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College coaches are the highest paid public employees of 39 states

Urban Meyer makes more than John Kasich. Way more.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Virginia Tech Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

“Of the 50 U.S. states, a college football or men’s basketball coach was the highest-paid employee in 39 of them.”

-ESPN

The head coaches of the three public schools in the Final Four this year (North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina; Gonzaga is a private institution) make a combined $7.2 million annually, which exemplifies the high-going rate for coaches, even at public institutions. Comparatively, the governors of all 50 states have a combined annual salary of $6.9 million. Shockingly, however, none of these three coaches--Roy Williams, Dana Altman or Frank Martin--is the highest paid public employee in his respective state. In North Carolina, that status is held by former NC State basketball coach Mark Gottfried, who was fired at the end of this season. In South Carolina, Will Muschamp, head football coach, holds the title, while Mark Helfrich, the ousted football head coach, is Oregon’s representative.

Jim Harbaugh of Michigan tops the list, making $9 million annually, while Michigan governor Rick Snyder makes a comparatively paltry $159,300. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari is second, making $7.1 million each year, followed by Alabama’s Nick Saban, who brings in $6.9 million. Urban Meyer is fourth overall on the list, earning $6 million annually.

This wealth is not limited to head coaches, as the top-100 assistant coaches made at least $500,000, with 10 making at least $1 million.

Of the 39 coaches at the top of the list, 12 are basketball coaches, including three from the Big Ten (Tom Crean, Mark Turgeon and Richard Pitino). In football, eight of the 25 coaches come from the Big Ten.

While Harbaugh tops the list in the Big Ten, former Minnesota head football coach Tracy Clays pulled in just $1.4 million per year, making him the lowest-paid public school football coach in the conference. Tom Izzo’s $3.4 million salary--the highest basketball salary in the conference--is also much higher than that of Penn State’s Pat Chambers, who earns $900,000 per year.

“That wasn’t a phase of our special forces that was good enough last year. We will be significantly improved this year, and we’ve put a lot of time and effort into that. I can’t tell you who it is yet, but somebody is gonna emerge.”

-Ohio State special teams coach Kerry Coombs, via Bill Landis, Cleveland.com

While Ohio State was in many ways dominant on special teams last season, the return game was comparatively lacking--an issue that has plagued the Buckeyes for several seasons. The last time Ohio State returned a kickoff for a touchdown was in 2014 on a Jalin Marshall return against Indiana. Worse, the last punt return for a touchdown came from Jordan Hall in 2010 against Michigan.

In order to earn a shot at returning on special teams, players must be able to hold onto the ball. Every snap is recorded in practice, with those dropping balls unlikely to find themselves in at gametime. Next up, in the words of special teams coach Kerry Coombs, “What is their dynamic ability to score?” Despite recruiting dynamic athletes to Columbus, that explosiveness has not materialized in the return game. However, with a new crop of recruits as well as young players who remained mostly on the sidelines last year, that is something that could change heading into the 2017 season.

For starters, junior Parris Campbell earned the lead role on kick returns by the end of last season, averaging 27.8 yards on 12 returns and nearly breaking one for a touchdown against Indiana. Both Meyer and Coombs see Campbell as a dynamic returner, and one who could continue to grow and have an impact throughout the season.

Sophomore Demario McCall, who saw limited action returning punts last season, is the likely answer to punt returns heading into the fall. He has been playing the role in spring practice, and Coombs has acknowledged that if the season began tomorrow, McCall would be the starter in that position.

Sophomore Denzel Ward, who may be the Buckeyes’ best prospect at cornerback, also has the opportunity to make waves on returns. Credited with possibly being the fastest player on the field, Ward played in limited action on special teams last season.

Other prospects for return men include sophomore K.J. Hill, junior Eric Glover-Williams and junior college transfer Kendall Sheffield, all of whom provide depth on offense but who could also impact special teams this fall.

“Ohio State’s draft prospects have been through the combine and pro day--the biggest precursors to the NFL Draft. Aside from private workouts and meetings, those two events are the last big chances for players to impress NFL scouts and management.”

-Ryan Ginn, Land of 10

With four weeks left until the 2017 NFL Draft, most of the data on potential picks has already been collected by NFL scouts from the combine and various pro days held nationwide. Among the prospects are a number of former Buckeyes, with three expected to be taken in the first round.

First up is safety Malik Hooker, who has six picks last year, including three which were returned for touchdowns, on his way to first team All-American honors last season. He also had 67 tackles, good for third on the team. He is currently projected to go as a top-10 pick, with most media outlets projecting seventh overall to the L.A. Chargers as the No. 2 safety and the No. 5 best player overall.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore who, like Hooker, emerged from relative obscurity in 2016, was second on the team in interceptions with four on the season. There is more debate on where exactly Lattimore will go once drafted, likely to the Jets, Titans or Bears, but he is widely viewed as the top cornerback prospect in the draft and a top-10 pick.

Playing opposite Lattimore, cornerback Gareon Conley is similarly considered first round-worthy talent by a number of rankings. Alongside Hooker and Lattimore, Conley still made an impact with three picks on the season. Most outlets project Conley going mid-to-late in the first round, with the Titans, Eagles and Packers as projected landing spots.

Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the leader of the Buckeye defense last season, is expected to be taken early-to-mid second round in the draft. In a linebacker-heavy draft, featuring a number of outstanding prospects at outside linebacker, McMillan is widely seen as the No. 4 overall linebacker.

Beyond these top prospects, wide receiver/running back Curtis Samuel is seen as one of the top-100 players in the draft, with CBS Sports pinning him as the No. 4 running back in the draft. And while Pat Elflein is seen as the top center prospect in this year’s class, he likely will stay on the board until the third round. Finally, wide receiver Noah Brown, viewed as the No. 14 wideout in the class, is a projected fourth rounder to the Browns.

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