“It’s not my offense, it’s Coach Meyer and Ohio State’s offense,” he said this spring when asked about what changes might come during his tenure. “My job is to make sure that we continue to operate at a high level and then to enhance the offense as we move forward.
That doesn’t mean he won’t have a say in what Ohio State does, though. Although his emphasis with the offensive line will remain – to the point where he’ll spend games on the sideline so OSU doesn’t lose his valuable in-game adjustments – Warinner has been heavily involved in meetings with the various offensive position groups.
At his Ohio State media day press conference Aug. 22, Meyer shed some light on what Warinner’s role will look like after his promotion from offensive coordinator.
“It's really not it's not a dictatorship. It's never been that way,” Meyer said. “We have an offense. He's a very good manager. One of his strengths obviously he's a heck of a coach, but he's an organizer, but it's not this guy does this and all those other guys below, it's a team concept and he's done very good.
“What I can't do is let him take away from that offensive line. Offensive line is the most critical, that has to be the best coached position on your team. We're very fortunate with what's happened the last few years here, so we can't lose that. We can't dilute that with calling a play… I hear people say, ‘I'm going to be the play caller this year.’ Great. Wonderful. I'd rather make sure those five guys are ready to rock and roll, and those plays usually work better.”
That description seems to resemble at least some aspects of Warinner’s last stint as an offensive coordinator. From 2007-09, Warinner presided over one of the most successful stretches in KU program history, including the notable 2007 campaign that rewrote the school’s record book and finished with an Orange Bowl win, a 12-1 record and a No. 7 ranking.
Penn offensive coordinator John Reagan, who served as Warinner’s run game coordinator at Kansas, said Warinner’s brilliance showed in his organization and idea sharing.
“Ultimately, one of the things he was great at was using the staff to help put ideas together,” Reagan said. “If there’s a better organizer out there, I’m not sure who it is. He did a good job of putting it together in packages where it made sense and it was easy to teach and easy to make adjustments.”
Nothing in Meyer’s program is improvised, and Warinner has been clear from the start of his tenure about how he plans to lead the Ohio State offense.
“I’m not going to try to do anything other than continue to carry the banner of execution,” he said.
For that task, Ohio State has found the perfect man. Todd Reesing, who started at quarterback for Kansas from 2007-09, said Warinner was seemingly omnipresent at practices and always had something to offer.
“The guy’s a machine,” Reesing said. “He keeps going, and I don’t know how his voice didn’t get more hoarse when he was coaching at Kansas. He takes a look at every part of the offense. When we’re running team drills, he’s coaching everybody up. He’s looking over at what the receivers are doing, what the running backs are doing, what the tight ends are doing.
“If they need to make some adjustments, he’s going to be vocal about it. He’s not the type of guy just to let it go. He wants everybody to succeed. He’d much rather say something in practice than to have it be an error in the game.”
At Kansas, Warinner ran practices with the same rapid-fire pace that Meyer does at Ohio State, doing so to try to make the actual games slow down for his players. His practices were marked by an intense environment designed to extract everything he could out of his players.
“He was very demanding on the practice field,” Reesing said. “He’s kind of a go-getter. He wants people to practice at a fast pace and he demands a lot out of the players. I think it comes from that whole concept that if you practice at a fast pace and practice is tough and loud, when you get to the game things will be easier than you’re used to.”
Warinner grew up playing quarterback, and the men who worked with him say that detail shows in the way he grasps all aspects of offense. A diverse list of assignments early in his career didn’t hurt, either. As an assistant, Warinner has coached running backs, interior offensive line, offensive line and quarterbacks in addition to serving as a run game coordinator and an offensive coordinator.
“He knows what good looks like,” said Bill Whittemore, who was an offensive graduate assistant at Kansas from 2006-08. “He’s one of those guys that doesn’t have to see the whole play unfold to know what went wrong. From that standpoint, I would say he’s not going to have an issue. He’ll probably be focusing more on his offensive linemen, but if he sees a hole open up and the running back didn’t hit right where he should, he’ll know what needs to change in order for that not to happen.”
Warinner’s eye works just as well in real-time game situations as it does on the practice field.
Ohio State senior left tackle Taylor Decker described in vivid detail why the Buckeyes value Warinner’s presence down on the sideline as opposed to the press box, noting that he often makes instant in-game adjustments to neutralize defensive advantages or exploit any weaknesses. Warinner worked out of the press box when he was at Kansas, but Decker sees even bigger things to come with Warinner remaining on the sidelines at Ohio State.
“It’s weird because he remembers every play and every little thing that happens,” Decker said. “He can just see things on the field as they pan out and he’s great at making in-game adjustments for us. That’s huge. You have to be able to adjust throughout the game because teams are going to do things that you didn’t necessarily expect. He’s going to be right there in front of us being able to draw up things right there with us and be able to calm us down. I think that’s going to be huge.”