B1G 2013 // Ohio State's smartest guys in the room

Jamie Sabau

How do you improve on a 12-0 season in the first year of a coaching reign? You give all the assistants raises and lose none of them to other programs or the NFL. Condolences to the rest of the Big Ten: the smartest guys in the room are wearing scarlet and gray.

Go back two years. Go back and look at the where Ohio State football was just 700-ish days ago. There was no Jim Tressel. There was no Terelle Pryor. No Devier Posey. But there was hope, for some reason. Luke Fickell, long the assistant of the Buckeyes, was at the helm ready to take over a captain-less ship on a quest to raise a Big Ten championship from the ashes of Tattoo-Tressel-Gold-Pants-Gate. And it almost worked, too.

Well, not really.

But then! Then things started to happen! All of the sudden, after a loss to Michigan, no one was talking about bowl bans, or a rematch against Florida, or anything like that. Columbus had different things on its mind after that wretched 2011 season. Two words, and another in a parenthetical: Urban (Motherf*ckin') Meyer.

The results of Meyer's first year at Ohio State were interesting, to say the least. The lede graph in the story that was 2012 will always be the 12-0 record, and a season cut short by a bowl ban. But dig into the story and you find some very interesting points. For starters, you saw Braxton Miller begin to take shape not only as a game-changer in the Big Ten, but as a big time player on the national stage. You saw a team with resiliency, much more than they ever showed in 2011, winning tough overtime games against Purdue and at Wisconsin. And finally, you saw a team battle That Team Up North, and beat them with suffocating defense. It was a weird year, but it was a great one, too.

And it sets a fantastic stage for 2013.

Head Coach Urban Meyer

What the Buckeyes do on the field will likely fall completely on the shoulders of a man standing off it; Meyer is the identity of this team for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because he has put himself there. When he gave his first press conference as head coach of the Buckeyes, there was a difference vibe in the room from the days when Tressel stood at the podium. There was a certain command that was different from the glory days of the sweater vest. To a lot of people, it was a striking but all together necessary change, given how Tressel's tenure at Ohio State ended.

Meyer started his tenure at Ohio State with a bang, out-recruiting his Big Ten brethren and perhaps scaring off one of his most vocal detractors. That is the effect of a 12-0 season when, in reality, your game plan is only running at about 70% efficiency. The questions, after that 12-0 season, remained about whether or not Ohio State would beat Notre Dame (probably) or Alabama (probably not) in a BCS Championship Game, but those questions were always going to remain unanswered.

But Meyer was probably fine with that, and he and his staff have remained completely intact, knowing that Meyer's second season usually ends rather well. To the record books:

Team Year Record Conference Record Final Ranking
Bowling Green 2002 9-3 6-2, MAC Unranked
Utah 2004 12-0 7-0, MWC #4 (AP)
Florida 2006 13-1 7-1, SEC #1, BCS Champions

Just a reminder: this is Meyer's second year at Ohio State. If history is any indicator, Buckeye fans should be in for some good times.

Requisite Urban Meyer .GIF

Roll that beautiful bean footage, y'all.

Meyer smirking/laughing at the end = #SWOON

Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell

Meyer isn't alone, and that really must be said. He has with him a very important cast of other characters rounding out what is one of the best staffs in the country. That starts with Luke Fickell, he of the falling-on-the-grenade-that-was-2011, running the defense. Buckeye fans will always give Fickell the benefit of the doubt for taking one for that team. Meyer realized this, too, and after posting 12-0 in the first year, the entire staff, got paid.

While Fickell didn't directly receive a raise, his stature on a national level has gone through the roof in the last few years, winning the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2010. While it wouldn't be a big surprise to see Fickell remain in Columbus for the foreseeable future (read: until Meyer retires), it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see him leave to more effectively begin his career as a head coach.

Fickell's biggest contribution to the 2012 Ohio State defense might not have been felt on the stat sheet, as the Buckeyes total defense actually dropped a few spots from 2011 to 2012. But under Fickell's tutelage, several key players began to emerge on the national spotlight - and not just for summer run-ins with the law! Bradley Roby's status might be questionable right now, but he turned into a premier defensive back in 2012. Also of note, anything Manti Te'o can do, Ryan Shazier can do better. I bet Shazier was the one catfishing Te'o. But I digress.

With Fickell helming the defense, marked improvement should be expected in year two. And that is a really good thing.

Requisite Luke Fickell/Mike Vrabel #FanFic

Vrabel-bro-mma-durr_medium

Buckeye fans lining up to get admitted at Brolentangy General Hospital, bro.

Others worth noting - Mark Pantoni & Kerry Coombs

Mark Pantoni isn't a coach, per say, but he is easily one of the most important cogs Meyer has in the program. As Director of Player Personnel, Pantoni basically runs the administrative side of recruiting from all angles and running a ship that is incredibly tight, and as transparent as possible. Given what a few recruiting SNAFUs can do to a program (it's all about The U, you guys), he's exactly the kind of guy you want addressing everything administrative.

Also, he was basically responsible for this, which was a huge and unmitigated success. He's also quite the #swaggernaut on twitter, with almost 12,000 followers. You should probably be his next follower, too.

Kerry Coombs, on the other hand, is a whole other story. He's a guy with the energy level that rivals that of the players he coaches, and is one of the best assets Meyer has on his recruiting staff. Coombs grew famous in the state of Ohio at Colerain High School from 1991-2006 (winning the Division 1 State Championship in 2004), and then at the University of Cincinnati up until last year, when Meyer made him an offer he couldn't refuse to join the Buckeyes' staff.

Also, he's batshit crazy (at about the 2:00 mark):


BRB, running through a brick wall.

There are more people working with Meyer, Fickell, Pantoni and Coombs, and there could be entire sites on SB Nation devoted to them. But that only goes to show what kind of people are filling up the proverbial room that is the Big Ten. One year in, they're already the smartest in the conference. Now, Meyer and his staff are setting their sites on the rest of the country.

With history as an indicator, they just might do it, too.

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