Meyer Reflects on the Process of Going 12-0
By Tony Gerdeman
celebrates with Jake Stoneburner at Penn State
Photo by Jim Davidson
For nearly each of Urban Meyer's first 12 months as Ohio State's head football coach, he was asked how he planned on motivating a team that had "nothing" to play for.
No postseason. No bowl game. No championship hopes. What would his formula for motivation be?
His answer was always the same – he didn't know. He checked with some coaches who had been through similar circumstances for input, but never addressed his plan of attack publicly.
The reason for that, as it would turn out, was because he never had to come up with one.
"I really didn't have an understanding of how we would approach it until I got to know the team," he told Yahoo! Sports Radio in an interview recently.
"I found out we had an extremely high quality group of seniors that all had a choice to leave when the bowl ban came out. The NCAA allows you to just transfer, so they could have been free agents and they could've moved on, and they stayed."
embraces senior defensive lineman John Simon on Senior Day.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The fact that nobody acted on the opportunity to go somewhere else and "play for something" was Meyer's first indicator that this was not your normal program in distress.
"I didn't really understand why they stayed until I got to know them," he said.
"It was because of their love of this university and even more so their love and caring for eachother as teammates. Once you figure that out, whether you're playing for a bowl game or not, I knew that every game was going to be important for these guys."
In other words, even despite a third head coach in three years, this Buckeye team had a strong foundation of leaders, and Meyer recognized it. It was that foundation that kept him from having to manufacture motivation, because it was already there. The Buckeyes were playing for eachother.
"If you take over a program that's dysfunctional, then you just blow the whole thing up and you move forward," he explained.
beams after OSU's come from behind win over Purdue.
Photo by Dan Harker
"But if you take over a program like we did here, and it was not only not dysfunctional, but it was very successful for a decade, you've got to be very cautious and build on some of the things that we've done here in the past, but you've also got to put your signature on it."
Meyer's signature started soon after he was hired when he brought in strength coach Mickey Marotti. Marotti introduced the team to The Meyer Way before Meyer ever even got his team on the practice field, and they responded every day.
However, this was not a team without a successful history of their own.
"You also have to understand there's a lot of kids that won a Rose Bowl, they won a Sugar Bowl, so you have to be really respectful of what went on here in the past, and that's what our staff did," he said.
Meyer brought the best of both worlds together. He instituted his plan of action, which he calls "infallible", and he relied on a group of Ohio State seniors to lead like Buckeyes should.
shares the joy of the win over Nebraska with Luke Fickell.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The result was an undefeated season, a 12-0 record and a memory that will last forever.
This was not Meyer's first undefeated team, as he also had one in 2004 at Utah. Undefeated or not, however, his teams are always successful. His lowest season win total is eight, which he has done just twice in his 11 seasons as a head coach. Success isn't a coincidence when it comes to Urban Meyer, and it wasn't this season either.
"First of all you have to have good players," he explained.
"I think I have a pretty good ability to hire quality coaches and attract them and let them do their work. The formula is not hard, it's very good players and good coaches. It's the execution. I think probably the best thing that I've done over these last 11 or 12 years is hire very, very quality coaches."
Those players and coaches came together and meshed extremely well, just like the integration of Meyer's teachings and what these Buckeyes had already learned. Meyer learned about his team the more he was around them, and that only made it easier to implement his plan of action.
After all, Meyer is a teacher first, winner second.
"Why did I get into coaching 20-some years ago?" he reflected.
"It was because I want to see young people grow and mature, and mentor them and have an impact on their life."
The players have certainly grown, but the impact was clearly mutual.
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