So often society defines the greatness of coaches by their records, and rightfully so. The names of Bear Bryant, Tom Landry, Joe Torre and others are synonymous with greatness throughout the history books. We remember their legacies and accomplishments as their names are sketched in stone like kings of old. As the 2014 season unfolds to one final game, Urban Meyer is writing a legacy of his own and providing the hallowed halls of college football with one of the greatest coaching performances the game has ever seen.
After Thursday’s Sugar Bowl victory against the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, Meyer moved into 13th place all time in bowl wins by a coach with eight. While that accomplishment (tying him with the likes of Nick Saban, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops) is impressive in its own right, it pales in comparison to what Meyer has built at Ohio State.
In just his third year in Columbus, the plan Meyer laid forth in 2012 is culminating in success that many did not foresee this season. Heading into 2014, there was no denying the talent Ohio State boasted on their roster. But as many teams have found out in the past, talent alone does not win championships.
Two years in the planning, Meyer’s 2014 Buckeyes became the team he has envisioned for years – even dating back to his time with Florida. In a game that glorifies individual performance perhaps more than any other “team” sport on the planet, Meyer crafted a mindset within his players that his team would only succeed on the shoulders of a unified group of young men.
Few expected Ohio State to be playing for the National Championship with Braxton Miller leading the team behind center.
Many scoffed at the thought of the Buckeyes taking the field January 12th with backup J.T. Barrett calling the shots following Miller’s injury.
It was simply unthinkable that Meyer’s squad could even entertain the idea of competing for the title after Barrett’s broken ankle forced Ohio State to turn to third string quarterback Cardale Jones before the BIG10 Championship.
Meyer’s Buckeyes weren’t given much of a chance against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Fans and pundits around the country had little hope for Ohio State against Saban’s “complete” Alabama team.
Despite all of the legitimate reasons why the Buckeyes should falter, Meyer has continued his team forging forward with momentum that was once unimaginable. In fact, one would think these young Buckeyes relish the opportunity to play with their backs against the wall:
The Buckeyes when they haven’t been favored under Urban Meyer… pic.twitter.com/INqehSHWD2
— Tony Gerdeman (@GerdOZone) January 2, 2015
Facing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was about more than just the 2014 title – it was about the Big10, Ohio State’s struggles against the SEC and Meyer proving once and for all he is one of our generation’s top coaches.
After bolting from Florida in 2010 after an 8-5 record, Meyer faced an uphill battle taking over a 2011 Buckeyes’ squad that posted the school’s first losing record in 24 years. The program was in disarray following the Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor tattoo scandal.
In the three years since, all Meyer has done is post a record of 37-3 and (as of last night) snapped the Buckeyes’ 10-game losing streak to SEC teams. It has been a short career that has been overwhelmingly defining, which is saying a lot considering Meyer won two titles and seven bowls during his time with the Gators.
Despite all of his accomplishments, 2014 has shown the college football world what Meyer is truly capable of as a coach. In the face of the ultimate adversity, Urban Meyer has excelled. Not only is he winning games with a third string quarterback, but he is winning games with a quarterback that is completely different than the two who played the majority of the season before him.
Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman crafted a gameplan this season around Miller and Barrett – two quarterbacks who excel in the run game and are accurate in the short to intermediate passing game. With Cardale Jones, the plan changed. While Jones can run the football, he is hardly as shifty and elusive as his predecessors. Instead of forcing Jones into previous strategies, Meyer and the OSU coaches crafted the offense around the team’s new-found strengths. Placing an emphasis on Ezekiel Elliot‘s underrated rushing abilities and Jones’s absurdly powerful right arm, the Buckeye offense redefined itself and began reaching new heights.
“The one thing that [Jones] does is he has a tremendous arm,” Nick Saban said. “And they have some very talented receivers. And [that] became very apparent in the last two games because of the quarterback…Now, they were a little different [under Barrett], [He] was a great runner and he was a good passer. But it wasn’t so obvious when you watched the film all season long that they had these great skill players that could really make plays down the field.”
It takes a special kind of coach to radically shift gears beginning with the team’s 12 game of the season. But to make that kind of bold shift and to execute it successfully, that is how legends are made. And this 2014 season for the Buckeyes has all the makings of being one for the ages.
There are many years and endless stories left to be told between Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes, but one thing is for sure – 2014 is the year in which Meyer solidified himself as one of the top collegiate coaches of this generation. And despite all of the increasing praise and ballooning salaries coming from *TTUN, Columbus is already housing the best coach in college football right now.
*the team up north
Cover Photo: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
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