy Buffet fan. That’s good. You’ve got some spies out huh?”
Whether or not it is true that he has taken locker room privileges away:
“There’s some stuff within the team and certain things, I’m not going to get into specifics, that’s between us and unfortunately in today’s day and age everything you do all of the sudden hits the media or blogs or something else but we have a strong belief that it’s a privilege to be a member of the Ohio State football team, walk into these great facilities to do certain things and if you don’t do things the right way then that privilege will be taken away from you and I’m not just talking about locker room. I’m talking about scholarships, I’m talking about jersey, gear, certain numbers people want to wear, it’s a John Wooden approach to a program and that is an incentive based program. Everything we do is incentive based. Everything. I could go on for probably two hours about there’s everything you do as a football player at Ohio State you get treated a certain way if you do things the right way. If not certain things will be taken from you.”
On evaluating players beyond the football field and the idea every position is up for grabs:
“That’s a great question because if you want to dig into the inside of what we’re all about. Our football program, it is about all those things you just said. It’s not about your vertical jump or you can throw the ball really well but you act like a jerk off-the-field, all those things go into a formula that we’re going to make decisions on players. We have for example a magnet of each player in our staff room and we’re going to give them a 1-10 rating. The strength coach is, the trainer is, the position coach is, the coordinators, and the head coach. All I’m looking for is every day, every week, every month, you have to get a little better. The minute we hit an athlete that’s not getting any better than I have to evaluate why. Is it because of resistance? Is it because he doesn’t want to be here? Is it because of some social issue? You just hit it right square on the head that everything is being evaluated. I mean everything. We’re putting them in enough situations that it’s easy to evaluate and the easiest way is putting them in a situation where you either win or you lose. There’s no grey area. Well I tried hard. Yeah but you lost. So that’s currently what we’re doing right now.”
If he learned from taking the year off:
“Incredible self-evaluation. Incredible evaluation of other people, programs, ways of doing things, and I felt like there were certain things that we could’ve done a lot better. We’re currently doing it. It’s something I learned on the road, but we just don’t have enough time with all the things. I had a notebook everywhere I went. I was working for a great company, ESPN, but I was also working for myself to try to make myself better. Hopefully I have.”
How he plans on adjusting his style knowing there is a bowl ban for Ohio State:
“I really don’t know. I’m actually going to do some research. There’s a program, USC, that’s done a good job. They’re dealing with a really severe bowl ban of three years. Thought that staff has done a good job so at the appropriate time I might reach out there but I don’t know that answer. We haven’t spent much time on it. At some point I will. I can tell you this, it won’t be any different how we manage the game because we have a really clear plan to win and that’s how I manage the game. We’re going to go one game at a time and our objective is to win every game we play. I think your question about do you play a younger player versus an older player? Do you get them experience getting ready for hopefully a run in the following year, those are all questions I can’t answer yet but that stimulates thought.”
If he was mad about the comments Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio made about him this offseason:
“Not a strong enough word. No. Really not a strong enough word at all especially my name associated with those two terms that were used, first of all it’s not true and then to use that in the media, no, mad is not a strong enough word.”
What they have to do to close the gap between the Big Ten and the SEC:
“I think we have to recruit better. I think the whole Big Ten, that’s our challenge and Jim Delaney is our commissioner and we’ve had a conversation about that. We’ve got to go get some top recruiting classes. There’s some great players in this league, great players in this league but we can get greater. I think that’s a great challenge for all of us in this conference that we can better and I think we will. Our rival is doing a really good job recruiting and there’s some other schools doing a great job and I just think as a whole we can do that. Are you kidding me some of the stadiums in this conference, traditions in this conference, the coaches, it’s all here. We just have to enhance our products.”
On the biggest difference between coaching at Florida and Ohio State:
“I think it’s very similar. I think the biggest difference is the fact that this is my home. When I say the great state of Ohio I know it and I’ve lived it. When I meet with the high school coaches I’ve known some of these guys for 20 years. I started my career as a head coach at Bowling Green, played college football here, I played high school football here, so really I think they’re very similar because the fan base is so intense. The intensity, the expectation level is really out of control. However my biggest thing is the fact that I was born and raised in the state of Ohio, that’s the biggest difference for me.”