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Urban Meyer Is Back, And So Is His Misplaced Loyalty

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Media Day Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Someday, years from now, when Miami has been subsumed by the ocean and polar bears have gone the way of the dodo, a curious future Buckeye fan will dig into the sordid events of 2018. He will comb the through dusty shelves of a library mezzanine to find an overlooked hard copy of the report issued by the OSU investigative committee. On its manila archival cover shall be emblazoned the six words that truly capture the ludicrous events of this season...

All this for Zach. Fucking. Smith.

For most folks around college football, Zach Smith will forever be remembered as merely a piece of human filth with a drinking problem and penchant for Florida strip joints. A light sentence, given what we know. But Buckeye fans of the non-scumbag variety will be more nuanced in our recounting of the man. We know he is not that simple, two-dimensional character of headline fame. We know that’s not the whole story. Zach Smith is not just some wife-abusing asshole.

He is also a tremendously shitty receivers coach, and an asshole in virtually every other way, too.

This article is not about Zach Smith, though. That scandal will be litigated and re-litigated at tailgates around the country and in every Hawkeye tavern. We have no need to wade into that swamp here.

Rather, this is a reminder that Urban Meyer actually stinks at hiring assistants. He hires them for bad reasons and retains them in spite of their incompetence. This year, though it can hardly cost the Buckeyes as dearly on the field as off the field, his failures will continue to bear themselves out.

Exhibit A: Billy Davis

A man whose background includes working for a lot of great coaches, but rarely any actual great performances. Anyone who’s watched even a quarter of OSU football this year knows the linebackers are atrocious on most plays, rising to a sub-par showing when they’re really clicking. It’s hard to believe a man with a Cleveland Browns pedigree to his name could do such a poor job of coaching a critical position, but here we are. The linebackers are continually out of position, confused in coverage, and take terrible angles to the ball. Otherwise, you’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie.

So was he hired and why is he still there? He was the best man in Urban’s wedding (really). If only there was a lesson to be learned here.

Exhibit B: Tim Beck

Just terrible in every way, and now even Tom Herman knows it firsthand. The only credit the man ever had to his name was once-a-century anomaly in the form of Mark Mangino’s 12-1 campaign at Kansas. Save that, his entire career has left a slug-trail of mediocrity wherever he’s been. His best performance in life was probably somehow never dying of a clipboard to the head from Bo PeLLLLini. I’m not sure what the second would be.

Exhibit C: Greg Studrawa

“Coach Stud” as the players call him comes from a similarly lofty pedigree: Maryland and LSU. His lines at LSU were arguably okay, averaging one all-conference performer per year or so, but that was also in a pre-Saban SEC. Recently, his lines have failed in several high-profile occasions—namely at Iowa and at Penn State. Isaiah Prince was a woeful liability for two seasons, and now with Michael Jordan bungling snaps at center (moved from guard) one has to wonder why Urban had so much faith in Greg Studrawa. Spoiler: he was Meyer’s OL coach at BGSU.

“I’ve known Greg for a long time, starting with my time at Bowling Green when he was my offensive line coach,” Meyer said. “I know how good of a coach he is. There aren’t many people I’d entrust our offensive line to after the job coach Warinner has done, but Greg is one of them and I’m pleased to have him join our staff.”

I’m not a fan of Studrawa and likely won’t become one. His lines survive on raw talent and don’t progress when they have weak spots (see again: Isaiah Prince). For all the Warinner lacked as a Co-OC, he was a damn good line coach.

Exhibit D: Brian Hartline

Who better to fill the smoking crater that was Zach Smith’s coaching role than Brian Hartline, a former Buckeye receiver who coached at...(checks notes)...absolutely nowhere. Zero coaching experience. Surely in a country of more than 300 million people, just one receivers coach with an experience level above zero could’ve been found. Fortunately, he can’t do a WORSE job than Zach Smith, whose complete ineptitude was enshrined after the departure of Michael Thomas and Devin Smith sent the OSU receiving corps into the wilderness for 40 years.

Other candidates include Ed Warinner as OC, Everett Withers as Co-DC, and whoever gave him that damn slice of Papa John’s.

You could very easily point to a ton of quality coaches OSU has hired under Meyer. Larry Johnson. Greg Schiano. Kerry Coombs. Tom Herman (hey, he was a good OC), and others. Ryan Day looks to be the next big thing in young coaching talent.

The problem isn’t that he never hires good ones. In fact he hires many good ones. It’s that he hires so many bad ones, and then hangs onto them for the most deeply personal reasons—reasons that nearly tubed his career. It’s entirely possible that his failings on this front will squander another supremely talented squad’s chances at a B1G title this year.

I don’t think he’ll ever learn.