School in the News: Ohio State

Tag: Urban Meyer

4Dec 2018
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School in the News: Ohio State

Zach Harrison

It was announced today that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is “retiring” after the Rose Bowl. (Afterward, he will probably take off a year, let people forget how he housed a domestic abuser, and then take a job as the head coach at Penn State or Florida State.)

Regardless, OSU will be led by 39-year-old offensive coordinator Ryan Day going forward. Day was 3-0 as the interim head coach during the beginning of the 2018 season, when Meyer was suspended for being a big jerk.

On the recruiting front, I doubt many committed prospects will start to jump ship, because the continuity is going to be there. I would imagine Day will keep most of the staff, even if the ax falls on defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. But since this is a site so heavily centered on recruiting, it’s worth taking a look at the Buckeye commits with Michigan offers:

  • 4-star S Jordan Battle
  • 3-star LB Steele Chambers
  • 4-star ATH Ronnie Hickman
  • 3-star OT Ryan Jacoby
  • 4-star C Harry Miller
  • 4-star DE Noah Potter
  • 4-star LB Cade Stover
  • 4-star WR Jameson Williams

Of those prospects, Michigan was only highly involved with Chambers. For a while it looked like Chambers, a Georgia native, might be a Michigan lean. I really like Cade Stover (a Ben Gedeon clone) and Ronnie Hickman, too, but Stover is a native Ohioan and Hickman never paid Michigan a ton of attention.

Most significantly, the departure of Meyer may push defensive end Zach Harrison harder toward Michigan. There have been varying rumors in the past couple weeks, some that he was leaning toward Michigan and some that he was leaning toward the home-state Buckeyes. Harrison is a 5-star prospect and a top-notch athlete. Of course, the possibility has been out there for a while that Meyer might be on his last legs at Ohio State, but the slight uncertainty of a first-time head coach might be enough to settle the issue once and for all in Harrison’s mind that he wants to pick Michigan.

7Feb 2015
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On Michael Weber

As most diehard Michigan fans know by now, Detroit (MI) Cass Tech running back Michael Weber signed his National Letter of Intent to Ohio State on Wednesday after an intense battle between the Buckeyes and Wolverines. Of course, his position coach and lead recruiter, Stan Drayton, publicly accepted the running backs coach job for the Chicago Bears the very next day. This has prompted a bit of an uproar in recruiting circles and from Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher, a former Wolverine himself who went on the radio to vent about Urban Meyer’s disrespect toward Weber and Cass Tech.

The key point is that Weber was on the verge of choosing the Wolverines, and his relationship with Drayton was one of the things that sold him on Ohio State. The final nail in Michigan’s coffin was that they had accepted a commitment from Florida running back Karan Higdon, which was announced at 8:00 a.m., approximately 2.5 hours before Weber himself announced. Weber thought he was going to be the only running back in Michigan’s class. But if he had been made aware of Drayton’s impending departure, he almost certainly would have chosen Michigan.

The practice of coaches leaving immediately after National Signing Day without informing recruits is sneaky and slimy and dirty. It’s dishonest to recruit17- and 18-year-old kids – or even grownups – into a situation where the recruiter knows the dynamic will change 24 hours after the binding agreement is signed. Texas’s defensive line coach did it, UCLA’s defensive coordinator did it, and there have probably been more instances this season of which I’m unaware. Coaches spend as much time with these kids as anyone over the next four years and often make promises of helping them reach the next level. It’s one thing to take a promotion after a year or two or three, because the flow of life is inevitable. It’s quite another to voluntarily leave the next day.

Weber’s choices now include accepting his fate and sticking with Ohio State, where head coach Urban Meyer – who almost assuredly knew of Drayton’s future – obviously isn’t a straight shooter. Weber could also transfer schools, which would force him to sit out the 2015 season, accept a redshirt, and have four seasons to play four seasons at his chosen destination. The third most prominent option would be to fight the National Letter of Intent’s validity, legally proving that Ohio State knowingly misled him into his current situation. California defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes successfully pulled the third option a couple years ago, which got him away from Notre Dame and to UCLA, where he played as a true freshman in 2013.

