Blog Entry

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 12:21 pm
We'd sat in the meeting for some three hours and Urban Meyer didn't gush when any of the top 150 recruits' names came up. Well, at least not like he did when the name Braxton Miller was called out that day.

About a dozen of us were seated around one of those long rectangular tables in a cramped room in Charlotte last February. I was there to work with the former Florida coach, among others, on ESPN's 10-hour Signing Day show. The day before we had a three-hour production meeting where Meyer talked about, well, raved about having watched film on Braxton Miller. We'd gone thru ESPN's top 150 players one by one on that list and I recall Meyer, who always seems quite measured, didn't rave about any of them like he did when Miller's name came up.

Meyer and former Miami coach Randy Shannon were two of our expert former coaches on the personnel in the 2011 recruiting class since they've had first-hand knowledge of many of the prospects, not just about what they'd eye-balled on film, but also from being hands-on with some of these players in camps, on visits and having an actual read on them off the field and in the classroom. Meyer had been very matter-of-fact whenever there'd be a kid he was familiar with. He seemed so non-plussed. With Miller, it sounded different. He got a little fired up. The room, which had more than its share of side conversations, went silent when Meyer spoke about what he saw in Miller. He even used the word "special" when describing the QB from Huber Heights, Ohio, who had been rated as the 80th best prospect in the class. Of course, Meyer's recruiting class ended up with another blue-chip quarterback, Jeff Driskel, who was a promising local QB while Miller had been long committed to the Buckeyes and Jim Tressel.

Who could've ever imagined that less than a year later Meyer would have the chance to coach Miller at Ohio State?

About a month after that day, the tattoo mess that had surfaced in December of 2010 engulfed the Ohio State program and eventually led to the downfall of Tressel. The entire year became a nightmare for Buckeye football. Tressel was forced out in shame. His bosses, OSU AD Gene Smith and school president Gordon Gee kept tripping over themselves and each other every stumble of the way as the NCAA focused on the Buckeyes. On the field, things weren't much smoother. A program that had won or shared six Big Ten titles in a row and had gone to six consecutive BCS bowls plummeted to a 6-6 record after coming into the season ranked No. 18 in the preseason polls. Worse still, after 2,926 days, the Buckeyes were finally beaten by their archrival Michigan.

One of the few bright spots in Columbus, though has been the emergence of Miller, who appears to be an ideal fit for the spread option scheme that Meyer used to attack defenses for the previous decade. Miller went 14-25 for 235 yards with two TDs and one INT to go with 100 yards rushing and a third touchdown in the 40-34 loss at Michigan. It was his third 100-yard rushing game in the past four weeks, and he ran for 99 in a victory over Wisconsin a week before that.

Miller doesn't possess Tim Tebow's bulk so it's unlikely he can provide the same power-running component to the offense, especially in short yardage situations, but the 6-2, 210-pounder has a lot more burst and elusiveness than the Gators Heisman Trophy winner had. Miller is also much more than just a dynamic runner with superb feet. He's blessed with a powerful arm and a quick delivery. Special? Maybe so. If anyone can develop his skill set, it's Meyer.

Obviously the Ohio native isn't coming back just to coach Braxton Miller. He's openly spoke, with awe, about his feeling for the program for more than a decade.

That said, it's hard not to be cynical when you look back at the statements the coach made toward the end of his time at Florida. In December 2009, he said he needed to quit, saying he "ignored" his health for years, but " recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family.” However, in equally stunning news, the next day, after attending a UF bowl practice, he did a 180 and that would be reduced to a "leave of absence" and he was back on the sidelines for the season. Bizarre doesn't even begin to sum that whole 36-hour period up.

The Gators, without Tim Tebow and many other key players, struggled in 2010, though. They'd been ranked preseason No. 4, but went 8-5 and just 4-4 in the conference. They went from No. 6 in the nation in total offense in 2009 down to 82nd. And there was another bombshell, only it really wasn't such a shocker, Meyer, again, announced he was stepping down at Florida. His explanation was "it was time" to put his focus on his his family, yet not long after word got out that he he was undertaking an analyst role with ESPN, where he ended up criss-crossing the country to visit various colleges and also handle in-studio work in Connecticut.

As much as we've all tried to get inside his head the past 24 months, it's virtually impossible to know what he truly envisioned of his future as it related to foot, er, his life when he retired from the sport back then or unretired and then re-retired. Most of us flip-flop on big decisions in our lives. We get conflicted. We just don't typically have to have press conferences, huge contracts and hundreds of people hanging on our every word.

I've been told by people who know both Meyer and another notorious coaching grinder Nick Saban that the two are wired very differently. Coaches tend to try and control everything because they know or have learned that they can control so many things in their power, and their sphere of influence only expands as they win more and their profile and persona swell. Meyer, a coach pointed out, stresses over a lot of stuff that Saban doesn't care one bit about and that only makes things that much harder on him.

