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Ohio State: Urban Meyer must earnestly assess Buckeyes coaching staff

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Ohio State's coaching staff has been good at making in-game adjustments but have resisted big picture changes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Ohio State: Urban Meyer must earnestly assess Buckeyes coaching staff

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – October was supposed to be a month of breathing easy for Ohio State. It’s turned into a horror story for the Buckeyes.

After a thrilling come-from-behind win at Penn State at September’s close, the expectation for October was that Ohio State would roll through Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue. Sure, there were some things to fix after an undefeated start, but it wasn’t going to be a problem getting those small items fixed against the Big Ten’s middle-tier programs as summer turned to fall.

Instead, the only real fall has been by the Buckeyes.

The run game has disappeared, and the red-zone offense has followed suit. The pass defense has gotten worse. The penalties and self-inflicted wounds have grown from a minor nuisance into a full-blown, season-altering problem. It’s clearly not just one issue plaguing Ohio State, but one glaring issue is becoming impossible to ignore: It isn’t getting better.

And it’s time that the coaching staff is held accountable for that.

On Saturday night, after surrendering 539 yards to Purdue, there wasn’t a single Ohio State defensive coach put in front of the media. Rather, junior captain Jordan Fuller sat and tried to answer a flurry of questions about what went wrong in the 49-20 loss and what’s been going wrong with the defense in the last six weeks.

The Ohio State offense, which failed once more to run the ball with any efficiency or proficiency, was represented by Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin, who did their best to explain how the vaunted offense failed to score a touchdown on any of its five red-zone appearances against the Boilermakers. It wasn’t Greg Studrawa, Kevin Wilson, Tony Alford or Ryan Day being tasked with answering those questions. Instead, it’s the young adults doing what they’re told and taught in the spotlight.

Heck, maybe it wouldn’t matter if the coaches were asked again to answer those questions. The quotes haven’t changed throughout the last five weeks. Neither have the results.

Something isn’t right. Maybe Ohio State, despite one of the country’s most talented rosters, just isn’t that good? Maybe the offseason, one that would’ve crippled most programs, is finally catching up with the Buckeyes psyche? Maybe it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Ohio State to manage the seemingly endless stream of injuries they’re dealing with at this point in the season.

Or maybe the assistant coaches in Columbus are too comfortable. In his distinguished head coaching career, Urban Meyer has fired one assistant coach, and most would agree that getting rid of wide receivers coach Zach Smith in July wasn’t going to happen if it didn’t have to. Throughout his career, Meyer earned a reputation as a boss that didn’t want “Yes men” and seemed to prefer coaches that were on their way up in the coaching profession, eager young coaches working to build their own brands. Examine the current Buckeyes coaching staff, and it’s easy to question if that’s still the case.

If the guys on his staff aren’t getting the job done, whether it be in recruiting, development, motivation or anything else, its fair to ask whether Meyer is willing to do what needs to be done in order to maintain the program he’s built. There are legitimate questions to be asked, and only Meyer is able to answer them.

He doesn’t need to answer them publicly, but right now there unbelievably seems to be little edge, little urgency and little discomfort among the Ohio State leadership. Meyer has made his mark, growing his brand on the idea that comfort is a program killer, yet here the Buckeyes are on the heels of a blowout loss to Purdue, a year after a shockingly similar outcome at Iowa.

It’s time for Meyer and his assistants to be asked and to be made to answer the tough questions. How does Ohio State’s legendary coach change the approach from here?

“I do love our coaching staff,” Meyer said Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of work to get done this week.

“I don’t know if it [needs to be] blown up. We’re 7-1 and we’ve got a chance to be 8-1, that’s the only focus. But there are some serious shortcomings right now we’ve got to get fixed.”

Those fixes start with honest assessment and conversation with the men Meyer has put in charge of his program.

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CentralBuck
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CentralBuck

Birm – When Meyer came back after his suspension, didn’t he say he was going to take a more ‘hands-off’ approach? I am paraphrasing of course, but that was the bottom line. I just don’t think he can leave well enough alone. I know that the o-line has had injuries, but it’s hard to visualize o-lines that blocked for Carlos Hyde, Zeke, Weber, and Dobbins all of a sudden not being able to tie their shoes…and to add insult to injury, Michigan, who couldn’t run to save their lives, have found a resurgence under the coach that made the Ohio… Read more »

jbirmmd
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jbirmmd

He was going to allow the offensive coaches to keep doing the play calling, that was my understanding. The defense has always been on the coordinators and he has been in charge of special teams (how has that been working out?).

banddaddy
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banddaddy

My focus is on 2 areas only… LB’s and OLine. Question… Why do we not hire within where we’ve had successful coaches? Example… Fickell always had productive LB’s (we can see w/less stars and etc). Yet when he leaves… He likely takes some of his understudies w/him and we don’t pursue them. We go elsewhere (Bill Davis). Tom Herman leaves and we did hire within (Ed Warriner… not a true understudy) but we move that successful OLine coach to OC but then instead of hiring/promoting w/in we hire outside of the program (Studrawa). I’m convinced many of the hires are… Read more »

dnav
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dnav

Lincoln Riley knew what to do.

Buckeye Phan
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Buckeye Phan

Great read Birm, and it went right to the heart of the matter, the assistant coaches. Something has to be done and soon. There doesn’t seem to be any urgency among the staff. I understand that Urban will be hard pressed to fire someone after one loss, but the trend has been here all month as you mentioned. Back to the old saying about insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Time to stop the insanity!

Jeff
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Jeff

AFTER the season ends, some assistant changes HAVE to be made. This has been a long 24 months since just befor the Clemson debacle – we have issues but they can be fixed.
Urban will earn his paycheck these next few months.

jbirmmd
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jbirmmd

Great article.

I have little hope of change, but we can always hope.

Buckeyedude
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Buckeyedude

I hate to be a negative Ned, but I swear this season has been cursed since the summer and the Zack Smith firing, and now Bosa out for the season. You could almost sense another Iowa-type loss coming.

Hopefully it doesn’t hurt recruiting. Go Buckeyes.

Meatchicken Sux
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Meatchicken Sux

Schiano, Grinch, Davis, Studrawa, all need to go. I would hire Stoops as D-coordinator, find a new O-line coach, and d-backs coach. Larry Johnson, Day, and Hartline are the only coaches that should remain.

Jeff
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Jeff

I would NOT hire Stoops or fire Schiano. Durkin may be available to coach lbs next year though…

Jeff
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Jeff

Also, what’s going on with J Proctor and B White – are they that worse than what’s been playing safety this season? Anyone know?

Winn Shoal
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Winn Shoal

Day should take an HC job somewhere. Day took control of the offense and could not keep up with Purdue. Threw the ball 73 times. Anyone seriously think Meyer had a hand in throwing it 73 freakin times?

Jamie Lancaster
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Jamie Lancaster

I assume you mean Mike Stoops, not Bob Stoops?

David
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David

Birm – The defense has been an issue all year – not just last night’s game. Do you think this hurts Schiano’s chances at an HC job? I’m sure somebody will take a chance on him, but will it be a school he wants with the money he wants?

I like Schiano and hope stays a long time. But Meyer must think he going places since he’s made a contingency plan (Alex Grinch).

Birm

Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for elevenwarriors.com and Landof10.com and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.

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