For what it’s worth, I have heard through the grapevine that Weber wants out of his Ohio State deal, which is understandable considering the distrust he probably has for Meyer. Michigan and Wisconsin are both potential landing spots, as both recruited him hard, and with new staffs in place, everyone is almost 100% secure for the next year, at least. A Detroit-area lawyer has offered his services pro bono to Weber, who has a good case but might not want the headache of going through the legal process. It would be a difficult choice for a high school kid whether to prolong the recruiting shenanigans (Weber got tired of recruiting and does not bask in the attention) or start on the path to four years with an ethically questionable coach.

From Michigan’s end, Weber said on National Signing Day that he thought he was the only running back being recruited by the Wolverines. Perhaps there is some distrust there, or perhaps he simply thought Jim Harbaugh would wait for Weber’s decision before accepting another running back. Either way, it is a bit naive to think that Michigan – which did not take a running back in 2014 – would risk going a second straight year without a running back signee. If Weber had been given or accepted good advice, he should have reserved his spot with Michigan before Higdon even had a chance to flip. Programs can’t gamble like that if they want to find success consistently.

Michigan did something similar to Ohio State back in 2006 when offensive coordinator Terry Malone left for the New Orleans Saints a day after National Signing Day. Of the signees that year, Malone appears to have been the lead recruiter only for Obi Ezeh. While the situation is somewhat similar, Ezeh was a fullback/linebacker who ended up playing defense, and Michigan promoted special teams coach Mike Debord from within to take over offensive coordinator duties. Those facts are somewhat beside the point, but the negative repercussions seem pretty minimal.

As for Weber’s future, Ohio State has junior Ezekiel Elliott, sophomore Curtis Samuel, and redshirt junior Warren Ball ahead of him; they also have the nation’s #1 running back, Kareem Walker, committed in the 2016 class. They hired Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck to replace Tom Herman, but Beck helped launch the careers of Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead, so that’s a positive if Weber ever earns the starting gig. Wisconsin’s new head coach, Paul Chryst, is known for a power running game and has sophomore Corey Clement taking over the starting role; they also have a highly touted running back for 2016 in the form of Antonio Williams. Michigan has a top-heavy backfield scheduled for 2015, with three juniors and a redshirt sophomore vying for the starting gig but no 2016 commits in the fold. Regardless of where Weber ends up or when, there’s going to be competition.

My guess is that Weber stays at Ohio State, where he would join rising sophomore cornerback Damon Webb and fellow 2015 signee Joshua Alabi, both of whom also went to Cass Tech. The allure of playing for the defending national champions and being “the next Ezekiel Elliott” is significant. The leading rumor right now for Drayton’s replacement appears to be Notre Dame’s Tony Alford.

If nothing else, this gives Weber an early introduction into the cold, cruel world of “business decisions.”

29Nov 2011
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Urban Meyer, Buckeye

Urban Meyer has at least one thing in common with Brady Hoke . . .

Well, the persistent rumors that had been buzzing for weeks finally came to fruition on Monday morning.  It was reported that Urban Meyer – former head coach at Bowling Green State University, Utah, and Florida – has accepted the head coaching job at Ohio State.  The fate of interim coach Luke Fickell, who went 6-6 in place of Jim Tressel, seems unclear right now.

Meyer went 17-6 in two seasons at BGSU, 22-2 in two seasons at Utah, and 65-15 in six seasons at Florida; that gives him a combined 104-23 record (nearly 82% winning percentage).  He also produced first round draft pick Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers), Heisman winner Tim Tebow, and two national championships in Gainesville (2006, 2008).

Many Michigan fans seem to be bemoaning Meyer’s hiring in Columbus, as if this will instantly relegate Michigan to also-ran status.