Meyer's life at Florida became increasingly more stressful as the chips on his side of the table piled up. Expectations and the spotlight got higher and hotter. More and more was made of his programs high arrest number. Talking to him a year ago he sounded like he had less and less patience for the drama that had become increasingly the norm from dealing with blue-chippers. He lamented what he called the "de-recruiting" process. It also didn't help that he had lost some vital assistant coaches over his time at UF, most notably trusted defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who Meyer said really had a read on the pulse of what was going on with the players inside his team. When Strong left to become the head coach at Louisville, Meyer's program internally took a huge hit.

I suspect there were times not long after Meyer made his "spend more time with my family" retirement speech that it flashed in his head that OSU icon Jim Tressel, who was in his late 50s, probably wouldn't be coaching the Buckeyes that much longer. Maybe, Meyer reasoned, Tressel would retire three or four years down the road and the timing might be right for him to return to his native Ohio, his roots. After all, Meyer would've had those years to spend more time watching his kids' games and hanging around the house with his wife. He'd have some, well, normalcy. But at the heart, he is a coach and coaches coach. That is their "normal" and some guys can cope without it. Some can't. It's no stretch to think that one of the reasons why Meyer was so successful is because he is so consumed by what being a coach means to him. This all might've been more manageable if everything with Tressel and Ohio State happened a year later and Meyer had more time. Maybe not. 

He is walking right back into a pressure cooker, taking over a program with a huge, passionate fan base after coaching in a league that has dominated college football and the Big Ten. Remember, it was Meyer's Gators that beat Ohio State in the 2007 BCS title game that launched the SEC on this epic run.

There also is uncertainty from the NCAA investigation hanging over Columbus. Meyer does inherit that promising young QB to build his team around, though. He also gets what looks like a loaded defense. This will be fun to see if Meyer now can help shake up the balance of power in college football as he did not that long ago.
Category: NCAAF

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:14 pm

More questions than answers...

The answers to these questions will determine whether Columbus gets Urban Renewal or Urban Blight:

1.  Why did Meyer really quit Florida: health, family, booster/alum interference, an affair with a coed, or "all of the above?"

2.  Which Urban Meyer are they getting: the one who won two National Championships, or the one who quit on his team twice?

3.  Does Meyer have to have a world class college QB to succeed, or does he develop them himself?

4.  Will Ohio State actually get a punishment commensurate with their ten-year pattern of cheating under Jim Tressel?

5.  Will Meyer and Ohio State win the "police blotter championship," finally dethroning ex-Tressel assistant Mark Dantonio and Michigan State? 

6.  Will Meyer allow the cheating to continue, or will he, as he says, "do things the right way?" 

7.  Does the spread offense really "not work in the Big Ten?"

8.  Does Meyer really want to work 100-hour weeks again after a taste of the cushy life at ESPN?
My guess is that he proves once and for all that the spread offense works anywhere, but he quits after Braxton Miller graduates.  I am also guessing that he makes it to another BCS Championship game, but loses to an SEC team, which makes him realize that he is going to have to work even harder in Columbus than he did in Gainesville.  Then, Ohio State goes into the dumper while changing their offense back to the old, conservative one they have used forever.

Since: Oct 11, 2006
Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:11 am

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

i am NOT a fan of how Meyer did this and think it's a bit odd how a year later when his dream job opens up, he pounces on it, BUT with that said, i think Miller will fit in well with Meyer's system. a QB with mobility fits this scheme.

Since: Aug 21, 2008
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:29 am

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

Why is everyone seem so sure OSU will have more sanctions attached to them? Sure a year or two post season ban is a very, very likely punishment, but Gene Smith is OSUs AD and not former AD for one reason.... He has friends in high places in the NCAA. Any other school you think the AD survives something like this unscathed? Gene Smith has big time friends. The scholarship loss may be the full extent of the sanctions. We dont know. Anyon pretending to know doesnt know the NCAA.. They never act the same towards the same situations. The suck at their jobs. They arent fair. They are petty. Whatever negative term you wanna throw at them is probably correct. So who knows whats going to happen. Also, to the d bag saying Meyer cant win a national championship at OSU... OSU could have and should have beat LSU.. Tressel buttoned down the offense after a 10-0 lead. OSU out performed LSU on the field with a very below par QB (whose INTs were our kill of death). And in 02' OSU beat a Miami team that was better than any SEC team has been since. OSU sent 14 players to the 2004 NFL draft, still a record. OSU has more players in the NFL than any SEC school. To say OSU cannot beat the SEC is smokin that SEC crack. It isnt the good stuff either. It leads to paranoia and delusions. Tressel couldnt game plan for the coaches of the SEC. Dont blame the players (okay u can blame Troy Smith in 06 because his Heisman tour seemed to give him a superman complex and he gained weight and him and other players kicked it all night before the game)... Again, dont blame the players for Tressels shortcomings (which he believed defense and STs won games...) It did, except against talent equal to or greater than your own.. Imagination on offense and defense, and inventive game management were clutch to beat the USCs Texas' Floridas and LSUs of the world.  And Tressel lacked that. And his assistants did too. Meyer wont have that problem. And it wasnt the players fault. OSU has great players, and always will. Already got a new commit just from meyer coming to OSU, But we may lose a 5 star RB (top 5 overall in ESPN 150 I think) to scUM. He hasnt committed yet but he was on scUMs sidelines last week.. Which may say a lot. Which isnt good. But all in all OSU will be better than okay with Meyer at the helm. And he can win national championshipS. Will he? I dont know. I think one would be feasible. Not guaranteed or even highly likely, but it wouldnt be a shocker. O-H!!!!!

