I spent the afternoon reading about the careers of Ohio's staff, on the theory that coaching college football is a group endeavor, so Meyer is only as good as they are. This isn't a study of their tendencies or preferences as coaches, just a simple look at their résumés. I also wanted to compare Meyer's staff to Michigan's in terms of how it came to be -- unlike Hoke, Meyer has an extensive coaching tree to draw upon. Did he do so?
Let's begin with Hoke's staff at Michigan. Five coaches came with him from SDSU (Borges, Ferrigno, Hecklinski, Funk, Smith), three of whom have been with him since Ball State. Mattison and Jackson have relationships with him from his time at Michigan. So that's seven of the nine hires with previous experience working with Hoke. Of the remaining two, Mallory is a Bo/Mo Michigan alumni who coached at Ball State (Hoke's alma mater) while Hoke was at Michigan, so I'm going to guess they were not strangers prior to 2011. So that just leaves Montgomery, the youngest and least-experienced member of the staff, as a total newcomer to Hoke's world.
The same cannot be said of Urban Meyer's new staff. There are two carryovers from Florida, one of whom was already in Columbus. The other was a graduate/quality-control assistant at Florida and has never been an actual coach under Meyer, with precious little experience beyond that. None of the rest has any history with Meyer, except for one year in 1986 (more on that later).
Another thing worth pointing out is there are four coordinators, two for defense and two for offense. Maybe this is a way to justify higher salaries, but if not it seems like a recipe for confusion. In both cases, you have a full "coordinator" and then a "co-coordinator." On offense the duties are apparently split between the passing game and the running game. Meyer has brought in two coaches with recent success as offensive coordinators to fill these two positions. On defense, I'm not sure what the split means.
Anyhow, here's the rundown on offense (with links to their official bios):
- Tom Herman. Coordinator/Quarterbacks. 11 years experience. Hired because of Iowa State 2011 and Rice 2008. No history with Meyer.
- Ed Warinner. Co-coordinator/Line. 29 years experience. Hired because of Kansas 2007 (the year they were 12-1). No history with Meyer.
- Tim Hinton. Tight ends/Fullbacks. 31 years experience. Knows Meyer from 1986 Ohio staff (both were graduate assistants) under Earle Bruce. No history with Meyer since then. Has link to Dantonio at Cincinnati.
- Stan Drayton. Running backs. 20 years experience. Running backs coach at Florida (2005-2007, 2010). Drayton was already at Ohio (wide receivers) in 2011.
- Zach Smith. Receivers. 3 years experience. Spent five years as a graduate assistant and quality-control dude at Florida under Meyer. Did a lot of work with the special teams at Florida, so may also have that role here. [Note: He is Earle Bruce's grandson. h/t to elaydin in the comments.]
- Luke Fickell. Coordinator/Linebackers. 14 years experience. No history with Meyer.
- Everett Withers. Co-coordinator/Safeties. Also Assistant head coach. 24 years experience. Comes to Ohio after four years at North Carolina. No history with Meyer.
- Bill Sheridan. Cornerbacks? 31 years experience. Hired later, when Taver Johnson (Cornerbacks) left to follow Paul Haynes to Arkansas. Sheridan has Michigan ties, a graduate assistant 1985-86, linebackers coach 2002, and defensive line coach 2003-2004. He is also Nick Sheridan's father. Knows Warriner from six years together at Army (linebackers and defensive line). His only experience in the secondary seems to be 2001 at Notre Dame, where he coached safeties and special teams. No history with Meyer.
- Mike Vrabel. Line. 1 year experience. 14 years as an NFL player. No history with Meyer. [Note: Vrabel had the linebackers in 2011. Now he moves to the defensive line, replacing Jim Heacock, the defensive line coach since 1996 (also coordinator since 2005). For those keeping score at home, that's fifteen years of continuity up in smoke. h/t to BlueDragon in the comments.]
A few thoughts. One is that it could take a while for this group of coaches to gel. There are not a lot of existing relationships here. There could even be some turnover as things shake out over the next few years. Second, I guess Meyer is in control, so maybe it doesn't matter who his coordinators are, or how many there are. Nonetheless, he seems to have emphasized hiring coaches with significant experience as coordinators, which could cause friction. Third, for what it's worth, there is a stark difference between this situation and Michigan's last year. One of the principal reasons Michigan's 2011 season went so smoothly was because the new staff was able to work together immediately and without rancor. The players pick up on this.
Fourth, you have to wonder about the offense -- you've got three coaches with past ties to Meyer working under the two new offensive co-coordinators, neither of whom has ever worked with Meyer. Here's Meyer on Zach Smith: "He knows my system inside and out and he teaches the system the way I want it to be taught." How will Herman and Warriner, both of whom have had significant success coordinating their own offenses, function in the face of that? It's not quite the same situation, but I can't help thinking of Scott Shafer's year at Michigan.
On defense, it's clear Meyer tried to keep most of the existing staff together, but the loss of Taver Johnson undercuts that plan (especially with regard to Cleveland-area recruiting, or so I hear, not that it matters -- Ohio is Ohio). Now he's just got Fickell and Vrabel from the old staff, both alumni whose only real coaching experience is in Columbus -- what will the dynamic be like between these two hothouse flowers and the other two defensive coaches, both veteran teachers with many stops on their résumés?
Finally, I have to bring up the fact Meyer hired Tim Hinton. Both men were graduate assistants under Earle Bruce at Ohio in 1986. Bruce was fired the next year, before the end of the season in 1987. You have to wonder about that. Do they share some sort of long-simmering sense of injustice? If so, what sort of effect could that have if everything doesn't go perfectly?