Know thine enemy: a preliminary look at Meyer's staff

Submitted by Rasmus on February 10th, 2012 at 7:48 PM

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):

  1. Tom Herman. Coordinator/Quarterbacks. 11 years experience. Hired because of Iowa State 2011 and Rice 2008. No history with Meyer.
  2. Ed Warinner. Co-coordinator/Line. 29 years experience. Hired because of Kansas 2007 (the year they were 12-1). No history with Meyer.
  3. 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.
  4. Stan Drayton. Running backs. 20 years experience. Running backs coach at Florida (2005-2007, 2010). Drayton was already at Ohio (wide receivers) in 2011.
  5. 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.]


  1. Luke Fickell. Coordinator/Linebackers. 14 years experience. No history with Meyer.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?



February 10th, 2012 at 8:48 PM ^

I thought he was supposed to lead the new Renaissance of Ohio's linebackers. It is my understanding that Fickell will still call plays for the D. The loss of four years of continuity under Taver Johnson will hurt but not enough to make a huge difference.


February 11th, 2012 at 8:19 AM ^

According to the official site, yes -- Vrabel has the defensive line now. Jim Heacock (the coordinator since 2005 and the line coach since 1996) had it before this.

Actually, this is a good point -- Ohio is going from fifteen years of continuity in its coaching on the defensive line to someone whose effectiveness teaching that position is unproven. 


February 10th, 2012 at 9:40 PM ^


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?

Isn't this a bit of a reach? What's the hypothesis here?  Hinton and Meyer have bee working for 25 years so they could get back to OSU to avenge the firing of their mentor Earl Bruce?  To help with their master plan, Meyer also brought back Zach Smith, who happens to be Bruce's grandson.



February 11th, 2012 at 7:53 AM ^

The coach who used to take Art Schlichter to the racetrack?  Somehow, I'm not surprised that he is in "good standing" with the Ohio athletic department.  

Finding out that Bruce and Schilchter were seen at the racetrack together on numerous occasions has always made me wonder whether Schlichter would have been a productive citizen after graduation with a different role model for a coach.

Sadly, Bruce's "good standing" with Ohio says more about the school and its culture than a thousand smarmy comments could.  

Urban Warfare

February 13th, 2012 at 9:25 AM ^

Schlichter hated Bruce because Bruce ran a 3-yards and a cloud of dust offense and Schlichter felt it was hurting Schlichter's career.  Also, Schlichter's dad felt that Bruce wasn't living up to promises Woody had made when he recruited Art, which fed into Schlichter's unhappiness.



February 11th, 2012 at 8:21 AM ^

It was an afterthought, but the idea is that Meyer and Hinton would both want to return the program to their shared experience under Bruce -- thus rejecting the Tressel years. I didn't know Smith is Bruce's grandson, but that just reinforces the distinction.

Sione's Flow

February 11th, 2012 at 2:12 AM ^

He's not the same coach Florida had in 2007 and 2009!!!  Gee-wilikers and Smitty hired him as a knee jerk reaction, because they knew the "fanbase" was going to be looking for blood after a season with Fickell at the helm.  Yeah he's got the big name appeal, but what I think he doesn't have anymore is the desire to compete.  The press conference to announce UM would now be called that school up North, shows that he's just phoning it in.  Brady Hoke calls Ohio, Ohio because he believes in what he's saying.  Meyer did that to appease the lcd in buckeye fandom.


February 11th, 2012 at 9:12 AM ^

To work things out. No bowl, no B1G championship game, so less pressure in 2012....except for the Michigan game. Howeva, the co-coordinator thing can be dicey. Mallory got stuck in that at Illinois and it did not go well. Then again, if Urbie rules with an iron fist that will cut down on the disconnects. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out next season. The offensive scheme will be new and I assume the D will be, too, because Urbie will need to put his stamp on it. Has to prove that those SEC genes produce superior results.