News flash: Ohio State will be good.  How that changes the rivalry is beyond me.  The Buckeyes were good under Tressel, John Cooper, Earle Bruce, and Woody Hayes, too.  Ohio State is a good program and almost always has been.  But Brady Hoke, Al Borges, and Greg Mattison have proven to be pretty good coaches, too.  And speaking of Mattison, he used to be Meyer’s defensive coordinator at Florida.  So was Charlie Strong, who’s now the head coach at Louisville.  Dan Mullen was his offensive coordinator, and he’s the head coach at Mississippi State.  Meyer can’t do it all by himself, and he’ll need to hire good coordinators to get the job done.

One of those coordinators might be Fickell.  I’m not a fan of Luke Fickell, but I think he did a decent job with the hand that was dealt to him this season.  He had a freshman quarterback, star players who were suspended for large chunks of the season, and obvious distractions.  There were slip-ups here or there, but when your star quarterback, star running back, and star wide receiver miss the whole season, half the season, and most of the season, respectively, I think expectations should be lowered.  Fickell was a defensive coach for the Buckeyes prior to being elevated to head coach and he’s also an Ohio State alum.  I think it would be the right thing to do for Meyer to keep Fickell on as defensive coordinator.

Meyer’s hiring in Columbus will undoubtedly affect the recruiting landscape in the midwest, but not to an alarming degree.  The fact is that the state of Ohio produces tons of talent and Meyer will likely try to mine his old recruiting grounds in the south, too.  Michigan will still be able to poach some players from Ohio who could succeed in any system.  The interesting dynamic here is that now Ohio State and Michigan have flipped roles; unlike Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor and Jim Tressel in Columbus, now Brady Hoke will be recruiting pro-style players and Urban Meyer will be searching for spread-type players on offense.  Class of 2012 running back Bri’onte Dunn has already stated that he doesn’t want to play in the spread offense, and Meyer did a pretty poor job of developing running backs and wide receivers, with the exception of Percy Harvin.  That opens the door for bigger backs, pro-style receivers, and pro-style quarterbacks from the state of Ohio to come to Michigan.  Conversely, dual-threat quarterbacks and slot receiver types will be more drawn to Ohio State.

It will be interesting to see how the story plays out in Columbus, where the dolts who run the university and the athletic department still seem clueless about how tarnished their program might be when the NCAA decides how to punish them.  There could be a loss of scholarships and probation, which might very well affect how quickly Meyer finds success.  But considering Meyer’s achievements, he will most likely produce anywhere from a good to great program and they will be challenging for Big Ten titles for several years to come.  And that’s the way it should be.

20Nov 2011
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Michigan 45, Nebraska 17

“Your chances of tackling me are slim.” – Fitzgerald Toussaint
(image via

Thank goodness for Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Michigan’s offensive line didn’t really run block worth a damn, but Toussaint consistently created a few yards – or more – out of absolutely nothing.  Chris Spielman said the words “Barry Sanders” in reference to Toussaint.  Don’t get me wrong – Chris Spielman is kind of a moron – but he might know a thing or two about Barry Sanders.  Sanders was the best running back in the history of football, in my opinion, and Toussaint does have a similar ability to stop and start suddenly.  Channeling my inner Fred Jackson, Toussaint has the cutting ability and mindset of Mike Hart . . . but he’s faster.  I love the way he’s running the ball.

Nebraska looked awful.  Part of the reason the Cornhuskers looked awful on offense and special teams was due to Michigan’s improved defense, but for the most part, they just didn’t play very well.  Taylor Martinez throws like a girl and is careless with the football.  Their kick returners couldn’t hold onto the football.  Seriously, two fumbled kickoff returns in the same game?  It looked like Nebraska had their returners study film of Boubacar Cissoko and Martavious Odoms circa 2008.  And it might have been an entirely different game if anyone but Nebraska’s defensive tackles could catch the ball, because the receivers dropped several passes and so did their defensive backs.

