Meyer has Ohio State running like Fortune 500 juggernaut

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

CHICAGO — The tailored, slate-gray suit, the scarlet and gray power tie, the blacked-out chronograph on his wrist — if you didn’t know Urban Meyer was the football coach at Ohio State, your first guess would be a Fortune 500 CEO.

That’s hardly a coincidence.

After five seasons in Columbus, Meyer has the Buckeyes running as smoothly as any business enterprise in the land. He’s won a third national championship there (to go along with two from Florida), a conference title and two division titles, and Ohio State is favored to return to the top of the Big Ten heap and compete for another college football crown.

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All that despite getting smoked 31-0 by Clemson in the playoffs last season, then watching five players depart in the first round (and a dozen total) in the NFL draft.

“It’s in the back of everyone’s mind, and whether I’ll use that during training camp or not is to be determined,” Meyer said about that season-ending loss during Monday’s session at the Big Ten media days. “But where we’re at as a team, I like where we’re at. So we’re just pushing forward.”

Pushing forward?

Like Kentucky basketball — another well-oiled sports juggernaut — Ohio State doesn’t rebuild, it simply reloads.

Last season, Meyer had three rookies in the defensive backfield, the same number he wound up losing to the pros. This time around, the quarterback competition will be limited to who’s backing up J.T. Barrett. But the coach will have to sort through seven candidates for starting right guard, leaving one rival supporter to grouse that any of the runners-up could start for nearly every other team in the conference.

Meyer’s demeanor reflects the stability he’s brought to the program, and his willingness, finally, to share some of the responsibilities of the job. That’s a far cry from the anxiety-ridden days that led to his well-publicized burnout after taking Florida to the top of the sport.

That’s probably not a coincidence, either.

“He had a (first) grandchild,” center Bill Price said. “I mean, babies — what do babies do to men? I tell him that all the time. … (In pictures) he’s holding that child like he was holding the championship trophy, and it’s the cutest thing in the world.

“I give him a hard time about it all the time,” Price added. “He has become a little bit more, I guess, quote-unquote ‘mild.’”

Linebacker Chris Worley thinks the mellower version of Meyer was mostly for the offseason. He expects the glow to wear off as soon as Meyer steps onto the practice field later this week.

“When football comes,” Worley said, rolling his eyes, “it’s football time.”

Other developments from the first day of the Big Ten meetings:

— Like Ohio State, the conference is also on solid footing, at least as measured by TV ratings and exposure. Commissioner Jim Delany essentially pioneered the move by college football leagues to build their own television networks and shows no signs of cutting back.

Delany announced the Big Ten Network will triple its prime-time national TV exposure during football season and add more basketball games in the time slot, thanks to new deals with broadcast partners FOX, ABC/ESPN and CBS.

“College football has never been healthier. It’s also never been more fragile,” Delany said, citing major issues ranging from players’ safety and lawsuits to more minor ones like scheduling conflicts on Friday night with high school football games.

The FOX and ABC/ESPN football deals run for six years, as does the basketball agreement with CBS. The conference network extended its joint venture with FOX through 2032. BTN President Mark Silverman said ratings were up 5 percent last season, when the network showed more live events and studio hours than ever before.

— Kirk Ferentz became the longest-tenured coach in major college football following Bob Stoops’ retirement from Oklahoma.

“I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it,” said Ferentz, who will begin his 19th season as head coach at Iowa. “I feel fortunate that, in 1981, I somehow, some way, ended up there as an assistant.”

The Hawkeyes are coming off an 8-5 season and Ferentz has promoted his son, Brian, to run the offense. Former coordinator Ken O’Keefe is back as the quarterbacks coach in hopes of sparking what has been a lackluster offense. Ferentz first met Stoops, who played at Iowa, in 1981 and they became co-workers for a while and good friends.

“In my mind, we lost one of the good coaches in this game, one of the best coaches that’s ever coached,” Ferentz said. “But I’m happy for him. He’s totally at peace.”

No word on when or whether Ferentz plans to call it a career.

— Ohio State, Penn State, Northwestern and Wisconsin each placed two players on the preseason Big Ten all-conference list released Monday.

Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett and defensive end Tyquan Lewis were joined on the East Division team by Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley. Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales rounded out the lineup as chosen by a media panel.

Northwestern placed running back Justin Jackson and safety Goodwin Igwebuike on the West Division team, while Wisconsin had linebacker Jack Cichy and tight end Troy Fumagalli honored. Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell also made the West lineup.

Barkley is the only junior among the group.