Philip A. Duey

February 11th, 2012 at 12:13 PM ^

May be answered by Orson's recent recruiting article:

9. THIS IS ABOUT ASSISTANTS. Head coaches do close the deal in some cases, but for the most part assistants are doing the leg work of signing day, traveling, calling, visiting, and completing the final panicked texts to recruits before waiting by the fax machine and hoping for no surprises. Do you have a coach on your team who is charismatic, back-slapping, and you suspect knows very little about coaching football, and yet pulls down a huge paycheck? This person is your recruiting coordinator, and he is worth every dollar thanks to mysterious power he has over high-schoolers who can run a 4.4 and squat 500 pounds.



February 12th, 2012 at 7:51 AM ^

You're right, pretty much entirely linebackers and defensive line, although he coached the safeties (and special teams) at Notre Dame in 2001. Thanks -- I updated the entry to reflect this, and also to note he is Nick Sheridan's dad.

No doubt Sheridan will be a big help to Vrabel as he shifts from linebackers to defensive line.


February 11th, 2012 at 5:47 PM ^

Given the bowl and b1g championship game ban, any winning record will look good coming off a .500 season. I hope the staff implodes but given talented recruiting classes ohio will probably win their fair share of games.

2013 will be key. If hoke can win this season and than defeat Urban at home in 2013, the pressure will increase on Urban. The stress may be overwhelming from the fan base and Urban may have a tough time in Columbus!


February 12th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

urban will be fine, only wish uk had their talent. UM better hope urban doesnt lock down the talent in ohio, what would UM  do for a football team. he has a good staff to work with and the big 10 will need to step up, or he will dominate. and crybaby bret, wonder if he needs a new hankie.


February 12th, 2012 at 3:00 PM ^

you all worry too much about osu. the talent is there, and the team will be fine. kind of wish uk had osu problem. hey would UM even have a football team if it wasnt for "the state of ohio"? good luck if urban locks up the talent in ohio.



February 13th, 2012 at 8:32 AM ^

Probably more work than a simple afternoon's perusal, but I would be curious to know how Meyer's current staff stacks up against his staffs at Florida. You pose that he hired a bunch of 'coordinator' types that could lend itself to friction, but was he doing the same stuff during his success at Florida?


February 14th, 2012 at 5:00 AM ^

and i believe you went on to say, ¨Meyer is in full control.¨ Nothing further need be said. I am saying this only as a coach, at a much lower lever, but with complete understanding of what needs to constitute an efficient coaching staff.

please believe me, if at only at face value, the above quote is paramount in surrounding yourself with what will make the¨world go round.¨ The HC, in this case, UM, [initials are mere coincidence,] is not worried about what positions others held before their  hire at osu  or if it will cause friction thereto. It will not. Believe me please, he has hired football coaches: those that know the game, and above all else, those he will be comfortable dealing with on a daiily basis.

Not unlike UM, he and his most trustworthy assts.,  only the most fully vetted  of those of  will surround him, have collateral impact on Ws and Ls and those of which have been placed on staff because, for no other reason, they complete the circle.

UM-got to love those initials, if for no other reason that the implied 180 implied therein, will have a staff that, no matter previous titles will fill the role he envisioned upon their respective hirings´.

Urban knows exactly what he is going to run on both sides of the los and he will grant them freedom only to the power to which is will not impact his overall control. His assistants will be granted the opportunity to faiil when it is of no importance to the outcome of the game and if they provide the input he is seeking, i.e., ¨why this failed at this particular time, etc.,¨then and only  then will they  become a tenured coach under Mr. Meyer. If they experienced a setback in a meanlingless contest, but it is one that will provide security in the future, they will be retained. If not, they will seek employment next fall.

