New Staff Has Deep Buckeye Roots

There was an easy to see theme when Urban Meyer's new Ohio State assistants met the local media for the first time. Four of the five have deep Buckeye roots that they were more than happy to advertise as they introduced themselves.

The Ohio State beat reporters got their first chance to meet the new members of head coach Urban Meyer's coaching staff Thursday afternoon, and little time had passed before a theme emerged.

Four of the five new assistants bring with them well-established roots in the Buckeye State, all but new assistant head coach Everett Withers, who will also fill the roles of co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman, who was born in Cincinnati but graduated from high school and attended college in California, set the tone when he became the first to address reporters at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

"It was an opportunity of a lifetime for me," he said when asked about leaving Iowa State, where he spent the past three seasons with the same titles he will have in Columbus. "My whole family is in Cincinnati. I grew up an Ohio State fan and admired this job and this university and this program from the time I was a little kid." 

Next came new wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who grew up not only in the Columbus suburb of Dublin but also as the grandson of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce. Bruce was unceremoniously fired with one week left in the 1987 season, but he has become a fixture in the local media as a radio personality and football analyst who leaves little doubt about his passion for Buckeye football.

Smith acknowledged that influence and mentioned attending games with his grandmother, Jean, who passed away in mid-December from complications due to lung disease, but he said there was more of a draw than even that.

"It's not only the obvious family influences, but you guys know it's everywhere in this city," said Smith, who went to college at Florida, where he got his coaching start while Meyer was still in charge of the Gator program. "Friends I went to school with, teachers, everyone. You can't get away from it."

"It's the Buckeye State. Anyone in Ohio would tell you that it's what you do. You just love it if you're from here. My grandfather heightened that, but it is something that's been a part of my life since before I can remember." 

Then came Tim Hinton, a 30-year coaching veteran, has perhaps the most experience working in Ohio.

The Amanda native got his start at Wilmington College, where he did his undergraduate studies, before receiving a master's from Ohio State. He coached high school football at Chillicothe Zane Trace and Van Wert before three years at Ohio University. After a very successful 11-year tenure at Marion Harding High School, he returned to the college ranks to join former Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati. After three years in the Queen City, he went to Notre Dame. Then the call came from Meyer to come back to Columbus, where the two were both graduate assistants under Bruce.

"Let me tell you something, I'm not very tall, but right now I feel really tall," said Hinton, who will coach tight ends and fullbacks in Meyer's spread offense. "It's a tremendous opportunity to get a chance to come back to your home state. When you grow up in a little community just south of Columbus, Ohio, and your whole family has always had season tickets at Ohio State since 1950 and you've been to all kinds of Ohio State football games. Not only that, to be an assistant here in the 80s, all those things working out to be able to come back here, I'm just as excited as I can be." 

He has been close with Meyer for more than 20 years after the two met as graduate assistants at Ohio State, and he looks forward to helping the Buckeyes put a year's worth of NCAA problems in the rearview mirror.

"This is a place with a lot of proud tradition, a lot of great players, a lot of winning," Hinton said. "What we've got to do right now is really put it back on track to what it can be, and I know Coach Meyer has got a lot of those expectations."

Hinton comes to Ohio State from Notre Dame along with new offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

Warinner grew up an Ohio State fan in Strasburg before attending Mount Union for college. He received a master's from Akron, where he began his coaching career in 1984. He has worked at six more schools since leaving the Zips program, but 2012 will be his first back in his home state in nearly 30 years.

"I'm extremely excited because this is home to me," Warinner said. "This is a dream job. I grew up an Ohio State fan, came to a lot of games as a young man, and I loved the way Ohio State played football. Woody Hayes actually coached in Tuscarawas County where I'm from, and so trust me when I saw it's a privilege and an honor to be here. It was going to take a certain type of place to get me to leave Notre Dame. It had to be this place." 

Meyer said the Ohio flavor of his staff is no accident. The Ashtabula native understands how important football is here.

"I know this cuts real deep when it's for your home state, especially the high school relations part," Meyer said after his assistants were finished. "Ed Warinner was a no-brainer. He played at Mount Union. He had a great job. You don't leave that job to come here unless there's some kind of tie. The same with Tim. He had a strong, strong tie to pull him away from a good job to another great job. That's not normal. I don't think it's by coincidence." 

The new head coach himself could not hide his pride and joy in returning to the program where he was a graduate assistant in 1986 and '87, either.

"I joined the alumni association and as we were going through the paperwork and everything it's the first time in 26 years that I'm coaching where I'm a graduate," he said with a smile. "It's great. I can't wait to put the sticker on my car. It's cool to be able to say that." 

For more notes from Meyer's press availability today, see this thread on the Ask The Insiders message board.

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