CHICAGO – Urban Meyer doesn’t dwell on a 31-0 loss to Clemson in a semifinal of the College Football Playoff last season. But he hasn’t forgotten it, either.
At one point during the first day of Big Ten Football Media Days on Monday, July 24, the Ohio State coach said that was in the past. But later in the day, he revisited his response and acknowledged it was tough to take.
Not only was the shutout loss unexpected, it also was the first time one of Meyer’s teams had been shut out since he became a college head coach.
“We’ve kind of let that one go. We’ve been known in the past to kind of use different things for motivation. That’s gone, that ship has sailed. We have not addressed it or talked about it,” Meyer said at first.
“Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense. We’re moving forward. We’re just pushing forward,” he said.
Later he said, “It was awful. I could sugar coat it and tell you something different, but it was awful. It forces you to re-evaluate everything you do and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
That re-evaluation led to two OSU coaching changes. Ed Warinner was out as offensive coordinator and Tim Beck did not return as quarterbacks coach, and Kevin Wilson was in as offensive coordinator and Ryan Day came aboard as quarterbacks coach.
“Kevin Wilson is the first established offensive coordinator I’ve ever hired. This is a veteran coach who has led some of the top offenses in America so he has had a lot of input in our offense,” Meyer said.
“Ryan Day is a star in coaching. His relationship with J.T. and the rest of the quarterbacks is very strong. It’s still going to be the Ohio State offense. We had some weaknesses a year ago, I’d like to see some improvement,” he said.
Day was an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers who became available when Chip Kelly was fired as the 49ers coach. Wilson resigned as Indiana’s head coach in December.
“Ryan Day is a guy I tried to get before, but he wasn’t available. Kevin Wilson, I didn’t anticipate that one but I admired his ability from afar. The timing worked out pretty good,” Meyer said.
Meyer didn’t point fingers at the former assistant coaches and both are employed by successful football programs now – Warinner at Minnesota and Beck at Texas.
He did indicate quarterback J.T. Barrett took too much heat for last year’s inconsistent offense, though.
“J.T. Barrett broke a bunch of records as a (redshirt) freshman. That’s because the receivers were outstanding. We struggled at times last year, because our offensive line was not up to speed, our tight ends were not good and our receivers weren’t playing up to potential. So the quarterback takes the hit,” Meyer said.
Some other thoughts from Meyer:
• Right guard is the only position open on the offensive line and as many as seven players are competing for that spot.
Matthew Burrell, Malcolm Pridgeon, Branden Bowen, Josh Myers and Thayer Munford are among the players Meyer mentioned who are in the running for this position.
• The starting positions at wide receiver and tight end are “wide open,” Meyer said.
“Tight end is wide open. It was not one of our strengths a year ago. To me, the wide receiver position is wide open. We were not where we needed to be a year ago,” he said.
• Junior college transfer Kendall Sheffield, who began his college career at Alabama, will push for playing time at cornerback.
• Meyer thinks the Big Ten is more respected now than when he was hired at Ohio State.
“I’ve coached in the SEC East when that was one of the strongest (divisions) in the country and I think the Big Ten East now is every bit as strong as I can remember the SEC East. Recruiting in 2012, I was shocked at the disrespect the Big Ten had. I don’t feel that at all anymore. I feel a great amount of respect nationally for the Big Ten,” he said.
• He thinks the University of Cincinnati and Luke Fickell were a good fit for each other.
“I think it’s the right job for him at the right time,” Meyer said about the long-time OSU defensive coordinator.
Jim Naveau writes for the Lima News, an AIM Media Midwest affiliate.