How Urban Meyer Changed The Big Ten
This week's This and That: why 11/28/11 is a very important day for the Big Ten, a record-breaking sequel and when Urbz says so.
The Day That Changed Everything
The European Renaissance began around the 14th century. It was a new way of thinking and its influences could be seen in art, literature, politics, architecture and science. Most scholars mark it as the beginning of the modern age. While you can't assign an exact date to the beginning of the European Renaissance, you most certainly can point to a specific date for the renaissance of Big Ten football. That day is November 28th, 2011; the day Ohio State hired Urban Meyer as its head coach. Meyer did not change anything so flowery as art or literature, rather, he changed recruiting in the conference. It wasn’t just the type of players he began recruiting that led to the change, he began using a tactic Big Ten programs, although legal, stayed away from. Previous to his arrival, Big Ten coaches had a “gentlemen’s agreement” to stop recruiting a player once they had committed to a school. The conference has always been somewhat provincial and slow to change its thinking on various matters and this, like many others, was an idea hurting the competitiveness of its members. While Big Ten coaches may have backed off, did they really believe guys like Nick Saban were going to? Coming from the SEC, Meyer certainly knew they wouldn’t, so when he kept recruiting players, who had committed to other programs, it ruffled a few feathers. Specifically, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema was very vocal about the tactic and he, along with Athletic Director and noted Buckeye hater Barry Alvarez, complained to the conference’s commissioner. That’s right, they complained about a recruiting practice which WAS NOT against the rules. Bucky Badger’s oh-so-likeable coach said, “I can tell you this, we at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form.” Bielema said this about 10 months before leaving Wisconsin to take the job at Arkansas…an SEC school. Whether it was liked or not by other Big Ten coaches and AD’s, the change needed to happen. Ten SEC schools were rated higher in the recruiting rankings than all but two Big Ten teams at that time. Those ten SEC schools included Vanderbilt. VANDERBILT!
When Meyer widened the Buckeyes’ recruiting scope to a national search from an Ohio-centric one, it created a domino effect in the conference. Most of those Ohio 3-star players, who filled out Buckeye recruiting classes, were no longer being pursued as Meyer began to bring in the best high school players regardless of location (yes, I know there are exceptions and I detailed that a bit in my last blog). Those Ohio players began looking elsewhere and no other Big Ten program has benefited from this more than Michigan State. Head Coach Mark Dantonio has a roster filled with Ohio kids, who play with a chip on their shoulder every time they step on the field with the Buckeyes. 24 of the 109 players listed on the Spartans’ 2017 roster are Ohio high school products. Those Ohio kids, many of which would have been recruited to Ohio State before Meyer arrived, have helped create some real dogfights between the teams at times over the last few season. But, I think it is obvious the talent gap is beginning to widen. Although I don’t think you’ll the Buckeyes consistently put 48-3 boot stompings on Sparty year after year like we saw last fall. I, also, don’t think you’re going to see many 17-16 nail-biters either.
Meyer began bringing in players who were faster and more skilled and the rest of the conference was forced to try to keep up. Some did, some didn’t and it isn’t hard to see who falls into which category. Penn State went from 48th in the recruiting rankings just a few short years ago to fourth this year. The Nittany Lions are a solid number two, behind the Buckeyes, as the conference’s best program (I realize Joe Pa U fans will disagree with this, but we all know they tend to deny obvious facts). In the past, the Buckeyes battled Michigan over top-flight recruits. Now, they battle it out with Penn State more often than not.
Nebraska is a good example of not keeping up with recruiting the type of faster, more skilled player Meyer has been signing. In 2011, the Huskers rallied to defeat the Buckeyes 34-27 after Braxton Miller left the game with an injury; in 2012, Meyer’s first year in Columbus, Ohio State got a measure of revenge with a 63-38 win. Fast forward to the past two seasons after the teams had not met for three years. That’s three years of Meyer recruiting freakishly fast and athletic players and the Huskers still bringing in the same level of talent they were in 2011. In their last two meetings, Ohio State has rolled the Huskers by a combined 118-17. The most glaring difference in the two teams, in my opinion, is speed. The Buckeyes are just plain THAT much faster than the Huskers.
I don’t think there’s any question the Big Ten is better because of Urban Meyer. Some may not have liked the changes at first and still may not. But, I don’t think anyone can dispute the changes which came about are for the better.
Yeah, That’s Fast II
Last week I wrote about Buckeye cornerback Kendall Sheffield running a very impressive 6.71 in the 60-meter dash at an indoor meet in Nashville. Well, he managed to top that this past weekend by running a school record 6.63 at a meet on OSU’s campus. Success on the track is nothing new for Sheffield, according to Eleven Warriors. In high school he was a 300-meter hurdle state champion and a two-time 110-meter hurdle champion. He had the fastest time in the country in the 110 hurdles his senior year.
When is it officially spring? When Urban Meyer says so. Buckeye fans don’t need to look at a calendar to see when spring begins for them. All we do is wait for Urbz to tell us when it’s time for spring practice. The Buckeye boss has decided March 6th is the magic day. Meyer’s team will, also, practice March 8th before taking a week off for spring break. The Buckeyes return to the field March 19th and will have four weeks of practices leading up to the Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on April 14th.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!