Ohio Ties Run Deep on Meyer’s Staff
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s new coaching staff has a familiar feel, even if it doesn’t quite feel that way to head coach Urban Meyer just yet.
With so many of his trusted assistants now serving as head coaching or coordinators at other Division I programs around the country, Meyer was challenged with the task of putting together a coaching staff.
“We had a five hour offensive meeting the other day and it was the first time in my career I’ve had to start from scratch on offense with a coaching staff,” Meyer said Thursday after announcing the addition of Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner, two former Notre Dame assistants, to his staff at Ohio State.
The offense will be built upon Meyer’s philosophies, with offensive coordinator Tom Herman calling most of the plays from the booth. Meyer will hold “veto” power, but he made sure to bring in coaches who would fit with his ideas.
“I was really careful on assembling a group of coaches who have a similar belief on how to move the ball,” Meyer said.
“At one point I felt I had a staff in another place where it wasn’t that way. That’s why Ed Warinner joined our staff, along with Tim Hinton and Zach Smith. They have experience in our kind of offense.”
That’s not the only thing they have in common. Outside of assistant head coach Everett Withers, who will coach the safeties and serve as co-defensive coordinator under Luke Fickell, everyone else on Meyer’s new coaching staff has roots in the Buckeye State.
“No, it’s not a coincidence,” Meyer said.
“I know this one cuts real deep when it’s your home state…especially the high school relations part. Ed Warinner was a no-brainer He played at Mount Union. He had a great job. You don’t leave that job to come here unless there’s some kind of tie. The same with Tim. He had a strong, strong tie to pull him away from a good job to another great job. That's not normal. I don't think it's by coincidence.”
Warinner and Hinton both left good jobs at Notre Dame, where they worked as assistant coaches under Brian Kelly. It was going to take a unique set of circumstances to lure them away, and Ohio State presented exactly that for both men.
“I'm extremely excited because this is home to me,” said Warinner, who grew up in Strasburg, Ohio, and played football and basketball at Mount Union College.
“This is a dream job. I grew up an Ohio State fan, came to a lot of games as a young man, and I loved the way Ohio State played football. Woody Hayes actually coached in Tuscarawas County where I'm from, and so trust me when I say it's a privilege and an honor to be here. It was going to take a certain type of place to get me to leave Notre Dame. It had to be this place.”
It probably helped that it was Urban Meyer. Not only does he carry one of the strongest reputations in the entire coaching community, but he and Hinton have a relationship that dates back to their days as graduate assistants at Ohio State in the late 1980’s.
A coaching veteran of 30 years, Hinton said it took him less than a minute to make his decision when Meyer called to offer him the job after Notre Dame’s 18-14 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
“Let me tell you something, I'm not very tall, but right now I feel really tall,” said Hinton, who will coach tight ends and fullbacks in Meyer’s offense.
“It's a tremendous opportunity to get a chance to come back to your home state. When you grow up in a little community just south of Columbus, Ohio, and your whole family has always had season tickets at Ohio State since 1950 and you've been to all kinds of Ohio State football games. Not only that, to be an assistant here in the 80s, all those things working out to be able to come back here, I'm just as excited as I can be."
All four coaches retained by Meyer—Luke Fickell, Stan Drayton, Mike Vrabel and Taver Johnson—have obvious ties to Ohio. The same goes for Herman, who was born in Cincinnati, but nobody was more excited about coming home than Zach Smith, who watched his grandfather, Earle Bruce, coach the Buckeyes from 1979-87.
“It's not only the obvious family influences, but you guys know it's everywhere in this city,” said Smith, who was born in Dublin, Ohio, but went to school at Florida, where he first got his start under Meyer.
“Friends I went to school with, teachers, everyone. You can't get away from it. It's the Buckeye State. Anyone in Ohio would tell you that it's what you do. You just love it if you're from here. My grandfather heightened that, but it is something that's been a part of my life since before I can remember.”
So has Meyer, who has known Smith since he was only three year old. Of course Meyer was probably around the same age when he started dreaming of this day, and of the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of not only Earle Bruce, but also Woody Hayes.
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