Seven years ago Urban Meyer was introduced as the head coach at Ohio State.
Since then, Meyer has brought the Buckeyes a number of goodies, including a national championship, a ton of NFL draft picks and a program that is the envy of college football — one that new coach Ryan Day expects to remain in the upper echelon of NCAA sports.
“We think we have the most comprehensive program, from A to Z, in the country,” Day said at his first signing day press conference on Wednesday. “The infrastructure is here and the plan is not to change that. The plan is not to come in and blow all that up.”
That infrastructure is just one piece of what Meyer’s legacy at Ohio State will eventually be. It will be judged not just on Meyer’s past successes, but by Day’s immediate future. Meyer has been unfairly excoriated by a host of Florida media figures over the years because of the perception that he left the Gators in shambles.
A real part of his decision to retire now is knowing that he’s leaving Ohio State with a bevy of proverbial gifts under the proverbial Christmas tree. What are some of those gifts?
Ryan Day is the right man to lead Ohio State
The first gift for the Buckeyes? The man taking over the role Meyer is vacating.
Day is the hand-picked successor for Meyer, a coach who has created and molded hundreds of head coaches in the last 17 years. It’s almost impossible to take over for a legend like Meyer without some hiccups. But because of Day’s calm sense of leadership, his quiet confidence and sterling football pedigree, the transition for Ohio State has the potential for fewer hiccups.
It’s understandable that there is a faction which would have preferred a more seasoned coach to take over for Meyer. But the three-time national champion believes Day is the right guy to lead Ohio State into the future.
That should be all the endorsement needed.
The 2019 Ohio State recruiting class is loaded
Though the Buckeyes only signed 15 players in the early signing period, it’s a class chock-full of incredible young people with big plans for their futures beyond the football field.
Check out the season-long journal from Cade Stover for a look at the future linebacker’s life on a farm in Lexington, Ohio, or read up on 5-star offensive lineman Harry Miller from my friend Jeff Sentell and learn about how he’s decided to spend his recent summers traveling to Nicaragua to help the Mission for Nicaragua and the Open Hearts Children’s Ministry.
These aren’t just great football players coming to Ohio State, they’re exceptional people off the field. That’s become the norm, not the exception. The program has worked tirelessly to shed its image as a football factory in an effort to become that comprehensive program Day alluded to. Three Ohio State signees — Miller, Garrett Wilson and Zach Harrison — are among the six finalists for the Man of the Year Award, presented by the All-American Bowl.
Meyer’s influence and his efforts to create programs like Real Life Wednesdays and BrandU have shown a true commitment to Ohio State football players and their futures. That’s led to more commitments in general — but also more commitments from truly incredible young people specifically.
Marcus Crowley is a potential star for Ohio State
When Avon (Ind.) running back Sampson James decided to flip to Indiana a day after his final Ohio State visit, there was a lot of nail biting about where the Buckeyes would turn at the running back position, a position Meyer had declared “The Cadillac Position” of college football.
That’s when Meyer’s relationships in Jacksonville, Fla. opened a door for Ohio State.
There aren’t many programs that can walk into a Florida powerhouse high school like Trinity Christian Academy and flip a recruit that had been committed to one of Florida’s big-three programs for almost a year in the blink of an eye.
But that’s exactly what Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford did when they offered Marcus Crowley following James’ flip. Crowley committed to Ohio State a month after being offered and was one of the programs most solidly committed players as Meyer’s retirement plans became public. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Crowley never wavered, and his influence at TCA can help carry the Buckeyes as they recruit future Crusaders like 2020 5-star defensive back Fred Davis and his 4-star teammate Miles Brooks.
Plus Crowley is really good at football. He was Florida’s Gatorade Player of the Year after running for 2325 yards on just 222 carries. He scored 28 touchdowns as a senior and is enrolling early with the Buckeyes, so he’ll be toting the pigskin for Alford and the Buckeyes sooner rather than later.
It’s not likely he’d be heading north if not for Meyer’s influence in Florida.
Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams and Brian Hartline
It’s very rare to have three fifth-year senior captains. It’s rarer still to have to three fifth-year captains that play the same position. It’s rarest of all to have those three players be wide receivers.
But that’s what Meyer and the Buckeyes had this season, and I don’t have any doubt when I write that without Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon leading the way among the Ohio State roster this season, things would have gone significantly different for the Buckeyes.
Those three captains led the way at a time when many other programs would’ve crumbled. But they also did have some help.
After losing position coach Zach Smith, the Buckeyes turned to Brian Hartline to calm the rough waters. The former NFL veteran and Ohio State alum picked up the pieces almost effortlessly, helping lead Zone Six into the future as one of the country’s most productive position groups.
Guess what? He can recruit, too. Hartline stepped into a firestorm and made himself invaluable to Meyer’s final staff, helping secure Jameson Williams from St. Louis and easing the mind of Garrett Wilson when he wasn’t sure what was happening in Columbus.
Hartline has been instrumental in helping Ohio State land 2020 4-star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He’s the primary reason the Buckeyes are in a position to land 4-star receiver Gee Scott on Christmas Day and he’s going to keep Ohio State in the discussion for 5-star prospects Julian Fleming and Rakim Jarrett until they make a college choice.
If Urban Meyer didn’t see something special in Hartline’s potential as a coach, he wouldn’t be at Ohio State helping lead the next generation.
Rarely will one game ever decide a recruit’s college choice. But the final edition of Urban Meyer against Michigan is something that could have a lasting impact on the future of Ohio State football.
This season could’ve been a disaster for Ohio State. It was loaded with speed bumps and reasons to fret about this, that or even this.
But when the final whistle blew at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 24, it was clear the Buckeyes were still the kings of the Big Ten. And beating a favored Wolverines team in such resounding fashion was the perfect cherry on top of Meyer’s incredible run against his rival.
Ohio State football existed before Meyer. It will exist after Meyer. But the memories of Meyer’s dominance over Michigan will be burned into the mind’s of recruits and their families and will be impossible to forget for those who have the chance to play at both schools. That bore fruit multiple times in December with Tommy Eichenberg and Zach Harrison and will continue to do so in the future.