Obligatory discussion of Denard Robinson.  This might have been Denard Robinson’s most complete game of the year, and yet . . . it still left me wanting.  Robinson is more effective running the offense out of a spread look, and it’s about time Al Borges relies mostly on the spread and only a little on his pro-style offense.  Robinson ran the ball a little better and seemed to be more  decisive, but he’s still not hitting the holes as quickly as he should.  Altogether, Robinson probably left 30 or 40 yards on the field because he was trying to get out of bounds, he was tentative, etc.  As far as passing the ball goes, it was all or nothing once again.  He threw some nice passes (an out route to Hemingway, a post to Odoms for a TD, a crossing route to Gallon for a TD) and he threw a bunch of questionable ones, too (the interception to defensive tackle Terrence Moore, a post to Roy Roundtree into double coverage that was dropped by Stafford, a bomb to Roundtree that was played horribly by Dennard and should have been picked, a crossing route to Kelvin Grady that should have been picked, etc.).  He finished with 23 carries for 83 yards and 1 touchdown, which is too many carries for such little return; he also finished 11-for-18 for 180 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception.  Also, I really wish Robinson would learn how to pitch  the ball on the option.  Seriously, dude.  Pitch it.  I don’t think you’ve pitched it once all year.

Obligatory discussion of J.T. Floyd.  Nebraska’s one huge play was a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Kinnie, who torched Floyd so badly that all Floyd could do was grab onto Kinnie and hope for a pass interference flag.  Prior to that play, Kinnie had 19 catches for 192 yards and 0 touchdowns on the season.

William Campbell wheeeeeeeee!  It was pretty awesome to see him hustle downfield on a Taylor Martinez run and then turn Martinez into roadkill.  Campbell had a sack on Martinez, too.  Mike Martin is certainly a more disruptive force on the interior and will be missed next year, but Campbell has things going in the right direction with this coaching staff.

The commentators sucked.  I really, really hate when Chris Spielman does Michigan games.  Any commentator who openly talks trash about one of the teams on the field should be banned from commenting on the game.  I tuned in to the game to enjoy Michigan football, not hear a former Buckeye repeatedly mention how long it’s been since the Wolverines beat his alma mater.  I actually like Urban Meyer’s offensive philosophy and coaching decisions; he’s oodles smarter than Spielman.  However, I thought he showed some ignorance when discussing Denard Robinson’s strengths and weaknesses.  Especially early in the game, Meyer was touting Robinson as being excellent at the zone read play.  Robinson makes more bad reads in the option game than good ones.  Last season it looked like Robinson didn’t even have the option most of the time – it seemed as if there were predetermined playcalls for whether he would hand off or keep the ball.  This year it looks like Al Borges has given Robinson more freedom to pull or keep the ball, but Robinson frequently makes the wrong choice.  I agree with Meyer that the quarterback power run bogs down the offense at times, but that’s mainly because Borges and Robinson do a poor job of disguising the play.

I did not expect a 45-17 victory.  That was kind of embarrassing for Nebraska and a pleasant surprise for Michigan fans.  If Michigan’s offense were clicking on all cylinders (i.e. if the offensive line could get a push), it could have easily been 59-17.  And Nebraska got a little bit lucky that Jeremy Gallon didn’t field that long punt at the end of the third quarter.  Gallon could have grabbed it on the bounce but chose to let it die at the 4-yard line.  That somewhat limited Borges’s playcalling and Michigan went three-and-out, giving Nebraska a chance to punch it in for their 17th point.  I’m not even being a homer when I say that blowout score of 45-17 was closer than the game actually was.  Michigan held onto the ball for over 41 minutes, while Nebraska had the ball for just over 18 minutes.  The Cornhuskers were just 3-for-13 on third down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down attempts.

8Dec 2010
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Effects of Coaching Carousel on Michigan

Several coaches from schools around the country have been fired, retired, or resigned recently, and some of those coaching situations may have an impact on Michigan.  Here I’ll discuss the ways in which the departures of Urban Meyer (Florida), Randy Shannon (Miami), and Dave Wannstedt (Pitt) might impact the situation in Ann Arbor.  I don’t think any of them necessarily signify impending doom for Rich Rodriguez (Urban Meyer isn’t coming to Ann Arbor), but they might affect the Michigan program in smaller ways.

All three schools I’m going to focus on harbor Class of 2011 commits who have Michigan offers.

