Drastic Change for Buckeyes Comes With a Distinct Purpose
By Tony Gerdeman
Any time a coaching change takes place, there are going to be a number of differences between regimes, be it new rules implemented by a new coach, more discipline, or a change in attitude.
When that incoming coach has been immensely successful at previous stops, some of those changes will be much more noticeable than others.
For Urban Meyer and Ohio State, most would consider his style of offense to be the biggest change. Meyer, however, has a different answer.
"The biggest change was the strength staff," Meyer said last week while talking to the 'EndZones Extra' podcast, hosted by his daughter Nicki Meyer and EndZonesExtra.com editor Sam Pennington.
"We brought my right hand guy Mickey Marotti from Florida. He was with me at Notre Dame, he's been a colleague and a friend for over 20 years. He's the best that there is in the business.
"It's 180 compared [to the past]. Not that one's better than the other, it's just completely different. We train a certain way. We believe in a certain way of developing them, and getting guys ready to play."
That "certain way" involves constant competition among the players in their workouts. There must always be a winner and there must always be a loser. Both positive and negative reinforcement.
Also, the players are pushed to their limits so that the coaches can see how the players will react when they get there. Do they fight through? Do they quit? This is something the coaches need to know because they need to know who they can trust when it matters most.
"We'll do agility runs or agility drills," Marotti explained to reporters in December, "but instead of just going through bags or going around cones, you do it me against you. Ready, set, go.
"And there's a winner and a loser because we're trying to teach them that in the game of football and in sports, there's a winner and a loser. This is how winners feel and this is how losers feel.
"So we try to be competitive, and that brings the best out of everybody. It tells you a lot about a player in a competitive situation—they either rise to the top or they don't. It's usually correlated from the field doing drills, to the weight room, even in the classroom. It's all the same. There are no surprises."
There are no surprises because the coaching staff already knows what to expect on the field by what they've seen off of it. It's the ultimate indicator of future results, and it's one that Meyer will always rely on.
"That's the essence of who we are," he explained in an interview with WBNS 10TV's 'Wall to Wall Sports'.
"You will not survive here if you are not a competitor. It's too hard. It's tough. It's a fight or flight mentality. You want to back them into the corner and evaluate their reaction, because that's what football is.
"It's not, 'Let's get another set of ten.' That has nothing to do with football. You've got to get strong, but of the 120 schools that play Division I, how many schools are doing the bench press? Every single one of them, so obviously that's not the difference maker because there's some really lousy teams that bench press.
"It's the ability to force a guy into a corner and watch him fight his way out. Teach him how to fight his way out, but at some point he has to do it. The fighter, the competitor is the guy you will see on the field wearing the Scarlet and Gray. The guy who doesn't, you won't."
It's simple, yet apparently still different. The old offseason program has been completely gutted according to Meyer, and in its place is one of constant competition and constant pressure.
It is done with an eye towards the fourth quarter, when a play absolutely has to be made. When the difference between a win and a loss is the last bit of effort that a player has.
Meyer and Marotti want that last bit of effort to be their edge, their advantage, and they have a very specific and effective way of making that happen. Their track record is proven. The results are written on crystal trophies.
In Meyer's interview with 10TV, he declared that he wants this to be "the most difficult offseason in America."
He labels it "fight or flight", but he's not necessarily trying to run players off. Rather, he just wants to know which players are most likely to choose flight rather than fight.
It's the only way to get to know this team in such a short amount of time. By knowing now how players will react during a fourth quarter in November, Meyer will know better whom to rely upon when that time comes, thus eliminating any surprises.
And as we already know, if the workouts are done in the manner that Meyer has directed, there are no such things as surprises.
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