As an example, I will relay this quick lesson. I allowed my ¨DC¨ to move our ss  to outside containment instead of our ss corner to see if he would realize the error of his ways. The contest was decided prior to stepping on the field. My  hope and wish was that I chose correctly. After the game, he stated to me, after my allowance to change my defensive positioning, that when the corner took the outside man they ran freely on what amounted to a given 7 yards per pitch toss. Further, he went on to state, ¨I corrected this by  placing the corner in run support, as designed and returned to defensive positioning as designed originally. I was elated and told him as much. Exact words were, ¨I knew you would realize importance of corner inside, safety out as main restrictition to arterial flow.¨

By doing so in a game already decided, not unlike pre-season ooc scheduing, I knew he would relieve me of worrying about in-game, clock importartant meaningful games, once actual brutal combat commenced. This is what  Urban, and all other proven coaches do well.

It is not the title they once owned. It is their actual football knowledge, ability to adapt under pressure,thereby allowing the head man to concentrate on the most significant of all, that being the call that will decide the game, whether it be in the first qtr or fourth. If all quantittive measureas are accounted for by someone equal to task, thereby offsetting the pawn and bishop rotation of your opponent, the king is allocated the freedom of the pretense of placing the queen in a position of annhihilation, with an iintricate, predetermined sense of timing of when the opposing king will  call exacly what you have anticipated: thereby granting the allowance of checkmate, that would not have been allowed had you not surrounded yourself with  the rooks and bishops that you knew would respond exactly as determined by the movement of stated oppostion.

Notwithstanding the multitude of violations Mr. Tressell,  either voluntarilly  or discovered in the most clumsy manner imaginable, he was vastly superior to Mr. Carr in this respect, and over the course of a decade, we painfully realized his ¨appearance of settling for a non -descript¨ filed goal early in the contest ultimately decided those games decide by two points or less. As we know, it grew worse once the master realized he  was playing against a grand master.

So think what you will about who will be designated as such. UM, and it is my guess BH is equal to the challenge, no matter the tille eacch assistant brngs with them, it will be decided by a full understanding of the enemy, their prowess and, most importantly, their weakenesses, as demonstrated best in 2011 by  General Mattiston. Therein lies my brief, but I believe, important input into the overall strategic impact upon, not the battalions they commanded, but their overalll knowledge of the entire components necessary to bring about victory upon any given battlefiled, notwithstanding the seemingly[import not to be underestimated] greater firepower of the enemy.



Blue in Yarmouth

February 16th, 2012 at 10:43 AM ^

but wtf was that? Besides being tl;dr, what I did read sounded like you were actually Urban himself the way you were tooting his horn. BY that I mean from what I understood of your post. Honestly, and I hate to be offensive, that is one of the owrst posts I have ever (partially) read. It was painful to read.


February 16th, 2012 at 3:50 PM ^

but i don't agree with it.  You are underestimating the importance of chemistry.  What about egos? Any coach worth his salt is a workaholic, type A and while they may not butt heads with Meyer, they may butt heads with each other.  Part of the reason for the success Michigan had this year was the chemistry between coaches.  Think it's a lot harder than just finding people who know football...every coach at that level KNOWS the game better than 99% of fans, so it's gotta be more than just knowledge.


February 15th, 2012 at 1:46 AM ^

I have to say, I'm not really afraid of his staff at all. His Florida teams were significantly worse after Strong and Mullen left. And then he goes out and hires some no-name OC. One reason that Hoke was so successful here is that he brought in established coaches who had worked together for the most part. Meyer simply doesn't have that same staff. I mean just look at his offense when Addazio was the coordinator, and it was the same players more or less as the year before under Mullen. The stats tell the story there. 

That said, that doesn't mean he won't be successful. But I doubt he's as successful as people think he will be (i.e., multiple national titles). There is also no way that he stays there more than 5 years. And OSU will be depleted when he leaves; again, just look at Florida.


February 17th, 2012 at 10:03 AM ^

that hasn't worked a single game together as a unit.  That's idiotic.  I do think there is great potential though, hard to say there isn't.  Great players make coaches look great, plain and simple.  The talent is there for OSU to be very good next year.  If you think that these coaches are incapable of winning 10-11 games with the talent on hand, we'll have to agree to disagree.