The further the Ohio State football team gets away from the Urban Meyer era, the softer they have become. Whether it was Meyer’s coaching style, his relentless work ethic during the off-season, his tireless sermons about his hate for That Team Up North, or a combination of several or all of these perspectives, the truth remains that Ohio State isn’t nearly as mentally or physically as tough under Ryan Day’s leadership as they were under Meyer’s.
It is absolutely true that Meyer doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation outside of football. Even within the game itself, his reputation is a little rocky when it comes to some of his methods. His time in the NFL was a complete debacle. But there is one thing you can’t deny, and that is the success Meyer experienced leading college football programs.
Outside of Nick Saban in Alabama, Meyer is the most successful college football coach alive today. He won national championships at two different programs, immediately turning four different programs around during his career.
This isn’t a plea to fire Day and back the Brinks truck up at Meyer’s front door. Although some Ohio State football fans would like to see that happen, that isn’t even a thought that has crossed Gene Smith’s mind at this point. Especially since he is in the final six months of his tenure as Athletic Director of Ohio State before he begins his retirement. There is a zero percent chance Smith fires Day on his way out, and even a lesser percentage that he would do so in order to hire Meyer.
What has occurred since Meyer departed the program is a slow decay of the style of winning that Meyer created. It was a culture of accountability, albeit made through fear, that caused every coach in the program to give his best effort relentlessly every single day.
From the coordinators down through the assistant strength and conditioning coaches, everyone was made to give their best effort and to care more about beating that team at the end of the schedule than anything else. They were made to eat, breathe, and think about TTUN every waking moment. That’s what Meyer meant when he said, “You respect the rivalry by working it every single day.”
Day has repeated this quote on several occasions, but it has become plainly obvious to me that he doesn’t believe it in his soul as Meyer did. He doesn’t eat, breathe, and think about TTUN like Meyer did. He doesn’t obsess about winning that game at the end of November, and because of that, the program has become soft.
Sure, they still do mat drills at 6 am, tire tug of wars at the end of off-season practices, and film study until their eyes grow heavy and they drift off to sleep. But everyone is doing that as well. What’s missing is the edge that Meyer provided. No one is scared of Day. He’s a great guy. A real swell man. He is no butt-kicker. He doesn’t instill fear into the coaching staff, the players, and more importantly, the opponent.
Eleven wins is great. Going to the CFP every year will be nice. But don’t expect much more, Buckeye Nation. As much as we all want Angry Ryan Day, and Aggressive Ryan Day, what we really have is nice Ryan Day. A nice eleven-win program. A soft Ohio State football team.