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December 7, 2012

Perfect season lays strong foundation for Meyer

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A bowl ban prevented Ohio State's 12-0 season in 2012 to tangibly net the Buckeyes little more than a Big Ten Leaders Division championship, but even more than just that was gained by Urban Meyer during OSU's march towards perfection.

It's momentum that Meyer picked up over the past three months, and as he knows, that can be difficult to obtain.

The Buckeyes won't play for the BCS Championship, in a bowl game, or do any of the other things that undefeated college football teams typically do during the winter months of each football season. But what Meyer accomplished in his first season as Ohio State's head coach may have set the Buckeyes up for an even more promising future, that could feature national titles.

Yes, titles. Plural.

Just looking back at Meyer's 10-year history as a head coach prior to coming to Columbus, his second seasons are typically the ones in which he makes his greatest impact on a program. In his second year at Bowling Green in 2002, he led the Falcons to a 9-3 record. At Utah in 2004, the Utes went undefeated and finished No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25. And at Florida, he won his first national championship in his second season with the Gators in 2006, before winning another one in 2008.

Now the head of coach of a combined four teams that have either gone undefeated or won national titles, Meyer said it's no coincidence that his second seasons at schools have been some of his most successful.

"Year two's kind of a definitive year," Meyer said at the Big Ten's media day in July. "There used to be, I guess, not in my lifetime, but there used to be a time where you could go build a program and that really doesn't exist anymore. You gotta go win."

As a part of that theory, Meyer has retained the defensive coordinator at every program he's taken over. This may seem like a small detail from a season-to-season standpoint or even a coincidence, but it offers a glimpse into a bigger philosophy for the Ohio State head coach.

"I've always kept the defensive coaches 'cause to install a brand new defense, a brand new offense, and a brand new special teams, that takes time. And momentum is such a key in recruiting and your fanbase and just momentum in your program," Meyer explained. "If you lose it, it's hard to get it back."

By that logic, the 48-year-old head coach is already ahead of schedule in Columbus. The potential of a 2013 season that could see the Buckeyes begin the season as a top-five team, with 14 potential returning starters on offense and defense, and a schedule that swaps Big Ten foes Michigan State and Nebraska for Northwestern and Iowa is a conversation for another day, but the groundwork for success beyond even next season may have been laid with OSU's recent undefeated run.

Now with a year's worth of recruiting, Meyer has currently secured the No. 9-ranked recruiting class in the country for 2013. The first class that he will have completely recruited to Ohio State still has a chance to climb even higher in the rankings with two months left until National Signing Day, and given the momentum that Meyer has established over the past 12 months, it likely will.

"We make a lot of our phone calls tonight to recruits. It's as much of the coach's tone, the energy in the phone call," Meyer said, following the Buckeyes' victory over Penn State on Oct. 27- their ninth in as many games at the time. "I'm really anxious to make those phone calls tonight and say, hey, this is Urban Meyer from Ohio State, and we're 9-0. The best thing about 9-0 is you have a chance to go for 10. And the conversation usually picks up from there."

Having been a part of the New England Patriots dynasty of the early 2000s as a player, OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is well aware how a successful first season with a program can lead to many more down the line.

"Looking back to 2001 and my career, it is much easier for players, and staff, and coaches to believe something when they can actually see there's results," Vrabel said, referencing the first of three Patriots Super Bowl victories in four years. "When there's results, it's really easy to buy in and believe, 'cause you can see it."

Whether the Buckeyes will be able to find the same success that Vrabel found in New England or not will take some time to see. But given the momentum that Meyer has created and hopes to maintain, it certainly seems possible.

"It's nice to go wear that Ohio State shirt," Meyer said. "Right now, Ohio State is kind of hot."



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