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: November 29, 2011 2:49 am

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

Your mom keeps secrets too... like you being adopted, and that Saban will lie and then dog Miami and go to Alabama, and bend the rules to get dumb kids into college.  Shut up already.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 6:17 pm

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

Meyer is a good coach, but he has historically had a very short attention span and he tends to burn bright and then burn out fast. His meteoric rise at Florida is legend, but after peaking in 2008, Florida's talent level and as a result success level plummeted. A year after Meyer's departure we can see that he left Florida with absolutely no elite talent on offense and only one or two elite players on defense.

UF-USF, I see it a little differently than you do. In six years at Florida Meyer had an average season record of about 11-2. His last year was his worst year and he admitted to having distractions involving his health and family. It has never been publicized exactly what the distractions were other than his hospitalization for exhaustion, chest pains and dehydration. 

Remember also that you have had two recruiting classes where Meyer was not involved in recruiting. Much of the 2009 class was recruited while Meyer was taking a leave of absence, and the 2010 class was recruited and Meyer was gone. You can blame Meyer for the lack of elite talent if you want to, but the last two classes that were recruited should be replacing the talent that left, and they aren't filling the shoes left behind.

That is just my opinion. I think Meyer will be great for Ohio State, and I'm looking forward to seeing Braxton Miller develop and the offense evolve into something respectable.

Under Jim "the Vest" Tressell, the offense was pretty uninspired, and under Luke Fickel this year, the offense has been pathetic. Jim Bolman, the Offensive Coordinator, lacks imagination. It's run the ball into the line on 1st and 2nd down and get into 3rd and long and then try to surprise the defense with a pass. The offensive line doesn't play well together. It hasn't been successful. Also, Bolman doesn't seem to be able to help young players develop very well. Pryor's development was painfully slow his first two years.

Meyer has a flare for moving the ball. I'm ready for more excitment on the offensive side of the ball. I'm glad to see this change for the Buckeyes

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 5:29 pm

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

OSU AD, Gene Smith was difficult to listen to during today's press conference.  Public speaking might be something he may need to work on.  I learned that Urban Meyer "GETS IT" as he stated ..... 3 times.  I don't think he meant that Urban Meyer "WILL GET" the
Ohio State program in trouble again, but who the hell knows.  Congratulation to OSU.  You get Urban Meyer.... because "HE GETS IT."

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 4:41 pm

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

I think Miller and Meyer will fit real well.  As we all know, a QB usually sees his biggest progress in his 2nd year of starting.  Miller over-threw a couple open receivers, but otherwise showed great progress by the Michigan game.  Next year should be exciting for Ohio State.

Since: Oct 16, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:01 pm

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

Meyer is a good coach, but he has historically had a very short attention span and he tends to burn bright and then burn out fast. His meteoric rise at Florida is legend, but after peaking in 2008, Florida's talent level and as a result success level plummeted. A year after Meyer's departure we can see that he left Florida with absolutely no elite talent on offense and only one or two elite players on defense. When Meyer is new, nobody can beat him as a coach, but after he's burned himself out he's mediocre at best.

There's a couple of things working against Meyer here. First, he'll spend the first few years of his limited coaching life span at any school (OSU in this case) hampered by NCAA sanctions. Second, in recent history nobody in the Big 10 can hold a candle to a top SEC school. Saban never even sniffed a national title at Michigan State but when he came to the SEC he won a tittle both at LSU and at Alabama. Elite SEC football is > than any Big 10 football. The other thing working against Meyer is that all the coaches that helped make him great are head coaches somewhere else now. So he will have to get all new assistants that may or may not rise to the level of the group that got him two national championships at Florida.

All that said, I think Meyer can take OSU to the top of the Big 10, but I don't see a national championship for him there. If he proves me wrong then he's one of the best coaches to coach at the college level in my mind show the ability to win at many schools and win national titles at multiple major schools. In any case, it will be fun to watch and to see how Meyer and OSU do in the coming years.

Since: Sep 6, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:46 pm

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

I am totally, completely shocked about Urban Meyer going to OSU.  I never saw this coming.  This has to be the best kept secret in regards to coaching hires.  WOW...those boys sure can keep a secret.


Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:20 pm

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

Good article Bruce.   Miller's throws are not pretty, but he has the 'it' factor.  He is a gamer.  That speed cant be coached.   Hopefully UM can get the kid to relax when he throws and smooth out his motion.   those bombs that missed in the michigan game were more like missiles.  he has plently of velocity but the deep throws are flat and hard.  put some touch on in, and some air under the ball, Braxton and you will be fine.   I am not sure about the Warren OH part.   Not very important if incorrect.   He may very well have been born there, but Miller played at Huber Heights Wayne.  Huber is a suburb of Dayton.  He def. didnt play HS ball in Warren.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or