  • Florida: RB Mike Blakely, SR Javares McRoy, LB Ryan Shazier, DB Valdez Showers, WR Ja’juan Story, CB Nick Waisome
  • Miami: DE Anthony Chickillo
  • Pitt: RB/SR Bill Belton, CB Terrell Chestnut, CB Kyshoen Jarrett, LB Ben Kline

The three players in the above lists who have shown the most interest in Michigan are Showers, Jarrett, and Kline.  Showers is from Michigan, and the other two seemed to be giving the Wolverines a fair look before committing to become Panthers.  Assuming that Florida’s head job is filled by someone with Florida roots (Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Louisville’s Charlie Strong), I doubt that many Gator commits will waver.  However, Pittsburgh’s open job will likely be filled by an outsider, and that means Jarrett and Kline might be ripe for the picking.  Jarrett has reportedly sent out feelers to other programs, including Michigan, and Kline had Michigan in his top few schools at one point.

Urban Meyer’s intentions are to coach the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.  However, just like Michigan did with Rich Rodriguez back in 2007-2008, Meyer’s replacement might be hired prior to January 1.  That guy might be Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.  And even though Mullen is familiar with the landscape of Florida and has only been gone from Gainesville for a season, I’m not sure that Florida’s athletic director would want to sacrifice several weeks of recruiting right near the end of the cycle.  I would not be surprised to see Meyer’s replacement hired within the coming week; if Mullen’s the guy, he probably won’t be coaching the Bulldogs on January 1.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Mississippi State would be a mess for the bowl game.  Going back to that Michigan/West Virginia situation in 2007-2008, interim head coach Bill Stewart led the Mountainers to a 48-28 victory over #3 Oklahoma.

It’s practically a foregone conclusion that, at the very least, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will be gone before the 2011 season.  If it doesn’t happen prior to the bowl game, it will happen soon after.  But with the tenuous status of the entire coaching staff at Michigan, it’s not like some coordinator out there is going to accept a job at Michigan this very instant.  For now, Robinson is the guy.

None of Pitt’s staff is likely to come to Michigan, but the Miami and Florida staff changes may have an effect. 

Randy Shannon was a very good defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes for six seasons before becoming head coach.  He also has NFL experience with the Miami Dolphins, so heading back to the NFL isn’t out of the question.  Shannon seems like a long shot to come to Michigan as a coordinator, especially because Michigan has a tradition of underpaying coordinators.  Athletic director David Brandon might signal a new regime by shelling out some dough for a big-name coordinator, but I have my doubts.

More likely candidates include:

  • Vance Bedford.  Bedford was a defensive backs coach at Michigan for five total seasons, most recently in 2007.  He then joined the Florida staff and followed Charlie Strong to Louisville to become defensive coordinator, where he currently has the #12 total defense and the #15 scoring defense in the country.  If Strong becomes head coach at Florida, that might cause a shakeup in his staff, but I don’t see a significant reason that Bedford wouldn’t follow Strong back to Gainesville except for . . .
  • Chuck Heater.  Heater was a running back at Michigan from 1972-1974.  Though he hasn’t coached at Michigan, he’s still a “Michigan Man.”  He succeeded Strong as defensive coordinator at Florida, and has the #9 total defense and #31 scoring defense in 2010.  If Strong were hired, Bedford or Heater would likely head elsewhere for a coordinator position.  Since Bedford seems to be Strong’s “guy,” this might make Heater a free agent.

The availability of these guys is largely based on speculation and connections to Michigan, so I don’t have any inside sources saying that David Brandon is pursuing these guys.  However, they seem like fairly logical choices to replace Greg Robinson at Michigan.  As I said in a prior post about Rodriguez’s future in Ann Arbor, I stated that one of the caveats should be that a defensive coordinator should be hired and Rodriguez should be told to keep his hands off the defensive side of the ball.  Shannon, Bedford, and Heater have the experience and credibility to come in and run their systems without too much blowback. 

All of these dominos are unlikely to fall, but they’re things to consider as Michigan likely searches for a defensive coordinator and staff this offseason.