Reader Mail: "Will Urban Meyer Keep His Philosophy of Small Skill Players?"
By Tony Gerdeman
I get all kinds of emails from all kinds of people, and many of those emails are actually coherent.
On Thursday I received an email from a Michigan fan named Nate. Well, at least I think he is a Michigan fan, the lack of spelling errors has me wondering, however.
The subject heading of his email is the title of this piece above.
Normally I respond to my emails privately, but since he asked a question that I think a lot of people have, I thought it would be a better idea to respond to him here.
Maybe next time we do this, I'll only answer emails that insult me and question my intelligence level, instead of doing it privately like I normally do.
Here is Nate's question:
"I remember the dark days of Rich Rod when Tony made a great deal of fun of the tiny skill players and how they would not be successful in the B1G. Well, he turned out to be correct sadly.
"With Meyer having basically the same philosophy as Rich Rod (see current Florida roster), how do you anticipate the Buckeye offense working in the B1G under his watch?
Thanks! Love Michigan Monday.
Ah yes, 'the dark days of Rich Rod.' Good times, good times.
Thank you for the email, Nate. Like you, and most knowledgeable Wolverine fans, I love Michigan Monday as well.
Now that we're all acquainted, I'll go ahead and address the first part of his email regarding "small skill players" and knock it out of the park on the first pitch.
Here is the weight of every leading rusher under Meyer at Florida:
2005 - 230 pounds
2006 - 238 pounds
2007 - 235 pounds
2008 - 240 pounds
2009 - 245 pounds
2010 - 190 pounds
Not exactly Smurf village, is it?
In 2005 and 2006, tailback DeShawn Wynn led the team in rushing. From 2007 to 2009, Tim Tebow led the Gators on the ground. Then in 2010, tailback Jeff Demps took the crown.
In 2005, there were only two players who touched the ball on offense who didn't weight at least 200 pounds. The first was punter Eric Wilbur, who checked in at 195 pounds that season. He had a 20-yard carry during the season.
The other mighty mite for the Gators that season was receiver Nyan Boateng, who tipped the scales at a skeletal 199 pounds. He finished with four catches and two carries.
Obviously, this was a team that Urban Meyer inherited, so it's understandable if there's a little more heft on it than you might have expected.
The following year was much of the same, except for the addition of Percy Harvin, who was listed at 5-11 180. You can knock him for his size if you like, but he rushed for 428 yards and had 427 yards receiving as a true freshman. He averaged over ten yards per carry and over twelve yards per catch.
Harvin spent three seasons terrorizing the SEC, and got bigger and better as the years went on. If he is the evidence that Urban Meyer's system isn't going to work in the Big Ten, then I think you might want to re-explore your thinking on the matter.
I believe 2008 through 2010 is where people get the idea that Meyer prefers smaller players, and it's almost entirely contained within running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
In 2008 and 2009, Tim Tebow was far and away the team's number one option on the ground. In 2008, he had 92 more carries than Chris Rainey, who finished second on the team in that category.
In 2009, Tebow finished with 118 more carries than the second-place Demps.
Because Rainey (5-9 175) and Demps (5-8 183) were such small tailbacks, they became the poster children for the Urban Meyer running attack.
However, the real poster child should have been Tim Tebow, who was one of the great short-yardage backs in recent college football history.
Tebow was an example of consistency. Think of it as station-to-station baseball. He would move the ball down the field at his own pace. Demps and Rainey, however, were homerun hitters. They were meant to move the ball down the field at a much higher pace—and with Tebow at the helm, he made them even more dangerous.
Basically, the speedy little guys complemented the running game brute, and not the other way around. I would expect that to continue at Ohio State, though don't expect that brute to always be a quarterback. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It was a bit of a rough year for the Gators in 2010 because they were lacking a mobile quarterback and talent at the tailback position. Meyer has learned from those mistakes, which is why the Buckeyes are sitting just fine at both spots over the next four or five years or so.
Nate wasn't just asking about running backs in his email, however. He wanted to know about all of the skill players.
In Meyer's six seasons at Florida, he only had two receivers under 6-1 finish in the top two in receptions on the team. The first was Percy Harvin in 2007 and 2008, and the second was Deonte Thompson in 2010, whom Ohio State recruited very heavily.
Other than those two, Meyer's reception ledgers are littered by guys who are 6-1, 6-3, 6-5, etc.
One area where I won't disagree with Nate on undersized players is tight end. Aaron Hernandez was listed at 6-2, though I guess that can be forgiven when you consider his 68 receptions for 850 yards in 2009.
So that's pretty much it in a nutshell. I didn't answer Nate's entire question, necessarily, because I was only really focused on his false premise that Meyer's philosophy revolves around small skill players.
Meyer loves speed, and would like to take a speed back in each recruiting class at Ohio State, but he would do it as a complement to what is already in place.
However, if a smaller player is dynamic enough, and can handle the workload, then he would obviously give him a shot to do so. Percy Harvin wasn't the biggest guy, but he was darn sure one of the toughest and most explosive. That's what Meyer craves, regardless of the size that it comes in.
Meyer's offense should work just fine in the Big Ten because he will be recruiting quality players to play in it. Rich Rodriguez's biggest problem on offense was not that he recruited tiny players, it was that he recruited tiny players who should have been playing at Purdue.
Actually, now that I think about it, if he had been recruiting Purdue-level players, then he probably would have gotten a win or two against the Buckeyes.
Well, that's it for Nate's question. I hope I answered it sufficiently. If you have a question that nobody has answered sufficiently enough for you, and you would like somebody else to answer it just as insufficiently, feel free to shoot me an email at the address linked at the top of this page, and I'll see what I can do.
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