Urban Meyer healthy, ready to start coaching Buckeyes

By Rusty Miller

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 13 2012 2:45 a.m. MST

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers a question during a press conference to introduce new assistant coaches Tom Herman, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and Everett Withers, assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio.

The Columbus Dispatch, Jonathan Quilter, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The newest member of Ohio State's alumni association shouldn't have any problem paying the annual dues.

Urban Meyer, who picked up his master's degree in 1988 from Ohio State, has coached all over the country — as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, and also at Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame.

But he's finally working where he picked up a diploma — and where he gets $4 million a year to coach football.

"I joined the alumni association," he said Thursday. "As we were going through the paperwork and everything, (I realized) that's the first time in 20-some years, other than when I was a graduate assistant, that I've coached where I'm a graduate.

"Oh, it feels great. I can't wait to put the sticker on my car. It's kind of cool to be able to say that."

The Buckeyes, coming off a dreadful 6-7 season, began conditioning workouts on Monday. The new coaching staff is still getting adjusted to the players, and the players are adapting to the new coaches.

Meyer, who received his bachelor's degree from Cincinnati, was asked what he thought of the team's work ethic so far.

"It's average right now. We'll see," he said of the players' commitment to conditioning. "I don't want to jump over the top but three days into it, this third day, you walk around saying, 'That was decent.' The first day, you kind of had a sick feeling to your stomach, like, 'What was that I just watched?' So it's getting better."

Meyer was hired in late November to take over the NCAA-sanctioned Buckeyes. He had stepped down briefly as head coach at Florida in 2009 and then for a year after the 2010 season. He has been out of coaching for a year, serving as a TV analyst.

Those who know him say he's taking better care of himself than he did at Florida.

"He is 100 percent juiced and revitalized. It's great to see," said Mickey Marotti, Meyer's strength and conditioning coach at Florida who now has the title at Ohio State of Assistant AD for Football Sports Performance and will have four full-time staffers working beneath him — just for football. "You just could see over time. He's told you his story. He looks great. The year being out of football or being away from coaching, it kind of re-energizes you."

Meyer said his health couldn't be better.

"I feel as good as I've felt in many, many years," he said. "Revitalized is a strong word and it's an appropriate word for where I am right now."

His offensive staff includes offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman, who was at Iowa State last year; co-offensive coordinator and line coach Ed Warinner, who came from Notre Dame along with tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton; wide receivers coach Zach Smith, the grandson of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce and a coach at Temple last year; and a holdover from interim coach Luke Fickell's Buckeyes staff, Stan Drayton, in charge of running backs.

"It's hard to really verbalize how awesome this really is," Smith said. "To actually (come in as an assistant) is indescribable."

Herman will call the plays, with Meyer holding veto power.

"It's an offense based on matchups," he said of the spread that the Buckeyes will run. "It's an offense based on using the entire width and length of the football field. The field is 120 yards long and 54 yards wide and in our opinion the defense only has 11 human beings to cover that much grass. We're going to use space and numbers to our advantage."

The new faces coaching defense include co-coordinator, assistant head coach and safeties coach Everett Withers, the interim head coach and coordinator at North Carolina in 2012; along with three others coming back from Ohio State's staff last year: Fickell (defensive coordinator, linebackers), Taver Johnson (cornerbacks) and Mike Vrabel (defensive line).

Because of violations committed by former coach Jim Tressel, and by players he brought in, Ohio State vacated its 2010 season, repaid bowl money from that year, suffered some recruiting limitations, was forced to go on three years of NCAA probation and, most importantly, will not be permitted to play in a bowl game after the 2012 season.

"Obviously, you would like to be playing in bowl games," Withers said. "This thing is a journey. We hope to be good this year and continue to be better in years to come. Hopefully we'll have that opportunity to play in a lot more bowl games down the road."

Meyer said he was just OK with his current recruiting class, saying he hoped to add four or five more to the 19 commitments so far.

He has enjoyed his return to coaching — particularly getting to know the players.

"I missed the players," he said. "I missed guys who really want to go shoot for the stars and kind of put a plan together and say, 'Follow this plan.' You never know when you might hit the star. I love that."

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .

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