Past Success Attracts New Talent

Part V of a weeklong series on Urban Meyer's coaching tree examines what happens when Meyer has to replace an assistant coach.

Success on the recruiting trail may be the lifeblood of the Ohio State program, but head coach Urban Meyer’s core competency of developing assistant coaches may prove equally fruitful to the Buckeyes’ long-term success.

At Florida, the attrition that came with the exits of assistants like Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong ultimately took a toll on Meyer and the program. Thus far in Columbus, though, that has not been the case. Meyer’s first two hires – defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash – are now viewed as invaluable additions. Ash’s pass defense helped the Buckeyes’ secondary make dramatic strides in passing yards allowed, while Johnson has helped develop Joey Bosa into a player being mentioned as a potential No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick.

Part I: Meyer's Tree Blossomed In 2014
Part II: Why Meyer's Plan Works
Part III: Herman Branches Out To Houston
Part IV: Meyer's Mentors Paid It Forward

Meyer is mentoring assistants who could one day coach against him, and there seems to be no shortage of future head coach prospects on the current staff. However, the fourth-year Ohio State coach has discovered a benefit that comes with the downside of training people to leave his staff. Enough assistants have been successful that one of the biggest challenges Meyer has faced – replacing coaches – has become easier.

When running backs coach Tony Alford left Notre Dame for the same position at Ohio State (with the added title of associate head coach) this spring, he noted that the chance to work for Meyer was too good a career opportunity to pass up.

“It was an agonizing decision because I had been there a long time, but for my professional goals I thought this would be best for me,” Alford said. “That’s not taking anything away from (the Notre Dame administration). They were fabulous and I have such great respect and admiration for them and that university, but for my professional goals, I had to do this. I thought it would be good for me to put on my résumé as I move forward in this profession.”

That type of move – from one role as an assistant to another – made when Alford left Notre Dame is one that Meyer says he hopes will never happen on his staff. Three years in, no member of Meyer’s staff has left the program to take a job as an assistant coach in college.

“There’s positives and negatives to everything,” Meyer told “The positives are that guys are getting great opportunities and the negative is I have turnover. I could never see a guy leaving here for a lateral move. Every head coach we’ve lost has been a head coach or went to the NFL.”

Between Alford, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, offensive line coach Ed Warinner and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, there are plenty of head coaching candidates currently on staff at Ohio State. Meyer fields calls about them on a regular basis, and he’s prepared to continue to lose coaches if his teams sustain this run of success.

“Not every AD but almost every AD, when they have an opening I get a phone call,” Meyer said. “They always ask if I have someone out there who’s ready for that job. That’s every year. There will be 10 openings, and I’ll get seven or eight calls from an AD or someone in the search firm who will say, ‘Who do you have that’s ready to go?’ That’s really neat to have that.”

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