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Urban Meyer breaks his own rule in hiring Greg Schiano

Normally not one to mix friends and work, Urban Meyer took a gamble by bringing Greg Schiano on as defensive coordinator.

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"I think our relationship is such that I trust him that way and he trusts me. But certainly you have to think about that stuff before you decide to do something like this because work is work. We gotta win games, and he’s the boss."

-Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, via Nicholas Piotrowicz, the Blade

Urban Meyer has steered clear of his personal coaching faux pas for most of his career, as he has avoided hiring personal friends on his coaching staff. However, that philosophy was tested when Meyer brought on former Rutgers and Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano as defensive coordinator.

Schiano, who had been out of coaching since being fired from the Buccaneers following the 2013 season, had been seeking out a new head coaching role, but coming on as an assistant for Meyer was too good of a fit to pass up. Meyer acknowledged that both share the same "philosophical views on how to run a program and how to treat players and what to expect out of your coaching staff," which ultimately help in creating a good fit for both sides.

Meyer and Schiano both earned their first head coaching jobs--Meyer at Bowling Green and Schiano at Rutgers--in 2001. They were also the two youngest coaches in Division I-A at the time. Both managed to revitalize their respective programs, and while Schiano opted to remain at Rutgers until accepting a head coaching position in the NFL, Meyer moved onto Utah and Florida, finding great success at both, before landing at Ohio State in 2012. Now, with the departure of defensive coordinator Chris Ash for Schiano’s former role at Rutgers, Meyer was able to bring on his longtime friend as a replacement, finally merging two careers that had diverged years ago.

While friendship was one concern for Meyer, another was the fact that Schiano has not been an assistant coach in many years. In fact, this will be Schiano’s first role as an assistant since leaving the defensive coordinator role at Miami (Fl) in 2000. Still, Meyer points to former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney, who joined Meyer’s staff at Florida with great success. And Schiano says that he understands his role in supporting the head coach and easing the burden on the boss.

"I think they should be in the Big 12. I’m saying that without making all the research necessary to really make that comment...I couldn’t be happier for that city and for that school if they do get in the Big 12."

-Urban Meyer, via David Briggs, the Blade

While Ohio State has enjoyed an exclusivity in regards to recruiting that the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State and pretty much everyone in the state of California can only dream about, it may have some competition in the near future in the form of the University of Cincinnati joining the Big 12. Ohio State is one of just two of the nation’s most populous states (New York, the other) with just one Power-5 school. Cincinnati joining the Big 12--a powerful and revenue-generating conference in its own right--could throw off the advantage that the Buckeyes have so long enjoyed.

Still, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is not concerned, acknowledging that Cincinnati would be a good pick up for the Big 12, and that Cincinnati could benefit. The school recently completed an $86 million renovation to its football complex, and sits in a top-50 national television market. There is also the added bonus that bringing Cincinnati into the fold would help to align the Big 12 with West Virginia, which joined the conference as a full member in 2012. And, while not on a recruiting level with Ohio State, the Bearcats have averaged roughly nine wins per season over the last decade.

Even so, Cincinnati joining the Big 12 might not affect the Buckeyes as drastically as some might suspect. The region surrounding Cincinnati has been a tough recruiting nut to crack, as Ohio State competes against the likes of Notre Dame and others for the top recruits in the area. Bringing a Big 12 competitor into the area would make the landscape more complicated, but might not necessarily shift the balance too far from Ohio State. In the same way that Notre Dame might compete with Purdue geographically, the Buckeyes may have to face off for some recruits.

Still, Ohio State’s bottom line is in its favor, bringing in roughly four times as much revenue as Cincinnati last season. Combined with the prestige of its national championships and reputation for sending players to the NFL, it is unlikely that Ohio State will lose the top spot in Ohio.

"Losing 6,531 defensive snaps and 6,575 offensive snaps to the NFL is no easy task to replace, but Ohio State continues to bring in strong recruiting classes and their roster has plenty of promising players ready to take a step forward."

-Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus

While there have been no actual games played to determine the talent level of the top teams in the country, the Ohio State Buckeyes have consistently found themselves in the top-10 of most preseason polls. Despite the loss of an ample amount of talent to the NFL, Pro Football Focus’s poll cites the power of a series of strong recruiting classes in keeping pace with the high-level of talent lost in this year’s NFL Draft.

Most of the high-ranking teams in this poll have either a large amount of returning players or a high-level returning quarterback. While some teams--like Oklahoma--have both, Ohio State is relying on quarterback J.T. Barrett to anchor the offense and linebacker Raekwon McMillan to do so on the defensive side. Alongside promising young players like defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard, the Buckeyes should be able to get through their growing pains on both sides of the ball.

Alabama leads the poll, even having lost numerous players to the NFL as well. The Crimson Tide return eight players in the front seven who played at least 180 snaps. Though they will also need to replace Jake Coker at quarterback, Alabama returns several other key positions on offense including three members of their offensive line.

Behind Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Clemson and Michigan round out the top-five. The Wolverines return a top-rated defense behind cornerback Jourdan Lewis and linemen Chris Wormley and Maurice Hurst. Still, the offense will have some serious work to do in the fall behind a new and, as of yet, undetermined quarterback. Florida State, Tennessee and Ole Miss sit ahead of Ohio State in the poll, with North Carolina coming in at the No. 10 spot. Besides Ohio State and Michigan, Iowa is the only other Big Ten team to crack the top-25, at the No. 20 spot.

"In the punt return game, there’s a chance to make more happen. A year ago, that was all Marshall…"

-Doug Lesmerises,

Ohio State fans caught a glimpse of the potential of Dontre Wilson early on in his career at Ohio State, but due to a series of nagging injuries, the speedster from DeSoto, Texas has remained largely limited in his role for the Buckeyes in recent years, filling in mainly on special teams. This year, however, as Wilson prepares to enter his senior season at Ohio State, his role appears to be broadening to include punt returns, according to Urban Meyer, who said that Wilson will be tops for both punt returns and kick returns come this season. This new role will inevitably give Wilson the opportunity to showcase his speed. Primarily used as a kickoff returner alongside Curtis Samuel last year, Wilson was not utilized extensively, mostly because the Buckeyes were not required to return many kickoffs in 2015.

Wilson will be filling the role vacated by now-New York Jet Jalin Marshall, who finished the 2015 season ranked third in the Big Ten with an average of 13.5 yards per return, and who just electrified the Jets camp with an 80-yard return in last week’s preseason match against the Jaguars. This year could offer a similar opportunity for Wilson, whose hopes of an NFL career have been somewhat sidelined due to injury. While Marshall opted to leave Ohio State early, he went undrafted in April, but still managed to make the Jets roster and turn heads in the preseason. Wilson had previously paired with Marshall in the punt return game in 2014’s national championship season before being sidelined due to a foot injury.

Samuel will likely remain alongside Wilson in kick returns, and freshman Demario McCall will probably see some playing time as well on special teams. Samuel took a little more than half the kickoffs (nine) for an average of 23 yards per return, while Wilson took seven, averaging 23.9 yards per return.