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Column: Ohio State has a Bill Davis problem

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Poor hires have hampered Ohio State football for the entire Urban Meyer era

Ohio State v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There’s a problem in Ohio State football’s football program that we need to talk about. It’s been an issue for the entire Urban Meyer era, and somehow, to this point, the head coach has faced very little complaining about it. Urban Meyer stinks at hiring coaches, and his bad hires have actively made Ohio State worse every year since 2012.

Admittedly, Meyer has also made some home run hires as well, including Larry Johnson, Greg Schiano, Kerry Coombs, Chris Ash, Tom Herman, and more recently Ryan Day and Alex Grinch.

The first real instance of this was former co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who was eventually encouraged to take a job elsewhere after putting together one of the worst secondaries that Ohio State had ever seen in both 2012 and 2013. After him, Ohio State had issues with Tim Beck and Ed Warriner, and those issues more likely than not kept the most talented team in school history out of the playoff in 2015.

More recently, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa has deservedly picked up some heat, both for his bungled recruitments of top in-state linemen, as well as some poor on the field play. That poor play includes the struggles in tonight’s win against TCU, in which the offensive line struggled greatly against the blitz, and formerly awesome guard, Michael Jordan, who for some reason was turned into a center, failed to consistently snap the ball accurately.

The ultimate in bad hires that hurt the Buckeyes is obviously Zach Smith, the worst living receivers coach, and a deeply bad person (that’s a different story entirely though). Ohio State’s receiver play was awful for years, and yet Urban Meyer stuck by his coach, for no reason outside of his relationship with Zach’s grandfather, Earle Bruce. To follow that train wreck with a 31 year old Brian Hartline that has absolutely no coaching experience seems like a bad idea too, though we can’t say that for sure yet. The Smith debacle obviously didn’t give them much time for a coaching search.

The biggest issue this season is none of those hires, however. In that long list of awful hires, the worst was not named. The worst hire of Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State, and possibly in his whole career, is the current acting linebackers coach, Bill Davis. To replace Luke Fickell, one of the best linebacker coaches in the country (at the time), Urban Meyer hired an NFL burnout that failed in Philadelphia, an NFL burnout that even the Browns (!!!!!) didn’t want.

Why? Well because Bill Davis is one of Urban’s best friends, and has been for decades. He was the best man at Urban’s wedding. Urban Meyer, one of the best coaches in the country, at probably the second best football program in the country, hired one of his ten position coaches not because of performance, or recruiting (which Davis had never done at this level), but because they’re friends.

For a coach that makes more than seven million dollars a year, a decision that poor and shallow is completely unacceptable, and borderline neglectful of his duties as the head coach of this program. Urban Meyer’s job is not to hire close friends for him to hang out with. Urban Meyer’s job is to hire elite position coaches and coordinators, to put Ohio State in the best possible position to win. It was obvious today, and it’s been obvious since he was hired that Bill Davis is not that guy.

Since losing Fickell, Ohio State’s linebackers have taken massive steps back. They struggled greatly in both losses last season, and they struggled tonight (in a winning effort) against TCU. They play slow, they don’t read the play quickly enough, and they take some of the worst pursuit angles I’ve ever seen in major college football. We know that this group has talent. We know that these former five-stars and four-stars didn’t just forget how to play football.

That means that there’s an issue with coaching, and the coach responsible is Bill Davis. Urban Meyer is once again the full-time head coach at Ohio State. His first task is a big one. He needs to fire Bill Davis, before Ohio State wastes yet another supremely talented team with poor coaching.