The next six weeks is the busiest and most hectic for a collegiate football coach at a successful Division I program like Ohio State.
As soon as the Michigan game is over, coaches begin planning the next few weeks of being on the "fast track." After reviewing and grading the Michigan film, these coaches meet with their players to tell them what is expected in terms of classroom and workouts until the first bowl practice.
The most immediate schedule the coaches are concerned with revolves around recruiting. The week following Thanksgiving weekend is the first time college coaches really have the opportunity to get into high schools to check on senior prospects. Unless the athletes have attended a college game, it's the first time the college coach has seen the prospect since summer camp or the previous recruiting spring.
Contact period -- meaning the first time a collegiate coach can actually talk face to face with prospects off-campus -- begins the last weekend of November. It's imperative that the college coach be in the homes of his top prospects that first weekend. First impressions are important and the coach needs to be well organized and have a good game plan ready for each recruit and his parents.
Besides visiting recruits in their homes or schools, coaches are busy setting up the official visits of those prospects coming to campus for the first big recruiting weekend of December. Continual contact with the recruiting office, making sure every detail about each visit is solidified, keeps the coach on pins and needles.
Meanwhile, he is on the road making sure transcripts have arrived, picking the proper student host, setting academic appointments and making recruit travel plans are just a few things that must be finalized before a player can visit.
After traveling the country for the week, coaches return to campus for the weekend. Besides it being a recruiting weekend, there's a good chance the team will also have its first bowl practice. Even though the opponent hasn't been identified, the team gets back to the basics in the first practice.
You can see how hectic it is for the coaching staff. They are running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to conduct practice, spend time with recruits, and making plans for the next, equally as crazy, weekend. You see, Sunday, it all starts all over.
Add to this routine the need to start reviewing film and setting the game plan once the bowl opponent is announced. It's easy to see how a college coach can put in 80- to 90-hour work weeks in December. But if you're at an Ohio State, you want a very busy December. If you're not busy, you're home for the holidays. That's not good. No time to rest is a good thing if you're a Buckeye coach.
Capitalize On The Success
The recent Ohio State victory over the Michigan Wolverines was huge in many ways for the Buckeyes and the program -- especially in terms of recruiting.
First of all, winning four out of the last five games (two of them at The Big House), gives the Buckeyes a huge recruiting advantage in the Midwest. Buckeye coaches should take advantage of the recent success in terms of mailings to recruits and high school coaches, taking advantage of the many big plays by putting them on the highlight tape, and promoting the successes in the next year's media guide. The athletic department, football program and the sports information department need to capitalize on the current domination over the Wolverines.
We did the same thing a few years ago after our back to back victories over Notre Dame. Like Michigan, Notre Dame is a top competitor in terms of recruiting. We made different note cards from photographs of the game. These included one of Eddie George breaking a long run, Terry Glenn making a spectacular catch and Mike Vrabel sacking Notre Dame's Ron Powlus. We featured the big plays on our highlight tape and you bet every time a coach talked to a recruit courted by both teams, the game would assuredly be mentioned. It's crucial to take advantage of the situation at hand.
Fortunately, Ohio State traditionally gets the bulk of the best football talent in Ohio. That's been the situation from Woody to Earle to Coop to Tressel. There are times however, that some great ones do leave the state. The main contender for this talent has been Michigan. There's not enough high school talent in Michigan for the Wolverines to stay exclusively at home. They need to venture outside of Michigan for about 70 percent of their talent.
It's only natural that the fertile recruiting fields of Ohio are their target. When you beat Michigan it makes Ohio-bred players like Pierre Woods, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, the Massey brothers and Mario Manningham wonder if they made a huge mistake in traveling north to Ann Arbor. More importantly, it puts doubt in the minds of Ohio high school football players who are considering That School Up North, as Woody used to say.
Don't think for a minute the recent domination over Michigan doesn't affect the thinking of broadcasters, sports analysts and sports writers. This has a direct affect on polls and rankings. This again, has an affect on recruits and high school coaches.
The bottom line is that as a program has success over its main rival and rivals, the window to take advantage can close at any instant. It's crucial to make hay while the sun shines. The Buckeyes can gain a huge recruiting advantage if they can turn this hay into a bumper crop of recruiting talent.
Parting Shots and Last Thoughts
A few more comments on OSU's 25-21 win at Michigan.
* On the thrill of victory -- This is 364 days of celebration. To score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and win the game up there, that is special.
* On the play of Troy Smith -- Who would have thought just a few games ago that Troy Smith would throw for 300 yards against Michigan? Just an unbelievable performance. He is playing the best football of his career right now. When you can throw the ball as well as Troy is throwing it and also are able to run it as well as he can, that puts a lot of pressure on a defense. Right now, he is throwing that ball accurately. And, as a defensive back, right now you can not break on his ball quick enough to make an interception.
* On the great catch by Anthony Gonzalez -- That play by Anthony Gonzalez reminded me of the Terry Glenn and Cris Carter days when those guys would go up above and just snatch the ball out of the air. That was huge.
* On Antonio Pittman's emergence -- The Minnesota game was Antonio Pittman's coming out game. Each week, he has gotten better. His vision seems to be getting better. He runs with much more power than he did earlier. He is becoming an all-around player. He needs to get better with pass protection a bit, but I think he has emerged as one of the best running backs in the Big Ten.
* On Santonio Holmes' impact and future -- The thing about Santonio Holmes what he brings to the table besides his speed and ability is great confidence. He's going to make big plays. He's like the Chris Spielman of the offense. I think he will have a great pro career. Right now, I think he has a legitimate chance to be a first-round draft pick.
* On Ted Ginn Jr.'s play late in the game -- Every time Ted Ginn touches the ball, there is a chance it will be a touchdown. He maybe needs some more defined route running. But he is a special guy. You can't take him out of the lineup because he is that important.
* On playing without Bobby Carpenter -- It's tough when you have a Bobby Carpenter out of the lineup because he is a good pass rusher and a good pass defender. He's a dual threat player. He's a great athlete. He's like a Mike Vrabel. He should go to the pros and have a very good career in a 4-3 defense.