URBAN MEYERS PATH TO SUCCESS IN YEAR ONE
Urban Meyer has a way. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Meyer brings to the table because he brings a multitude of desired qualities that any school would seek. Be it charisma, pedigree, or an unrelenting desire to win, Meyer should be able to quickly right the ship in Columbus after a year of scandal and uncertainty. With Meyer standing at the podium, flashing his trademark smile and describing a Buckeye team that would compete as ferociously as his teams at Florida, Buckeye fans nationwide swooned. With that, the first seeds of success were planted at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Meyer won the press conference, a key victory in establishing the tone of the future at Ohio State. But the path to success is often determined by how you compete in your first year. Fortunately for Ohio State, the slate is set for an instant turnaround in Year One.
It would be dishonest to discuss Ohio State's transition without in some ways comparing it to the very same process of its arch rival Michigan. Brady Hoke won his first press conference and set the tone for the season ahead by consistently hammering home the importance of the Ohio State game into the minds of his players. Meyer, who cut his teeth coaching at Ohio State, understands how important The Game is in defining his legacy and his tenure as Head Coach. Faced with a similar rebuilding process this season, Hoke transformed a uninspired, poorly coached 7-5 team, fresh off of a 52-14 lashing in the Gator Bowl, to a fundamentally sound football team that finished 10-2 and finds itself on the brink of it’s first BCS bid since 2006. Hoke was also recently awarded the Hayes-Schembechler award for Coach of the Year for turning the Wolverines around in such a short span. But make no mistake, Hoke, despite his constant emphasis on beating Ohio State, benefited from a schedule that was favorable for success. The Wolverines finished the season 8-0 at home and only faced one truly taxing road game, a game they lost to Michigan State, en route to 10 wins.
Meyer's path in Year One is eerily similar: Ohio State travels away from the Columbus only once in its first six games with a late September trip to East Lansing to face a rebuilding Spartan side that loses its starting quarterback, both starting wide receivers, and the potential early exit of tweener first rounder Jerel Worthy. A 5-0 start with a home showdown against Nebraska the following week would be a great start for Meyer and Co. in his first season. Perhaps the other most notable obstacle to such a start would be when Ohio State faces a potentially intriguing out of conference matchup with Cal. Cal has struggled mightily on the defensive front and Ohio State should likely be favored in the matchup.
Michigan had the luxury of returning talent at quarterback in Denard Robinson as does Meyer with dynamic Big 10 Freshman of the Year Braxton Miller. Meyer made it abundantly clear in his presser that meeting Braxton Miller was priority one and unsurprisingly so as his history of molding young quarterbacks is nearly unparalleled. He turned Alex Smith into the top overall pick, harnessed Chris Leak’s talents in a way that Ron Zook’s staff never could, and also notoriously make Tim Tebow a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion. Couple that with the wealth of young defensive talent returning for the Buckeyes, most notably Ryan Shazier, and a 10-0 start with a de facto Leaders Division title game looming in Madison the following week is certainly on the table. If that scenario plays out, Meyer will have done enough, even before The Game, to potentially be the second recipient of the Hayes-Schembechler Award.
Consider this: Had Rich Rodriquez lasted one more year at Michigan and the Wolverines ultimately hired Hoke for the 2012 season, Hoke's first year as coach would be significantly more daunting solely because of the schedule. Michigan opens its 2012 slate against Alabama at Cowboy Stadium and faces road trips to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. It would be difficult to imagine the Wolverines finishing the season 10-2 despite having senior leadership on offense. Urban Meyer is an amazing coach and relentless recruiter. He will bring top-tier talent to Columbus and undoubtedly have high-ranking recruiting classes. However, Urban Meyer, for all his talents, will benefit from having a favorable schedule in Year One as much, if not more, than Brady Hoke did at Michigan.