Tennessee’s pursuit and then reneging on a deal to hire Greg Schiano as its coach was national news this week.
But Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said on his radio show Thursday that Schiano is not the only Buckeyes assistant who’s been pursued as the coaching carousel heats up.
“We have had two coaches contacted about becoming a head coach and one assistant coach just turned down an opportunity to be a coordinator somewhere,” Meyer said on his weekly call-in show on 97.1 The Fan. “I don’t want to have those conversations now because we expect laser focus” for Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin.
The introduction of an early signing period for recruits, starting Dec. 20, has accelerated the urgency for schools to have coaches in place. It also has made it harder for coaches in transition to stay at their current school because they will need to recruit at their new one.
“I can say this: My staff is very professional,” Meyer said. “At some point, if you want to leave to be a head coach, those are conversations to have. But the early signing date has moved everything up.
“We’re one of a handful of teams still playing. Everyone else is done. You can see people making coaching changes. Our players deserve the very best and that’s why I feel so great about our staff” for turning down those jobs.
Meyer did not specify which coaches had been pursued and by which schools.
Other highlights of Meyer’s radio show:
* Meyer did not address The Dispatch report on J.T. Barrett undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Sunday, but provided this update on the quarterback: “He’s been cleared to play. He’s going to play in the game.” Meyer added that the Buckeyes have taken it “real slow” with Barrett in practice so far this week but that he will practice on Thursday.
* Meyer on Barrett’s career: “There will be time to do that. Now is not the time to do that. Now it’s time to focus on Big Ten championship.” Again, Meyer mentioned the “laser focus” on Wisconsin. “It wouldn’t be fair to my players for me to reflect on players’ careers.”
* Meyer said Dwayne Haskins Jr. has matured a lot: “There’s a lot of confidence in Dwayne right now.”
* Meyer said Wisconsin’s defense uses two basic looks and doesn’t blitz much. “But they are so good at understanding their defense” that they don’t give up big plays.
* Meyer mentioned Justin Hilliard, Zach Turnure, Jeffrey Okudah and Erick Smith as special-teams standouts.
* Meyer on Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor: “He breaks tackles when you try to tackle him high. We have to tackle him low. We call it tackling the engine.”
* Meyer praised Wisconsin, noting their size on the offensive and defensive lines. “They’re gigantic. Where the hell do they get these guys?”
* Meyer on OSU’s line: “It’s hard to say the O-line is not the most improved unit on our team.” He added that Michigan’s defensive line was as good as he’s seen, particularly tackle Maurice Hurst.
* More Meyer on Haskins: “Boy, he’s grown up recently. That takes a lot of discipline for him and Joe Burrow to get your (mental) reps” in practice.
* Meyer said Denzel Ward’s blocked kicks this season (against Penn State and Michigan) have been game-changers.
Quarterbacks coach Ryan Day was the first guest on Meyer’s show.
* Day said Haskins fumbling in the rain against Illinois and having it returned for a touchdown was a good learning experience. “If we need him in this game he’s got to be ready to go, and pick up where he left off.”
* Day on Barrett: “The biggest thing you’ll say about J.T. is that he’s a warrior.”
* Day on Austin Mack’s third-down catch against Michigan: “We were reeling right there. We needed a play like that. That’s the type of catches we’re going to have to make on Saturday. We’re not going to have guys run wide open.”
* Day on OSU’s success with crossing routes: “The crossing package has been really good for us. The QB is seeing it very well.”
Cornerbacks coach/special-teams coordinator Kerry Coombs was the second guest on the show.
* Host Paul Keels congratulated Coombs on adding two more grandchildren this year. Coombs said another is on the way. “My kids are a fertile bunch,” he said.
* Coombs said Ward's PAT block was the most undervalued play of the Michigan game.
* Coombs said both OSU lines benefit from playing each other. “We’re not going to be surprised when we see a great offensive line on Saturday.”
* Coombs said he believes Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook is a future NFL player.
* Coombs said he thinks OSU will be able to get past the emotion of the Michigan win: “I think it’s something we probably didn’t handle very well after our last big victory (Iowa coming after Penn State). I don’t think we’ll lack emotion or focus. We know what’s at stake.”