Much of the credit for Ohio State's stunning turnaround and undefeated season has fallen on the deserving shoulders of Urban Meyer, but he didn't do it alone. One of the unsung heroes of the Meyer administration has been Mickey Marotti, Ohio State's Strength and Conditioning coach. He sat down and chatted with the great Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, and revealed several interesting nuggets. You can, and should, read the entire article here.
Here are some of the highlights:
I think a lot of that has to do with the adjustment to the program of how he does things, to how we do things," said Marotti. "Then, there's the buy-in factor. There's a time period of adjusting to it. These kids had to adjust to us doing things different. We do do things differently -- and that's not to say it's right or wrong, but it is different, and it took 'em awhile. They weren't used to it. 'What is this?' There was a lot of evaluating going on. 'Well, we did it this way.'
"'Just shut the hell up. Just follow our lead and good things will happen.' I think it's an adjustment period."
Wouldn't it be great if the rest of us could use the shut the hell up, follow us and good things will happen approach at our jobs? Those shiny National Titles probably help with that transition.
The concept of "buy-in", to new systems, new styles, doesn't come early. Marotti shares a particularly interesting anecdote with players who bought in, and one who took a little while.
A good example of the dynamic emerges when Marotti is asked about who the leaders of this Buckeye team are. He mentions two players: Jack Mewhort, an offensive lineman and Christian Bryant, a safety. Mewhort was "on board" when the new staff arrived, Marotti said. Bryant wasn't -- although judging by comments from the Buckeye DB last spring, this is where the process can get murky for players adapting to transition.
"I almost fought him," Marotti said of Bryant. "We almost got into a fist fight literally the first day. He said something to one of my assistants, 'Come on brother, easy.' One of the guys that I brought in said, 'A: I'm not your brother. B: Do the [bleep] right.' We were gonna go at it. Now he's one of my closest players.
Almost getting into a fist fight? I think Woody just wiped away a tear with a clenched fist, clearly, Marotti has adapted to Ohio State quicker than we thought. The changes in Bryant from last season has apparently been a total 180, and now, Bryant is a leader in the locker room as well as the playing field, and could compete for an All-American spot this season.
Marotti isn't just coaching players on proper deadlifting technique, he's a mini-CEO for the entire back-end of football operations.
The athletic trainer, the equipment manager and nutritionist, among others, all report to Marotti.
"We talk everyday," he said. "We have a performance team that I am in charge of and that's our trainers, our nutritionists, our doctors, the player development people, academics -- anybody that touches a kid day to day -- the 'grind people.' And we have that twice a week and we talk about players, everybody, so there's no stone unturned. In our staff meetings, all the time, we do personnel and we talk about every kid. They get an effort and attitude score from the training room to the weight room, academics, and if it's not a 10 or he's not getting better, 'Why is it not a 10? Why is he not getting better?' We stomp on the problem before there's a problem."
Many coaching staffs go on trips during the offseason to pick the brains of other organizations. The Buckeyes went on quite a few...
Marotti and the Buckeyes visited six: Boston College, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs: "You can always get better. It's good to see, 'this is what they have, and we need to do this, this and this to make our area better.' I think if you're open to that stuff, you're able to get better."
If you're going to model NFL franchises, I'm not sure that Cincinnati and Kansas City are the best two to go after, it could have been worse, they could have gone to Jacksonville.
Speaking of buy-in and leadership development, one guy who has apparently come the farthest is arguably Ohio State's most important player, Braxton Miller.
He was just so laid-back. I had to learn patience with him. I have ants in my pants. I'm used to quarterbacks -- Jarious Jackson, Brady Quinn, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow -- they're all workout guys. With him, he was just so laid-back, it was like 'whoa, whoa, whoa,' I wasn't used to that. That's his personality. You gotta get over that, but he's different right now. Back 20 years ago, I would've thrown stuff at him. He's a great kid. I love him. He's starting to be a leader now. He's developing some of those leadership skills."
There are other interesting tidbits about how Meyer has changed since his time at Florida, what the staff thinks of Noah Spence, what Marotti wants next for Joel Hale, and how Meyer has impacted the rest of the coaching staff. Be sure to check out the entire piece here.