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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Meyer Tackles His New Staff at Ohio St.

Urban Meyer’s first order of business as Ohio State’s coach will be taking advantage of the current N.C.A.A. contact period, which allows Meyer, the second the ink dries, to reach out to any recruit interested in signing with the Buckeyes in February. Here’s guessing there’ll be a long list of interested parties. At the same time, Meyer will attack a far more vital task: compiling his debut staff. This undertaking reminds me of Meyer’s first staff at Florida, which Meyer called yesterday “the best staff in college football history.”

Best staff in college football history? Call it, at worst, the most star-studded staff of the last decade. Actually, call it a blueprint for Meyer to consider as his works towards locating his nine assistants. Here was Florida’s staff in 2005, Meyer’s first season in Gainesville:

Steve Addazio tight ends
Stan Drayton running backs
Billy Gonzales wide receivers
Chuck Heater recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks
John Hevesy offensive line
Doc Holliday safeties
Greg Mattison co-defensive coordinator and defensive line
Dan Mullen offensive coordinator and quarterbacks
Charlie Strong co-defensive coordinator and linebackers

Yes, that’s one heck of a staff. On it you’ll find four current F.B.S. head coaches: Addazio at Temple, Holliday at Marshall, Mullen at Mississippi State and Strong at Louisville. Greg Mattison is a finalist for this year’s Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.

You also see one coach, Drayton, who is currently on staff with the Buckeyes. After four seasons at Florida — two stints interrupted by single years at Tennessee and Syracuse — Drayton joined Ohio State as Jim Tressel’s wide receivers coach back in January.

Drayton will remain on staff, though it’s believed that he’ll move back to coaching running backs. There’s one coach down: eight to go. Meyer will also retain Luke Fickell, who led O.S.U. to a battle-scarred 6-6 after taking over for Jim Tressel over the summer.

Fickell may be Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, judging by a few reports. My sense is that Fickell will coach the linebackers, as he’s done in the past, and be teamed with another coach to share coordinator duties; Fickell did so with Jim Heacock from 2005-10. Two coaches down: seven to go.

Where Meyer goes to fill out his staff remains conjecture at this point. And the final tally won’t be nailed down until January, as Meyer will be taking coaches currently employed by different programs, Drayton and Fickell notwithstanding.

But Meyer will call on a few coaches with which he has a built-in level of familiarity, such as former Stanford and Florida special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin. And he’ll need to go outside his comfort zone on offense: “I need to hire a really good offensive coordinator,” Meyer said at yesterday’s press conference. And no, Kirk Herbstreit won’t be coaching the Ohio State quarterbacks.

Meyer’s staff will go beyond the assistants on the field, however. Two reasons why his Florida program seemed to run like a well-oiled machine — until December of 2009, at least — was because of the program’s support staff. One such piece, former Florida director of football administration Mark Pantoni, will accept the same role under Meyer in Columbus.

Pantoni will coordinate Ohio State’s recruiting efforts, making him as vital a piece in Meyer’s current role, closing up Ohio State’s current class, as any coach yet to be added to his staff. In addition, Meyer will absolutely reach out to Florida strength and conditioning coach Mickey Mariotti, which is a no-brainer.

It’s an exciting time for Meyer, Ohio State and the O.S.U. fan base. The latter has visions of a star-studded staff — college football version of Blind Faith, starring Urban Meyer as Eric Clapton, Chad Morris as Ginger Baker and Mike Stoops as Steve Winwood.

And according to Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Meyer will be allocated the funds to hire the best staff possible. Smith, who is still employed, said that the university “will put in place the resources necessary to attract the staff that Urban feels he needs.” Then he winked.

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  1. Lee says:

    If he gets Chad Morris as his OC and Stoops as his DC then the rest of the Big 10 can kiss their title hopes goodbye.

    It’s not like this program is in a bad place already…get ready for the stratosphere buckeye fans..hell, you might actually beat an SEC team for a National Title..unless it’s Bama cuz Saban has some voodoo or something on Meyer.

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